I dare say that many people reading this will be in favour of things like social justice, equality, a welfare state that complies with the articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, a publicly-funded NHS, environmental protection, ordinary people being able to feed their families, and an end to corruption.
How many of you are actually doing something about it?
Whether you realise it or not, over the last 35 years, the political “centre ground” has slowly and surreptitiously shifted to the right. The overall effect has been for many people to become disillusioned with politics, believing that it is a game for the privileged and monied interests, and that involvement in politics is not for ordinary people, it is for hardline activists and dreamers. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Politics is only the home of the monied interests and privileged because ordinary people have let it become so. The majority of politicians are out of touch, blinkered by the media and the corporate lobbyists, because so few people actively engage in politics. Turnout at general elections has, on average, been falling steadily since the second world war. At this year’s election, only 66% of eligible voters voted. The “winners” of the election only received the backing of 24% of eligible voters, 36% of those who voted. And yet the Conservatives have a parliamentary majority (of only 10 seats), due to the out-dated and not-fit-for-purpose electoral system that is used in this country.
In Scotland, where the SNP stood on a strong anti-austerity platform, the “traditional” parties were wiped out. There are now more polar bears in Scotland than non-SNP MPs. In England and Wales, where there were parties standing on an anti-austerity platform they hardly received any media coverage, and the result was pretty much a Tory landslide.
Due to our electoral system that was designed in the days when only rich male landowners were allowed to vote, the majority of seats are what’s known as safe seats. There are only about 150 seats in the UK that can be expected to change hands in any general election. This is partly to do with the demographic spread of the population in affluent and otherwise constituencies, and partly to do with the hideous politically illiterate tribalism of the vast majority of the UK population. To most people, the Labour party is the party of the working man, the poor person, the ordinary guy, the one who doesn’t own a business or factory, the one who is at the bottom of the food chain. It always has been, and it always will be. Their parents voted for Labour, because they were ordinary people, therefore they will vote for Labour, because they are ordinary people.
Labour representing the 99% hasn’t been the case for 20 years. When Tony Blair gained leadership of the Labour Party, he hauled the party massively to the right. That might have been necessary to win an election in 1997, but with the reforms that first landslide victory brought, it was safe to move back to the left. Labour stayed on the right, and drifted ever-further away from their core and founding principles. In 2010, after an economic failure brought about by Labour’s unwillingness to stand up to the all-powerful god known as money, they lost power, and direction.
Since 2010, they have moved slightly back towards the left, but the overwhelming position of the party has still been to try and persuade dyed-in-the-wool Tory voters (people who vote Tory for the same reasons that most Labour voters vote Labour) that they should be voting for Labour instead. At the 2015 election, they found out why that was a bad idea. They offered a slightly watered-down version of what the Tories were offering, and got kicked hard. Their loss was exaggerated by the fragmentation of the left-leaning vote. Where those on the right had the choice of Tories or UKIP (and the DUP in Northern Ireland), those on the left had a choice between (in theory) Labour, the Lib-Dems (again, in theory), the Greens, whatever local independent candidate was standing, and the ridiculously mis-named Left Unity in the few constituencies where they fielded candidates (and the SNP or Plaid Cymru in Scotland or Wales respectively). And instead of coming to some sort of electoral pact to pool resources and candidates and stand under one banner, the parties on the left stood and fell separately. Left Unity did not try and come to agreements with other parties about joining a rainbow coalition opposed to the Tories, they simply declared that that was what they were doing and went ahead to split the left-leaning vote.
So, in light of their massive electoral failure at a time when huge numbers of people all over the country were clamouring for an end to ideological austerity, Labour have decided that they need a new leader. Now, just to prove to us how out of touch they are, the first three people to put themselves forward to lead the Labour party were: A stopgap, the best of a bad bunch, and someone who should have joined the Tory party. Those are descriptions of Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnam and Liz Kendall by members of the Labour party. Then a fourth person voiced interest in standing. And in order to “encourage debate” and “have a wide field of options”, MPs nominated him to stand.
Enter Jeremy Corbyn, a long-serving north London Labour MP, who has consistently voted against austerity measures and neoliberal policies and ideoligies. Here is someone who talks about and does what he believes is the right thing to do. Here is someone who gives straight answers to questions, who does not indulge in name-calling and ad hominem attacks on his opponents. Here is someone who doesn’t care what the massively Tory-biased press think, he will oppose austerity (just like what the Green Party and Plaid Cymru have been doing for years). But because he’s in the Labour party, he actually has a chance of being able to practice in government what he preaches.
Under the current electoral system, “non-traditional” parties like the Greens will never win a general election. However, Labour will not win again unless they actually offer something different to the Conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn is the only potential leader who will do that. Since Jeremy Corbyn has a very similar viewpoint to Green policies, once he is in charge, it should be relatively simple to come to some sort of arrangement for political support in exchange for movement towards a fairer electoral system.
