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Why I’m voting for Corbyn, and why you should too

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The American Senator, William Borah, is said to have first coined the phrase “phoney war” in 1939. He was describing what Winston Churchill called the “twilight war” and the Germans called the “sitting war.” A period of relative inactivity on the ‘Western Front,’ that was accompanied by increasing sabre rattling and posturing, that presaged the real battle.

The term can easily be applied to the last few months of the Labour Party Leadership campaign. This is after all a period that has seen Neil Kinnock, a man who lost two General Elections, and Kezia Dugdale, a woman who led her party to third place in a two horse race, lecture us all on the importance of electability. It has served up a challenger who agrees with everything his rival says, but nevertheless feels that plunging his party into a pointless and damaging election is entirely justified. And finally, in what is perhaps the most phoney of all the soundbite salvos hurled Jeremy Corbyn’s way in the last few months, we’ve read that Sadiq Khan believes that it is Owen Smith, not the current leader, who best represents Labour’s core values.

Actually, we should be grateful to Sadiq for his timely reminder of what all of this is really about; Labour’s values. What are they and who is best placed to act as custodian of them? This is truly what’s at stake in this contest for the soul of the party.

Instinctively, when I think of  the party’s values, I think about Socialism, and of an organisation that represents the interests of working people; both in Parliament and, when necessary, on the streets and in workplaces. Labour is part of a tradition of struggle that stretches back more than a century, and it has brought huge societal advances in that time. Social housing, weekends off work, the ‘Welfare State,’ the National Health Service and universal education are just a few of Labour’s great achievements.

Of course, in order to deliver all of these things, Labour had to first win power. This is self evident, and on that score, Owen and Sadiq, we are in complete agreement. However, could any of those things have been delivered, if our party’s founders had put the opiate of electability before their values? Would they have campaigned for the rights of children not to be exploited, or for basic care for the elderly poor, had they been utterly preoccupied with ‘public opinion’? Was the media and the general public, in 1906, or in 1945, broadly accepting of Labour’s values? It seems they were not. Yet the likes of Keir Hardie, fought strenuously for them anyway.

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Consider this passage from a speech, given by Hardie, Labour’s first leader, in 1914:

“I shall not weary you by repeating the tale of how public opinion has changed during those twenty-one years. But, as an example, I may recall the fact that in those days, and for many years thereafter, it was tenaciously upheld by the public authorities, here and elsewhere, that it was an offence against laws of nature and ruinous to the State for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool.”

If Hardie and Labour had not stayed true to their principles, even in the face of a hostile establishment and media, would future generations have had the courage to implement such a radical programme in 1948?

Even in post World War II Britain, we find that Labour had to fight the ruling class and middle England ‘tooth and nail’ to implement the National Health Service. There were voices, notably Winston Churchill’s, who argued that the nation could not afford such a social experiment. Labour did it anyway, and, though it is in peril from the current administration, it has endured for seventy years, and is still the envy of the world.

This excerpt from a speech by Aneurin Bevan demonstrates the resistance from an educated and powerful medical lobby, that Labour had to overcome, in order to enact its reform programme.

“In the case of the National Health Service very deeply entrenched emotional attitudes were disturbed. The traditions of the medical profession go back a very long way, and it was too much to hope that so drastic a thing as the National Health Service could be accomplished without very much disturbance.”

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The point here is that if Labour is to crumble in the face of the prevailing wisdom, every time we advance our programme, then we will always find ourselves articulating a watered down version of the status-quo. Such a manifesto would serve only those in power, while failing the very people who need Labour most. Yes we need a Labour government, perhaps now more than ever, but to do what? If it is not to transform society into one in which all people are of equal value and wealth and power are distributed equitably, then it is for nothing.

The argument that any Labour government is better than the Tories is selling our people short. It is precisely why so many voters have abandoned the party in its heartlands since 1997. Kezia Dugdale would do well to reflect on Labour’s near annihilation in Scotland, on the back of watered down Conservative policies, before she delivers any more sermons on what will and will not win votes. Our people deserve so much more than ‘Tory light’.

