UK

Are Corbynistas Ready for a Corbyn Premiership?

Jeremy Corbyn is a politician in the ascendancy. Bolstered by a remarkable and unforeseen performance in last June’s General Election, the 68-year-old MP for Islington North sits unassailable in his position as leader of Labour Party and is poised to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Only a year ago, none of this would have seemed plausible. Corbyn, beleaguered and under intense pressure from certain factions within his own party, was fighting to hold off a leadership challenge from Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd. He would eventually sweep to a resounding victory, securing his position as leader for the second time in a year.

This second victory, by a bigger margin than the first, drove home the point that many within the party were refusing to accept – Corbyn was here to stay.

It’s been a curious thing, Corbyn’s rise to prominence. Rarely has a politician in this country been subjected to such intense scrutiny, often straying into outright opprobrium. As a counterweight to this, however, the veteran Socialist has engaged and mobilised people long since disillusioned with politics.

(Article continues below)


More From Ethical Surrey:


 

Energised by Corbyn’s ideological commitment to traditional Labour values, the party’s membership has soared to levels not seen in decades. At the last election, this increased level of support enabled the resurgent party to acquire its biggest increase in the vote since just after the second World War, exceeding even the most optimistic pre-election predictions.

Thanks in part to the treatment of Corbyn by much of the press – most notably during the General Election, when some of the criticism was nothing short of vicious and hysterical – new party members and activists, fiercely loyal to their leader, have been at times unable to differentiate between baseless slander and reasoned, constructive criticism of their man.

As such, amongst some at least, an atmosphere of immunity has developed around Corbyn. Those keen to shield him from the torrents of abuse to which he has undoubtedly been the subject have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Their vision clouded by media hostility towards Labour’s leader, any criticism, no matter how well-meaning, has been repudiated in the strongest possible terms.

To illustrate this point, one needn’t look any further than when BBC presenter Emma Barnett was heckled on social media after an interview with Corbyn in which she reprimanded him for being unable to immediately provide costings for Labour’s free childcare plans.

Barnett was perhaps guilty of editorialising during the interview, but the abusive, expletive-laden responses by some were unjustifiable and deeply unhelpful for Corbyn, who has repeatedly sought to condemn such attacks. All such episodes serve to do is provide ammunition for those who seek to write off Corbyn’s entire support base as malevolent Trotskyists, risen from the ashes of Militant and intent on party hegemony.

Corbyn doesn’t need or even want any of this. He doesn’t wish to be exempt from criticism. He admitted to having not had the childcare costings to hand in his interview with Barnett, after stating that he would “not tolerate” abuse aimed at Barnett or any other journalist. He simply got caught out in an interview. It happens. Just look at Boris Johnson.

It would be hard to refute the fact that excitement about what Corbyn offers has contributed in part to the culture of no criticism that exists among some Corbynistas, but this enthusiasm need not be dimmed by constructive appraisals of Labour’s plans for government. Robust critiques of what the party intends to implement if in power will be essential if the optimism that currently abounds translates into a Corbyn premiership.

As far as criticism goes, Corbyn’s used to it. He’s been barracked in the Commons by both the opposition and his own side. He’s able to absorb it and never gets into the gutter with anyone. He enjoys talking to people about politics, not engaging in the kind of ad hominem attacks which are so often levelled at him. It’s in fact rather ironic that such an advocate of unity and mass participatory democracy should prove such a polarising figure.

Regardless, if we want to change the current climate in which Corbyn’s critics are loathe to say anything good about him, nor his supporters anything bad, we need to encourage a more balanced approach to critiquing his ideas and what he stands for.

If Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, he and his supporters will need to brace themselves for unprecedented hostility and a barrage of denunciation from the opposing side. It will be relentless, a great deal of it will be unfair and much of it will be brutal. Corbyn is going to be ready for it and he will need his supporters to be equally prepared.

