Thursday, 18 June 2015
After managing to scrape together enough nominations from the Parliamentary Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn is participating in the Labour leadership contest, resulting from Ed Miliband's resignation, as a representative of "the left". The fact that being a left-wing candidate for the leadership of a party that claims to stand for democratic socialism, social democracy and trade unionism, makes Corbyn perceived to be a minority oddity, exemplifies how far the indecisive and capitulating Labour establishment has deviated the party from the core values it was founded to represent.
Corbyn is an irrelevant ideological relic of the past, say his detractors. He may be popular among grassroots Labour members who actually believe in socialism, who are inspired by Corbyn's passionate advocacy of social justice rather than (like most mainstream Labour candidates, particularly Blairites) pandering to Tory rhetoric, and the deceitful narrative it propagates on the economic crisis caused by Thatcherite policies, which is used to justify ideological austerity. But Corbyn would doom Labour to an even steeper defeat in the failure to appeal to the centrist mainstream, if he were to lead Labour into the 2020 general election, they insist.
But the facts indicate that the democratic socialist principles Corbyn stand for are by any estimation majority opinion, even if the identifying labels of left-wing or socialist are much maligned. UKIP, a hard-right party which advocates neoliberal socioeconomic policies even more extreme than those endorsed by the Tories, have become a viable political force in the Labour's North of England heartlands, winning a sizable number of second places at May's general election and displacing the Liberal Democrats, who used to be the populist anti-establishment party of choice, as the third party in terms of vote share (under a fundamentally undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system). (UKIP has found substantial success in Wales as well, more than the social democratic Plaid Cymru).
An opinion polling of UKIP supporters in 2014 indicated that a majority of them believe in socialist policies in clear contradiction of what that their vote of choice actually represents. UKIP backers support an NHS free from privatisation; public utilities, transportation and rail networks nationalised and run in the public interest rather than for private profit; the banning of exploitative zero hour contracts; increasing the minimum wage to a living wage; and counteracting tax dodging by the rich and multinational corporations as an alternative to cuts to public services as a means of deficit reduction. Owen Jones fervently agrees with the average UKIP voter.
Disillusioned voters in England, who would usually turn to Labour to represent them being met with vapid messages about "aspiration" and an approach to austerity indistinguishable from that of the Tories, protest in the form of a UKIP vote instead, even if that party's cynical and calculated scapegoating of migrants does not appeal to them. Of course, the Tories did well in the South of England, and benefited from the near total collapse of the Lib Dems. But Labour were able to win new seats and actually increased its overall share in the popular vote, including a seven percent increase in London, even though Ed Miliband's "left-wing" platform was apparently electorally untenable. But in its uncritical conceding to Tory austerity being inevitable, it certainly seemed hypocritical.
As Tory and Lib Dem support in Scotland in minimal, it was Labour who faced the most obvious electoral decimation in Scotland at the hands of a Scottish National Party, that takes a firm, compassionate stance against austerity as well as nuclear weapons, in contrast to a Labour leadership in London and Scottish Labour Party that allied to push for austerity in Scotland at Holyrood and rallied behind the maintenance of weapons of Trident mass destruction on the Clyde, which Corbyn rallies against as a vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Again, Labour's essential abandonment of its basic philosophical values ingrained a disillusionment in the electorate, this time in Scotland, that hammered in the final nail in the coffin of its relevancy in that part on the UK.
But as Corbyn, as an unashamed democratic socialist and decades-long campaigner for social justice and anti-war movements, stands on a platform of the anti-austerity policies and principles that UKIP and SNP voters alike evidently believe in, then far from being a fringe candidate of predestined failure, he could be leader of a national movement that would turn the tide of mass disenchantment in the Labour Party; most importantly in effective opposition to the devastating attacks on society and its most vulnerable by the Tories. Which is why I have paid my £3 to become a registered Labour supporter in the hope of voting for him.