People stripped of their dignity and robbed of the help they need by cruel benefits cuts need a party willing to stand up for them, even in the face of relentless criticism and scepticism. They need a leader that campaigns tirelessly in their interests, even when the cost to him or her is great. Children dependant on food banks, or living on the streets, or in temporary accommodation deserve a future that doesn’t offer more of the same, and our elderly need a life worthy of their sacrifices. Indeed the National Health Service desperately requires a Labour movement that is unwilling to compromise on the socialist principles that brought it to life.

Those who put forward arguments about electability seek merely to distract us. Such bluff and bluster only masks their real intent, which is to maintain Labour’s position as a centrist party, committed to managing capitalism slightly better than the Conservatives. After all, it was Tony Blair who said he wouldn’t want Labour to win on a socialist platform, even if that was the only way to guarantee victory.

The argument that Corbyn is incapable of winning an election for Labour is self-evidently wrong. He has done it time and again. He did it in Rotheram and elsewhere, despite dire predictions to the contrary. Lest we forget he also did it for Sadiq Khan.

So let’s end this phoney war, conducted as it is through private briefings and column inches and in TV studios. As ballot papers drop through letterboxes and fill email inboxes, power has now shifted decisively from the plotters to the members. In exercising our democratic choice we should ensure a resounding victory for the only candidate capable of upholding Labour’s core values of socialism; Jeremy Corbyn.

In closing, the words of Keir Hardie, at the end of that great speech in 1914, seem particularly pertinent.

“The emancipation of the worker has still to be achieved and just as the ILP in the past has given a good, straight lead, so shall the ILP in the future, through good report and through ill, pursue the even tenor of its way, until the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land.”

Any Labour leader, at least one worthy of the name, will always need to stand firm in the face of doubt and hostility; if they are to deliver a programme worthy of the people. They’ll need to do it, as Hardie said, through fair weather or foul and stay true to their purpose. That’s why I’m voting for Corbyn, a man capable of doing just that, and a true custodian of Labour’s values.

44 Comments »

  1. Thanks – a good read – makes a change after all the “school report” articles (Corbyn must do better). You’ve articulated why I’m voting for Corbyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Jeff, could not have put why I support Jeremy Corbyn any better myself. He is a breath of fresh air that has emerged from a stagnant pond and has reminded thhose in the Labour Party what Socialism is about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent analysis. I only wish the BBC would employ people who could analyse the political situation with such skill. I know it’s easy becasue I agree with what you say but this is also about analysis rather than pushing slogans.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for posting such a clear analysis of why we need to vote for Jeremy Corbyn . I shall keep it to read when I’m feeling defeated and depressed by the Media and the establishment , who would just like us gone . This is my last chance to see a socialist government in my lifetime , we must make it happen .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kier is a construction, services and property group active in building and civil engineering, support services, public and private housebuilding, land development and the Private Finance Initiative. Keir is the first name of a Scottish socialist and the first Labour Member of Parliament.

    It’s easy to get them confused if you know nothing about politics.

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  6. This is a great article,thanks for writing it.

    I recently read Atlee’s 1937 The Labour Party in Perspective. It brings up some similar themes about the Labour Party also being a long-term project of dismantling the fears of socialism proposed by the media.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeff, Can you Email me with your private E mail address as I knew the man you quote so much and was part of the team that organised his Liverpool Stadium public meeting and his Belle Vue meeting way way back. BW

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bill, I’m planning to set up a contact me button. However, in the meantime you can direct message me on twitter @ShanklysBoys1 or on my Facebook page Ramblings of An Ordinary Man. I reply to all messages

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  8. Thanks Jeff for a well written and well researched piece. I think the main reason we need Jeremy is that he is the only candidate willing to challenge the biggest and most despicable fraud in the modern era, that is the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich currently being carried out.

