I have observed with great interest the closing of ranks between the political establishment and the media against Jeremy Corbyn, the people’s choice and not Rupert Murdoch’s. Corbyn must surely be the most misquoted man in history. Whatever he says becomes a scary headline. One of my favourites is The Telegraph 21 August 2015, ‘Corbyn to refuse position on Queen’s Privy Council’. Interesting, as he did not answer the question when it was posed. The smearing of his character has been vicious and relentless. He has been accused of racism, incessantly criticised for being anti-war and branded a communist wanting close Russian ties. He is demeaned for making a leadership bid and attacked for taking the party to electoral oblivion. As leader of the Labour Party, the attacks will get far worse. Despite it all, Corbyn is still standing and he could be the next Prime Minister. For he is the people’s choice and for very good reasons. Not least amongst them, he is a very rare breed, the unspun politician.
Labour introduced a “one member, one vote” system to elect their leader in 2014. It replaced the Electoral College. Early in the leadership race it looked set to be a boring contest. Nobody, not even Jeremy Corbyn was ready for the support that came in by the thousands or the unprecedented level of engagement by 18 year olds. Something has turned the electorate on. In just one day last August 168,000 people registered to vote in Labour’s leadership election. The Labour Party has tripled in size. Approximately 400,000 people have become members of the Labour Party since the General Election in May 2015.
This is probably the first time in history that so many people and especially young people have become actively involved in politics. Yet this cause for celebration has displeased the political establishment Tory and Labour alike. For Jeremy Corbyn’s politics fall outside of the established boundaries.
Political choice has become too narrow and the policies are dictated to the people. Right-right wing or right-wing. Austerity is the only policy on the table. The choice being how long or how deep should the cuts to public spending be. This unplanned movement behind Corbyn has opened up political choice and debate. This is not just about a new Labour leader but a new type of politics.
Thirty years of neo-liberal politics and austerity has taken it toll. The political spin and sound bites have lost their teeth. People no longer want to ‘triangulate to the infinite degree’ whatever it may mean. We are tired of war and bailing out bankers (private sector companies) at a cost to our standard of living. Young people, are tired of being ignored or lambasted. People are tired of public services being run down and sold for profit whilst the losses are absorbed by the public purse. When the Labour executive moved to the right, it left those ordinary people behind.
Jeremy Corbyn an honest, unspun voice, unlike any other politician is making the case for anti-austerity policies and social democracy. This is a fundamental break from the City backed agenda of successive governments which promote privatisation and austerity. It is not welcome. His economic ideas, dubbed Corbynomics were tainted as loony left and unworkable. However, at least 40 leading economists have dismissed the accusations. ‘His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF.’ Well informed people, and there are millions of them, know that anti-austerity is a sensible policy. Iceland successfully engaged one.
Although he has been in politics for forty years he is not of the shiny professional political school. He is transparent and democratic. In his words, ‘It’s not me, its everyone together’. He leads by listening and not dictating. He has been clear that his policy ideas are only “proposals” and it is for the membership to decide if they become policy. This means that the members make the policy for the executive team and not the other way around which is not the norm. Thus, a larger group of people are participating in decision making. Not only is it attractive but it is democratic. Applied to recent policy Royal Mail would still be in public ownership. Yet we are meant to be scared of Jeremy Corbyn and the Left. I have addressed this in an earlier article.
I feel that while membership of the European Union and immigration have been a useful distraction, the rhetoric of austerity has played out. Not just in Britain but across Europe and America. There are anti-austerity movements in Greece and Spain. It is fuelling the Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination against Hilary Clinton in America. People want political change. Jeremy Corbyn is a product of that change. The propulsion, fuelled by everyday people.
Labour was always going to face a difficult election in 2020 because of the boundary changes, voters who have turned to UKIP and the loss of all their seats bar one in Scotland. However, everyday people have pinned the mantle of hope on Jeremy Corbyn. That is what real life and real democracy is about and you cannot spin or sound bite that. The Parliamentary Labour Party may resign or resist Corbyn but he has the mandate of the people and that is where power should lie. Jeremy Corbyn may not win the 2020 general election but he has put anti-austerity on the political agenda and with him has come a sea-change in politics not just new alternatives but a new way. One that moves us closer to the goal of democracy. The people have spoken.