Unfortunately, the executive of the Labour party are politically Red Tories, and are panicking that Corbyn will actually win and start things changing, which will mean an end to their gravy train. They have dredged up as many people as they can to attack him, his supporters, and his policies as naive, ignorant, unrealistic, emotional, stupid, un-popular and impractical.
On the contrary, Corbyn’s policies are from someone who has spent 30+ years diligently supporting ordinary people from the back benches of the House of Commons, so they cannot be said to be naive in concept nor ignorant about implementation. They are not unrealistic either, as many of them will be funded by de-funding policies which are unpopular or not working. How do we know which policies are unpopular? Count the protests against them, the polls (straw or otherwise) where people say they want a change to the status quo, the general feeling of discontent. Why is it a bad thing to be emotional about doing what you believe is right? Bear in mind that pretty much every policy enacted by the Tory-dominated coalition government has either failed or been a damp squib, and that is largely because they were based on emotional rhetoric and discredited ideas, rather than logic and evidence. Corbyn’s policies are based on logic and evidence, as well as belief. The only impracticalities in Corbyn’s policies are the huge media bias against them, which will result in some very uncomfortable times for him, despite the policies working and being what the electorate want.
The Blairite right of the Labour party has suggested they will oust Corbyn if he is elected leader. Oh, yes, very democratic, welcome to the death of the Labour party. After their blatant collusion with the Tories in coalition, the Lib-Dems were punished by the electorate for it, and now the entire Lib-Dem parliamentary presence can fit in a Toyota Previa. If the Labour right stage a coup against Corbyn after he is democratically elected their leader, then they can expect to be in the same boat. Some people have suggested that if Corbyn is elected then ousted, he could join another left-leaning party like the Greens. Did you miss the bit where I talked about safe seats and habitual voting? Corbyn moving to the Green Party effectively removes him from the game completely. Even as Leader of the Opposition rather than PM, Corbyn would be the best hope for blocking austerity that this country has.
I believe the absolute top priority for any political party is to stop ideological austerity. Obviously, that rules out the Tories and UKIP, and much of Labour and the Lib-Dems too. But the victims (as in, those who are most likely to end up homeless and destitute at minimum, and therefore unable to vote) of ideological austerity are those who are least likely to vote for the Tories anyway, and the fewer people able to vote for someone other than the Tories means the more likely it is for the Tories to remain in power.
I joined the Green Party in January this year, because at the time it was the only political party in England that actively opposed ideological austerity. Many people who joined the Green Party before me joined for environmental reasons, and feel that that should be the primary focus of the party. Well, tough! The political landscape has changed, and I’d bet a large sum on the Green Surge being powered by people like me. Unfortunately, the Green Party cannot win even twenty seats under the current electoral system, and if it doesn’t change with the political landscape to accommodate those who are primarily in it to oppose austerity, then it will stay irrelevant.
Now Labour once again have a chance to start representing the majority of people in the country, by opposing austerity under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It is only natural that those of us who share the belief that austerity must be stopped using whatever means necessary, should champion support for him in the Labour Leadership election, no matter where our primary political allegiance lies. Opposing austerity and having concern for the environment (or whatever single-issue the political party you support champions) are not mutually exclusive, and people should be able to see that Corbyn as Labour leader will be a means to an end, if nothing else. Hopefully, he will be so much more than that, and in a best-case scenario will be the arbiter of doom for neoliberal capitalism in this country. The Conservative-biased media want to increase the divide-and-rule tribalism that won the Tories the last election. Those of us who are opposed to austerity must cast tribalism aside, and support those methods most likely to stop austerity, no matter what their source.
So; A call to action. If you oppose cuts to child tax credits, if you oppose cuts to working-age benefits, if you oppose rises in student tuition fees, if you oppose the slashing of funding for public services (and remember that that includes the police and fire brigade, as well as libraries, free buses, and adult social care), if you oppose allowing corporations to evade and avoid tax, if you oppose a privatised NHS (where a simple doctor’s appointment could cost you £50, and a broken wrist £1500), if you oppose harmful fossil fuel energy technologies being prioritised over renewable energy sources, if you oppose the toxic ideology of neoliberal capitalism and the austerity policies that it spawned, then there is only on thing you can realistically do (apart from rising in violent revolution and executing the Tory cabinet): Support Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader.
Share this. Talk to everybody you know. Join the Labour party for only £3, and between August 12th and September 10th, vote for Jeremy Corbyn. If he becomes leader, he will block the Tories at every step of the way. If the Labour right tries to oust him, support him, and get the Red Tories thrown out. If the Labour party splits, forcing dozens of by-elections, then Green candidates should be prepared to fill the gaps in Corbyn’s roster, not stand against his Labour party – that would be massive leverage to get him to institute electoral reform.
This is the call to action: Do whatever it takes to block and reverse austerity. I firmly believe the first step towards that is to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader.
Support Jeremy Corbyn.