By Matt Willgress
As I have written on LabourHub before, having a genuinely left-wing leadership of the Labour Party was always going to attract intense hostility from across the political and economic establishment.
Ever since 2015 part of this has been incredible levels of media hostility towards Jeremy’s leadership – something we are currently seeing on a daily basis.
Despite this, Labour members and affiliates not only overwhelmingly backed Jeremy against all the odds to become leader in 2015, they then gave him a stunning mandate to carry on as leader after the coup attempt of 2016.
The attacks didn’t stop, but the decision of Labour’s members was rewarded with an impressive result in the 2017 General Election that confounded the critics.
Despite the gains in 2017 though, the constant war against Corbyn and his supporters has never stopped, and there always seemed to be some within the Labour Party who couldn’t wait to join the right-wing media in attacking and undermining the members’ choice as leader when they were able to get a chance.
Now is clearly such a time.
Both opponents on the right-wing of the Labour Party and in the media share a number of things when they get stuck into attacking Corbyn’s Labour, including the wish to downplay any successes Labour achieves and a lack of a positive suggestion for what an alternative Labour leadership would stand for.
On the first point, after Labour’s remarkable victory in the Peterborough by-election, which all the bookies had down as a Brexit Party victory for some days before the vote, numerous Labour MPs decide not to use this time not to point out the Tories’ loss in a seat they have often held, or to celebrate what could be as Owen Jones termed it a ‘Waterloo’ moment in the fight against Farage.
Instead they decided now was the time to again attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and his approach on Brexit. The fact that Labour had won the seat almost seemed to irritate some of the more Blairite elements of our Party, who had already written their script on how Jeremy and Labour were over, and only a return to the ‘centrist’ politics of the Lib Dems could give us any chance of winning.
On the latter point, the Change UK split not only included some of the most prominent critics of the rebuilt post-2015 Labour Party and its leadership, but has also copied the policies and political style that many critics of Corbyn that are still within Labour remain tied to. These include, but are not limited to, a failure to challenge the Tories’ ideologically driven austerity.
The failure of Change UK should act as a warning sign to those keen to ditch Corbyn and Labour’s radical ‘investment not cuts’ agenda.
In terms of defeats for the Tories, Labour has led defeats for the Government on numerous issues – including with regards to Theresa May’s Brexit deal – and yet it is regularly claimed it is not an effective opposition.
Yet, Jeremy has now seen off two Tory Prime Ministers. And as he said recently at the PCS Conference, we can make it a hat trick!
The reason for the constant attacks is because our opponents full well understand not only what the significance of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would be, but also that it is a realistic possibility. They therefore need to do all they can to try and stop this happening.
The changed, and high-stakes, situation since 2015 means that all of us have had to continually face intense and new challenges since Jeremy’s election as leader.
Currently, we are again in an extremely difficult period, partly because the Tories are in crisis and a Jeremy Corbyn-led government is therefore a real possibility.
Faced with such attacks, we must not be taken off course by our opponent’s continual attacks.
And whilst resisting these, plus tackling media misrepresentation, we must also not fall into the trap of only discussing politics on grounds set by our opponents, but continue to prioritise promoting positive policies that can change the lives of the majority for the better, and we know are popular with the electorate.
It is also vital to maintain unity on the left, as our enemies are trying desperately to get us to concentrate on what divides us, rather than brings us together.
Maintaining this unity also means accepting that on issues as important as our approach to Brexit, there are bound to be different views across the movement. Articulating these views is perfectly legitimate and healthy for the movement, what we really don’t need though is public name calling, calling for people to be sacked from their jobs and so on. Acting in such a way can only sow division and demoralisation, and aide those seeking to stop there ever being a Jeremy Corbyn-led Government.
We should also all be able to unite against the very real, and increasingly likely, possibility of a hard-right ‘no deal’ Brexit, led by the likes of Boris Johnson. This would be based on creating a tax-haven, ‘bargain basement’ Britain with a race to the bottom when it comes to workers’ rights and conditions, and an accompanying intensification of austerity.
The latter must include not only our alternative economic programme to austerity, but also why we need an anti-war government, why we must build international solidarity, and why the fight for equality and liberation for all is an integral part of – not optional add on to – socialist politics.
With Boris on the rise – and a lot of the Tory Party seemingly happy with utilising Islamophobia to whip-up fear and division for example – this latter point is more important than ever.
In the months ahead then, the key focus of all on the Left in the coming period must be to not let our enemies divide us. Now is the time to unite behind Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and keep our eyes focussed on the price – a government that can change Britain for the better in the same kind of way Thatcher did for the worse.
With a Boris Johnson victory in the Tory leadership contest looking all the more likely by the day, not only can we win a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, millions of people need us to.
And to beat Boris we need to strongly fight the hard-right’s agenda across the board, putting a clear alternative to a disastrous ‘race to the bottom’ and harsh austerity economic policy in alliance with Trump. Jeremy Corbyn is the person to do this.
Let’s unite and make it happen.
- Sign the Stand With Corbyn – Unite to End Tory Austerity statement at bit.ly/standwithcorbynstatement
- Put on a Stand With Corbyn – Unite to End Tory Austerity event in you area – email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Come to Arise – A Festival of Labour’s Left Ideas in central London on June 21/22 to continue these important discussions. Speakers include John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Laura Pidcock, Richard Burgon and many more. Info and tickets at arise-festival.com