    The Tories are achieving this through its savage cuts in benefits and services whilst at the same time printing money through “quantitative easing”. They have so far given £375 billion of “printed money” to the richest in society to prop up the stock market while the pound falls. Yet they have the cheek to mock Corbyn for promising to invest £500 billion into the economy in order to create jobs and services that will benefit ordinary working people.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great article very well written. The only problem I have is that to affect change in how the UK runs and adjust core values in a Political sphere one needs to be in power in Government and that is where I do not see Jeremy Corbyn being able to be Prime Minister. He seems not to able to hold his Party together let alone a Country and that is his weakness. As much as I applaud his Socialist views real sustained change has to be palatable to the majority and the single most important issue at the moment is stimulating Jobs and the Economy, forget the Anti Nuclear rhetoric what is a priority is a stimulus package to create jobs and security for those in work. Not an easy task but I feel that more should have been done and said by him in supporting the ‘Remain’ campaign as the UK without the EU is going to be an uphill struggle at best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Paul. While I respect and understand your position, I can only refer back to the premise of the article and say that while winning power is necessary, Labour’s history is one of a longer terms project, in which change is effected both in and out of office and power is seen as a means to an end not an end in its self. My fear is that the current PLP see power as the ultimate destination, but offer no insight as to what they would do with it. The history of ‘New Labour’ suggests that gaining power and then tinkering as opposed to implementing a radical programme meant that none of the genuinely positive things they did have been sustained. Power is useless unless you deliver radical change. What is and isn’t palatable to the majority is transient and politicians have to steer a course based on principle, otherwise they are no more than a weather vain. I would also challenge the suggestion that Corbyn can’t hold the party together. While it’s true the PLP are in revolt, it is them that are unrepresentative of nearly half a million members – who are rock solid behind Jeremy.

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  10. A good piece Jeff. However, can you expand on “none of the genuinely positive things (new Labour) did have been sustained”. Seems a little sweeping to me – someone who was on the side of Corbyn, McDonnell, etc throughout the 1997-2010 period.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Geoff. Happy to expand. Sure start undone working families tax credits undone investment in NHS undone devolution now in jeopardy due to Brexit and potential break up of UK with ramifications from peace process in N Ireland. Now we face privatisation of NHS and rolling back of welfare state. Food banks and homelessness on the rise. I believe this is a direct result of Labour being too comfortable with system and inequality generally. Without a radical Labour Gov any advances will come under pressure once economic forces come into play and will eventually be rolled back completely. Labour needs to advocate a socialist programme and fight for a new consensus.

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  11. Your article was forwarded to me by a Labour voter living in France as we share the same political philosophy. As an Australian voter of the Labor party I find your article on the ball. My Labour/Labor voting (dual passports) partner worries that Mr Corbyn is unelectable but I say NO, in time he will be the only one to elect. I am reminded of the tortoise and the hare story. He shows great strength of character already (God what he has already gone through) and he will prevail. Political parties don’t need show ponies they need candidates who swell the heart….Mr Corbyn does that for me. Thank you Jeff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Denys you’re the second person from Australia to comment about parallels between our movement and I’ve noticed a lot of traffic from your country. I think the struggle against the neo liberal narrative is clearly an international one and the desire for politicians with real conviction is universal. Thanks for reading and commenting

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  12. You’ve put into words what I’ve certainly been thinking since Thatcher’s pet & Bush’s poodle Bliar came along. Also agree with your comment to Denys re neoliberal narrative; inequality is rife globally & has been forever but has got progressively worse over the past few decades; thankfully, people are waking up globally too & the corporate/political status quo is terrified of losing their grip even though they know that change has to happen because of climate change, pollution, population growth, resources limits etc. But the *greed is good* narrative is what many have been born to & they don’t can’t see that there could possibly be another way. This article also gives an interesting slant on the psychology of neoliberalism as well https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/neoliberalism-economic-system-ethics-personality-psychopathicsthic?CMP=share_btn_tw
    Keep rambling…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and for your analysis – I’ll have a look at that link. I agree the movement around Corbyn, if it’s done nothing else, has effectively challenged the “there is no alternative” narrative of the Thatcher/Blair era

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  13. Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    This perfectly – perfectly – sums up exactly why those opposing Corbyn are, for the most part, not only craven but plain wrong and why it’s absolutely essential that he not only win this needless leadership contest but then take whatever measures necessary to remove those likely to trigger such nonsense again and to continue to try to trip up the programme Corbyn wants to create and undermine his clear, authentic lead.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Has to be about the best piece I’ve read about this ridiculous internal tug of war within the Labour Party. Got right to the heart of it and points the way forward. Politicians today are sadly under the illusion that the country can only be run by their PPE university degree with no reference to real life and real people’s needs. This blinkered view is strangling political debate and turning them all into clones of one another, another reason the parties are so indistinguishable from one another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kay that’s very kind I appreciate it. I think the reason Jeremy has inspired so many to reengage is because he is the antithesis of the professional political class you describe. Thanks for reading and commenting 😊

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  15. In 20/20 Corbyn will be in his seventies with no ministerial experience what-so-ever. It’s hilarious how the left have taken this unkempt Trot to their hearts, and genuinely expect him to form a government that the British public will happily accept.