Allowing Corbyn to be criticised does not amount to an ideological compromise, it’s merely part of living in a democratic country. Labour’s grassroots support has been instrumental in his meteoric rise and there is nobody that can refute that. As he gears up for power, he doesn’t need them to protect him from flak, he needs them to take their arguments to people around the country, be open to criticism and ready to respond respectfully and persuasively.

Read More

Got an idea for an article? Click here to find out more about writing for us.

Hillsborough – victims’ families have triumphed at last

Last week’s news that the Crown Prosecution Service was to bring criminal charges against six people in relation to the Hillsborough tragedy is vindication for a collection of families who refused to be cowed in their fight for justice.

A twenty-eight-year fight for justice is nearing its conclusion with the announcement that six people are to face criminal charges relating to the Hillsborough tragedy, which claimed the lives of 96 people, and its aftermath.

For the families and friends of those that died, this verdict will be bittersweet. As the old saying goes: justice delayed is justice denied, and this verdict has been nothing if not delayed.

Three decades of smears, lies and obfuscation have been swept away amidst thunderous vindication for a set of people who simply were not willing to lie down. Last week’s announcements have indeed been a long time coming, but this merely demonstrates the sheer indefatigability of the campaigners in their quest to overcome a thicket of resistance to justice.

The passage of time can sometimes dilute the magnitude of events; and momentum, followed by hope, can be lost. For the families of the dead, the past 28 years have been a battle against a series of challenges, each of which have required admirable force of will to overcome.

First came the aftermath of the tragedy and the repugnant allegations that the victims were somehow responsible for their own deaths. Just a day after Liverpool’s Sunday Echo referred to the events as “our day of tears”, The Sun newspaper, under its then editor Kelvin McKenzie, ran the infamous headline in which it alleged fans had stolen from the bodies of the dead and urinated on rescue workers. This came to represent one of the darkest days in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Margaret Thatcher’s then Press Secretary, Bernard Ingham, when speaking in relation to the tragedy, was quoted as saying: “I know what I learned on the spot; that there would have been no Hillsborough if a mob, clearly tanked up, had not tried to force their way into the ground.”

Home Secretary Douglas Hurd would later tell the House of Commons that 19 police officers had been assaulted at Hillsborough. No evidence of this would ever be provided to the inquiry.

For families coming to terms with devastating and sudden loss, such smears against their loved ones served only to exacerbate their anguish. For its part, The Sun’s coverage of the story permanently decimated its circulation on Merseyside. To this day, the paper is reviled across the city.

Lord Justice Taylor’s initial inquiry into the disaster found the primary cause of the deaths to be a failure of police control, but the 1991 inquests delivered a verdict of accidental deaths, setting in motion a sequence of events that culminated in last week’s verdicts.

When MP Andy Burnham spoke at Anfield on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, emotions boiled over amongst a crowd of over 30,000. Burnham was heckled from the stands, not for anything he had done on a personal level, but for the government he represented.

The Liverpudlian, to his eternal credit, absorbed the crowd’s anger, later saying: “I’d been thinking in the run-up that, in some way, this could be fate. I was thinking, is there some way I can now open up Hillsborough again?”

Burnham also added: “If I wasn’t the minister, I’d have been one of those shouting at the minister.”

In a Cabinet meeting the very next day, Burnham told Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he wanted Hillsborough back on the agenda.

On an emotional day in April 2016, 27 years after the disaster, the Hillsborough inquests jury ruled that the 96 people who died as a result of the tragedy were unlawfully killed. It was vindication at last. The campaign of vilification against their loved ones had been defeated.

At the end of a two-year inquest, the verdict, which came after the jury were required to answer fourteen questions in relation to the day’s events, was met with jubilation outside the courtroom, with those in attendance crying, hugging and applauding the jury. In perhaps one of the most symbolic scenes in the fight for justice, the families gathered outside the courtroom for a rendition of Liverpool FC’s iconic anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone.

All of this brings us back to last week’s events, what they represent and what they tell us about the people who fought for so long to seem happen.

