Jeremy Corbyn had only one obstacle to really hurdle past and it was the one he scraped through at the last minute: the parliamentary nominations. For those who chose him, there was a variety of reasons and one of them being he would broaden the debate. Corbyn was politely dismissed: a remnant of the old left still refusing to be buried within the Labour Party. Now he stands on the verge of becoming Labour’s leader.
In a society increasingly stripped of the safety net of a welfare system, workers rights ferociously under attack, trade unions besieged, inequality and poverty growing as wages remain stagnant, there is little in the way of hope to energise the people. Apathy has defined Britain for a long time now. The system seems fixed to serve the super-rich elite, enriching them at the expense of the poorest. Election turnouts are low and where there is political enthusiasm it tends to fall outside party politics. There is an absence of hope that has crippled Labour’s solid working-class voting base, many turned off in anger by what they regard as Labour’s betrayal of its old principles.
Labour was created as a coalition of working interests representing the needs and aspirations of workers and trade unionists, positioned traditionally as a challenge to the capitalist status quo. But Labour’s shift to the right now reflected badly on them; to many, they were a part of the problem instead of being a solution. The “Westminster bubble” that Andy Burnham repeatedly refers to reflected a party under whom the privatisation of the NHS began, the financial market was deregulated whilst there was the illegal invasion of Iraq. Labour stopped being a social movement, a grassroots community forum of action for progressive change. Instead they became a party of thinktanks and special advisors, hijacked by careerists and middle-class graduate geeks who spoke to the working-class in an unintelligible language and seemed disconnected and mechanical. The warm humanity that might have defined Labour before was absent now. This was a different Labour and one many could not connect to.
It was a problem that undermined Ed Miliband. Millions of voters in Scotland and England voted with SNP and UKIP because they felt Labour no longer served their needs and aspirations. A dull, mundane atmosphere had taken hold of Labour until Jeremy Corbyn came in.
This is the man who rebelled throughout his political career for the victory of social justice. He was committed against apartheid, for LGBT rights, against arming Saddam Hussein who had gassed the Kurds and later opposed the catastrophic Iraq War. With Corbyn, there is the return of the politicians who feel like warm humans made of flesh with sincerity, honesty and conviction in principles. Corbyn has impressed on people with his courageous and determined will to stand up for Labour principles. It has sparked the “Corbynmania.” People in their thousands have signed up for Labour, driven by energy and interest seeded by Corbyn. Where he speaks, rooms are crowded and they stand to cheer him with deafening roars. Corbyn has taken the hearts and minds of people.
He has laid down policies rather than resort to attacks on his opponents. His policies feel rooted in a genuine willingness to confront injustice and fix it, from reversal of welfare cuts to rail renationalisation and abolition of tuition fees.
By contrast his opponents are running in fear. They initially laughed and scoffed at him but now fear is strangling the Labour Party. How can they stop Corbyn? Already dirty, unfair methods that make a mockery of democracy have been suggested. Many MPs threatened to stage an immediate revolt against Corbyn should he win. Others called for the elections to be halted, to stall Corbyn and supposedly root out people signing up with malicious reasons. Liz Kendall, who has said what she wouldn’t do but not what she would do, repeatedly attacked Corbyn, portraying him with dangerous and disastrous ideas. She and others like Yvette Cooper outright rejected to serve in Corbyn’s cabinet. Cooper to her small shred of credit hounded Corbyn largely on basis of ideas but failed to provide a genuinely inspiring vision of her own. The Blairites have been crawling out of the rocks to come after Corbyn. Blair told Corbyn voters to “get a heart transplant” while Alistair Campbell, Jack Straw and plenty of other Blairites repeatedly formed ranks to try and throttle Corbyn’s momentum. They called him unelectable, they tried to play on his support for Palestine; they called him dangerous and sending Labour tumbling off the cliff.
They failed. More than that they fuelled support for Corbyn. With each attack on his personality rather than his policies, support fuelled for the anti-austerity left-winger. A sense of solidarity and comradeship built around his supporters, sensing a seismic moment in British politics, the tectonic plates about to shift in a way they hadn’t before. Few had envisioned a socialist leading Labour anytime soon. Even as inequality stretched, it seemed British politics was permanently entrenched in neoliberalism; it felt like Labour were confined to a more compassionate and less brutal hue of neoliberalism.
But Corbyn offers something different. He provides a message and vision of a fairer and more equal society that is both inspiring and inclusive in its broad appeal to people. He hasn’t resorted to any eyebrow-raising methods to slander his opponents. It’s because he never needed to use insults to beat his opponents. He’s beating them with ideas and they know it.