Defending Corbyn: A battle for the soul of Labour
Tonight the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) gather in the historic and ancient meeting rooms of the House of Commons. Within the walls of this symbol of power and the establishment they will vent their fury, not at the catastrophic leadership of David Cameron, nor the rise of racism and division within our society, but against their own leader, a man who has fought both with every fibre of his being.
Outside, in the streets, and in gatherings up and down the country, ordinary people, Labour Party members and Trade Unionists are rallying to defend Jeremy Corbyn. More than 207,000 have so far signed an online petition expressing confidence in him. Inside the halls of privilege the establishment conspire to oust Corbyn. Outside the masses fight to save him. Can there be a more telling metaphor for the problem facing Labour today?
This is no less than a battle for the soul of the Labour movement. It is perhaps the greatest challenge we’ve faced since the formation of the Party its self. If we lose it, then the only mass party of the working class in this country will fall, perhaps permanently, into the hands of careerists and opportunists hell-bent of moving our movement away from its original purpose.
For many of us, on the left, this is an unbearable thought. But it’s not just about us. Beyond the confines of our movement lie millions of ordinary workers, immigrants, the disabled, the poor and the unemployed who desperately need a party that offers genuine resistance to the attacks they experience daily.
Many of these people are tired of the establishment. They are sick of a media, law enforcement and political elite who have been shown to work hand in glove to deny them justice. They no longer trust in the functions of government, the state and officialdom. Some have flirted with parties like UKIP, who present themselves as radical alternatives, but who really represent the interests of their oppressors.
Let’s be absolutely clear where the blame for this situation lies. For decades now the Labour Party, led by the right-wing has neglected its heartlands. They’ve abstained when they should have fought, tinkered where they should have reformed and led the country into war, when they should have pursued peace. How else can we explain the decimation of Labour in Scotland and Wales, once bastions of support? This happened on their watch. How dare they blame Jeremy Corbyn for their crimes.
Here is a man who had offered the hand of friendship to his opponents, only for them to slap him in the face. Here is a leader, who in the national interest, set aside his own doubts, and campaigned to Remain inside the European Union. He delivered his key objective, securing 63% of Labour voters for the IN campaign. A result Cameron could only dream of; yet its the Labour Leader who is blamed for defeat.
To suggest that any of those involved in this coup are better placed than Jeremy to win back working class support for Labour is absurd. Try telling Scottish or Welsh voters they’d be better off with the war mongering Hillary Benn. Try telling junior Doctors that Heidi Alexander, the MP who refused to stand with them on picket lines, is a better option than the Labour Leader who did.
Labour is better when it looks outwards to the people, not inwards at its self; or so the Blairites told us when Corbyn was elected. I couldn’t agree more, but can anyone explain to me why, in the midst of a national crisis and faced by a government in ruins, these same people have chosen now to turn their fire on their own ranks instead of on the enemy? This is the most self indulgent of acts. A preordained scheme to seize back control against the wishes of the membership.
If anyone doubts that Jeremy Corbyn can lead, they need look no further than the mass support for him, summoned at 24 hours notice outside Parliament, or the huge numbers signing a petition in his name and the Trade Unions lining up to defend him. None of his current challengers could ever hope to muster such support.
Enough of these questions about Jeremy’s leadership. What of his shadow cabinet’s ability to follow? They have been woefully lacking in this department. On a regular and routine basis they have briefed against him, undermining him at every turn. The resignations themselves were a coordinated affair, drip fed to a grateful media and timed to do maximum damage.
If it had stopped here it would have been bad enough. Sadly it didn’t. In the wake of the horrific murder of Jo Cox just ten days ago lessons have clearly been ignored. Instead of the promised gentler politics, we have had to endure the most lurid of columns in the Daily Mail, in which the author called for Labour to “kill Corbyn”, accompanied by a picture of him in a coffin.
Today we have witnessed appalling scenes in the Commons, as Labour MP’s heckled and jeered their leader as he tried to speak. Shouts of resign from Labour MP’s who haven’t bothered to consult their constituents, or their constituency members; and all the time they are handing ammunition to the enemies of working people and the poor.
How hypocritical do they look now? How shallow the platitudes they uttered after the murder of their comrade, just days ago, seem today. Talk of respect has been quickly forgotten in the name of a shameless power grab.
David Cameron owes them a debt of gratitude. They have after all diverted attention away from the apocalypse being played out in his own party. This is perhaps the most disastrous Premiership in living memory. One that has seen Britain leave the EU, risks the break up of the United Kingdom, jeopardises the peace process in Northern Ireland and potentially plunges the economy into a prolonged and damaging recession; yet thanks to the ‘shadow cabinet’ you would never know it.
This act of sabotage can not be allowed to stand. Nobody wants a Labour Party where everybody marches to the same tune. Dissent is an important and essential part of any democratic organisation. Corbyn himself has insisted that he will listen to those who disagree with him. He has even welcomed the debate. At times he has bent to the wishes of the right-wing, particularly on Europe. No such facility has been offered to him.
It is my view that the behaviour of MP’s goes beyond democratic dissent and is a concerted attempt to sabotage the party’s chances of electoral success in the hope of overthrowing the leader. This for me is now a disciplinary matter and should be dealt with as such. Those MP’s engaged in the appalling barracking of their leader, in front of the worlds media today, must now be held to account by their Constituency Labour Parties.
Those who have briefed against the leadership have acted against the party’s best interests. There is now a clear and urgent need to revisit mandatory deselection of MP’s. It is they who serve us, the membership and the movement at large, not the other way around.
All of this will of course take time. The democratisation of the Labour Party is now an urgent priority. In the meantime those who have sought to undermine the leader and damage our movement so shamelessly have to be held to account. Nobody said this was going to be easy, but it didn’t have to be like this. We have come too far to turn back now, the hopes and dreams of future generations depend on our steadfast support for Jeremy Corbyn. The soul of our movement now depends on it also.