People like Anne Williams, who lost her son Kevin on that fateful day, tragically did not live to see justice delivered, but the tireless campaigning which saw her labelled ‘The Real Iron Lady’ is emblematic of a group of people who weren’t prepared to acquiesce to injustice.

It seems appropriate to end by once again quoting Bernard Ingham, who, when speaking with the Liverpool Echo in 2013, refused to apologise for saying that Liverpool should “shut up” about Hillsborough.

Clearly the former Press Secretary knew little about the city of which he spoke. The bereaved families never did “shut up” about Hillsborough and they make no apologies for it.

Read More

Got an idea for an article? Click here to find out more about writing for us.


 

General Election 2017: how the young took back British Politics

The young people of Britain left their detractors bewildered on June 8th. Turning out on a scale not seen since 1992, they delivered a comprehensive repudiation of a political system that has marginalised them for too long.

It has been a seismic year in British politics. This time twelve months ago, Britain had just voted to leave the European Union after a bitterly contested, divisive and at times toxic referendum campaign. What followed was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable periods in British political history.

At the end of a political epoch which saw the resignation of David Cameron, Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister; Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as leader of the Labour Party; Donald Trump taking office and the United Kingdom triggering Article 50, Theresa May called a snap General Election.

It was an opportunistic and cynical move which came despite previous assurances to the contrary. Even against the backdrop of May’s repeated insistence that no General Election would be called until 2020, the sight of Labour floundering in the opinion polls combined with her own personal approval ratings proved too much to resist for May and her advisers, who went for the jugular.

Parliament found itself dissolved after two-thirds of the Commons voted in favour of a motion for an early General Election and Britain was once again going to the polls.

Theresa May banked on the opinion polls proving accurate. A landslide victory was to condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to electoral oblivion whilst simultaneously handing her an overwhelming mandate to negotiate Brexit unopposed and unchecked. Complacency was rife and understandably so.

After all, many political commentators had already concluded that young people had no right to express their concerns over Brexit as they had supposedly not bothered to get out and vote, so why would it be any different this time?

Initial reports after polling day put the youth turnout at around 36%, leading to widespread attempts to bury young people’s Brexit concerns beneath accusations of political apathy. Later evidence compiled by the London School of Economics suggested youth turnout for the EU referendum was in fact around 64%, vastly higher than originally reported. Still, none of this mattered and would matter even less when Labour and their young supporters were reduced to political non-entities.

As the General Election got into full flow, the Conservatives were beset by calamity. Despite a highly personalised, almost presidential campaign, Theresa May was floundering. Stage-managed public appearances in sterile environments did little to undermine suspicion that the Prime Minister was unwilling to meet the public and unable to engage with voters on the ground.

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn was undergoing quite the political revival. Since first being elected Labour leader in 2015, the 68-year-old had been portrayed by Conservative MPs, large sections of the British press and even his own back-benchers as nothing short of a political pariah.

However, since the General Election had been called, support for the Islington North MP had been gathering considerable momentum. His backing, particularly among the young, was soaring.

His principled, emotion-driven style of politics stood in direct contrast to Theresa May’s scripted, repetitive and rigid approach.

As Corbyn continued to address large crowds of young people, extraordinary levels of condescending rhetoric emerged from sections of the press and some political commentators.

It was all well and good Jeremy Corbyn speaking to and winning the support of all these young people, but young people didn’t matter. Sure, they’d cheer his name in the streets or in a football stadium, but if it rained on election day he couldn’t count on their vote. Such were the methods used to denigrate and dismiss swathes of young people casting off decades of political apathy to become engaged, energised and inspired by politics for the first time.

The same sneering attitudes were prevalent in dismissing as unreliable the various polls which had Labour closing the gap on the Tories with each passing day. Again, none of this would matter when the youth vote collapsed on polling day.

Eventually, the time for talking was over. Polling day arrived on June 8th and by the time night fell Theresa May’s majority was gone.

Labour’s surge was astonishing. Young voters across the country had mobilised, taken to the streets, knocked on doors and engaged with politics in a way not seen in decades. So much for apathy.