    Seek professional Mr Goulding, you owe that much to yourself.

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  16. Of course voters deserve more than Tory lite. That’s why they need a Labour Government. That’s why Corbyn is a disaster. I am reminded again by this article and comments what a terrible sin it was for Blair to win three elections for Labour. Blair did more for British people than Corbyn ever can. Corbyn simply stands there and delivers wish lists and not surprisingly many people applaud. Quoting 100 year old speeches, as this article does, is not helpful in this context. The world has moved on. Look for a moment at Corbyn’s mentor Tony Benn. Thanks to the efforts of politicans much more able than himself Benn was in government and had a minor role but leaves behind no great record other than a series of speeches that persuaded the already persuaded. In a democracy a successful politician needs mass appeal. Isn’t that obvious? Corbyn will win the leadership election but has very little appeal in the election that makes the difference. How many swing voters, ‘lapsed’ Tories can he win over? Labour members who vote for Corbyn are shooting themselves in both feet.

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    • Thank you for such a detailed response Phil. While I sympathise with your desperate desire to remove the Tories, I have to take issue with some of your points. Whether Corbyn, or his message is electible cannot be properly judged at the moment. The coup and subsequent leadership election, coupled with a media campaign of distortion and, it has to be said lies, muddies the water considerably.
      You are quite right to point out Blair won 3 elections and delivered some positive policies. Sadly though many of these were eroded in the third term ( we saw reintroduction of market into NHS and a return to post code lottery as one example). Nearly all those advances have been undone by Cameron and now May.

      I believe this is a result of not radically reforming the system and being far too comfortable with inequality. This culminated in abstentions on the welfare bill – a low point for neo liberalism in my view.

      The speeches I used are pertinent because the go to the very issue of electability and the main charge against Corbyn; that he is unelectable because public won’t vote for his policies. The speeches show that the great reforming leaders of the past have had to set out to convince a sceptical electorate and establishment to achieve their aims; not sacrifice their aims to fall in line with public opinion which is transient – things have moved on since 1997 too in case you hadn’t noticed.

      You are right to say Labour needs mass appeal. I can only respond by pointing to the difference between Smith and Corbyn campaigns. I don’t think there’s any doubt as to which has achieved mass appeal. All over the country, including marginal constituencies, people have turned out in their thousands. Contrast this with the rather sparsely attended and stage managed affairs organised by Smith. Labour is once again, under Corbyn, a mass movement – the largest party in terms of membership in Europe. Surely instead of trying to unseat him the party should unite behind him and render him every assistance in defeating the Torie instead of heckling from sidelines and undermining him, as the PLP have.

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  17. I read your article with real interest, as I am relatively new in the political arena, and your arguments made such good sense to me.

    I first voted, on a national level, in 1979, then watched with horror as the Tories started to smash everything that had been so hard-won by the working people of Britain. Then, in 1997, I voted again, and started to really despair when I saw how New Labour took over their policies and actions. That was the last time I voted Nationally.

    It was only when, by chance, I came across an article about Jeremy Corbyn, his motivations, and what he stood for, that I became interested again, and hopeful that the fight my great-grandparents, my grandparents, and my parents had made, so that their children would have something better than they had been dealt with – something to live for, and to fight for – and I knew I had to do anything I could to join that fight.

    I’ve been watching the sickening treachery of people voted in as our representatives, thinking only of themselves, and the gravy train they’ve boarded, and I look to the real leaders of the Labour Party with the hope that they, and we at the grassroots, will prevail, and go forward to change the fates of so many people that have been steadily ground down with despair.

    I just hope that, rather than just voting without thinking, people will start looking at the policies that will affect them most, and especially at the voting records of the people they wish to represent them, and that they will see just how much we all need Jeremy Corbyn and his team, to pull us out of the trough we’ve been sinking into.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Katy for reading, but also sharing your journey. Many of us share your experience of disillusionment with Labour as it moved to the right. I too have been reenergised by the movement around Corbyn and share your hopes for the future. Solidarity

      Liked by 1 person

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