When Jeremy Corbyn addressed a Glastonbury crowd last Saturday as big as any seen in living memory, he stated that “the politics that got out of the box is not going back in that box.”

That is the challenge that lies ahead for young voters – to stay engaged, stay energised and make sure nobody speaks for them without their permission ever again.

Read More

Got an idea for an article? Click here to find out more about writing for us.

Voters unite: take action against the coalition of chaos

On June 8th something happened that few outside of the hopeful grassroots community could ever have expected. Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party to an astonishing increase in parliamentary seats; destroying the majority previously held by the Conservative Party.

As a Labour supporter I personally welcome any result that reins in the power of Theresa May’s government. But whilst the hung parliament we’re left with does bring with it a small number of positives, it’s far from an ideal outcome.

On the plus side, without a majority May has already been forced to reconsider the manifesto she plans to submit for the Queen’s speech this week. Hard line policies on pensions and ridiculous notions such as repealing the fox hunting ban have been scrapped. This is wonderful news for those affected, and a clear victory for those of us who fought against such policies.

The snap election also delivered a result which has confirmed Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader of a strong and stable opposition. The in-fighting which dominated the Labour Party last year is over; for the Tories such battles are only just beginning.

There is a negative side to all of this, of course. And not just for Conservative voters. In a desperate bid to keep hold of the keys to number 10, May has sought a deal with the most regressive party in UK politics; the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP).

The DUP are a right wing party with intensely conservative and religious views. This party (who now potentially have control within the UK government) are passionately opposed to LGBT rights, are anti-abortion, largely deny climate change, and most worryingly of all, have strong support from (and reported links to) the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

A violent loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA is still active in Northern Ireland to this day. Just weeks ago, a man was shot dead in broad daylight, and in front of his three-year-old son, by a member of the group. During the troubles in Northern Ireland, the UDA were responsible for over 400 deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians.

Much of the Conservative election campaign was built around the false notion that Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser. Yet May has wasted no time in jumping into bed with a party strongly linked to terrorists still operating in Northern Ireland today. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has warned Theresa May that the deal she has sought risks jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland, and is a potential violation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Already we have seen signs of May making decisions to appease the DUP. In appointing her new cabinet she has given the role of Justice Secretary to David Lidington, who has consistently opposed LGBT rights; and the role of Environmental Secretary to Michael Gove, despite his previous poor record on environmental issues.

Despite who you may have voted for, a minority government propped up by a terrorist-backed, right wing section of the Northern Irish assembly is unacceptable. It is simply wrong that we should allow such regressive politicians to have any say in how our otherwise progressive society is run. If you voted Labour, this is not what you voted for. But just as importantly; if you voted Conservative, this is not what you voted for.

Millions of people across the country, myself included, live in Conservative areas which means we are represented in parliament by Conservative MPs. It is vital that we now contact them to make it known we do not give our support to a deal with the DUP, and that neither should they. The integrity of our country is far more important than whether a political party is able to cling onto power or not. We must call upon our MPs to say no to any deal with the DUP, even if it means relinquishing control of parliament, or calling another election. On this principal we should all be agreed, regardless of our political alignment.

This is something we must act on now. Anybody that lives within a Conservative constituency must contact their local MP today. Talks between the Tories and the DUP are ongoing, and the Queen’s speech, it seems, has been delayed. The minority government as it is being proposed has no credibility, and this is something that must be communicated to our representatives in Parliament before a vote of confidence is held.

This is a rare opportunity for all voters to stand together. It’s time to put our differences aside and unite in opposition to the DUP and the potential regressive lurch to the right that comes with them. It’s time to stand up for the values that so many have fought for, and to protect the rights of every British person.

Important links:

Here you will find a sample e-mail which can be copied, edited as desired, and sent to your local MP.

Here you can find out who your local MP is, and how to contact them.

Whilst this direct action should be the priority, it is also well worth signing this petition to the UK Government, which has already reached over 150,000 signatures (at the time of this being published).

Read More

Got an idea for an article? Click here to find out more about writing for us.