[su_box title=”The Labour leadership contest” box_color=”#2D2D73″ radius=”0″]Over the coming weeks Concrete will be profiling the candidates in the Labour leadership elections, bringing you news and opinion. First, Jeremy Corbyn goes under the spotlight.[/su_box]
Jeremy Corbyn, aged 65, is the oldest, the last to throw his hat into the ring, and the bookies’ current favourite candidate in the Labour leadership contest. He has represented the north London constituency of Islington North in the House of Commons since 1983. The underdog in more ways than one, his home constituency is the smallest of any UK parliamentary constituency. The left-wing Corbyn has surprised much of the parliamentary Labour party and the UK media throughout the nominations and campaign phases of this election by widening debate within the leadership contest and championing former left wing policies: such as [su_tooltip style=”tipsy” position=”north” size=”3″ title=”Clause IV” content=”‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service’.”]Clause IV[/su_tooltip] and the renationalisation of public services including railway networks.
Much of his popularity, particularly with new young Labour members, students, and “idealistic” left-wing activists, is described by the media as having sprung from his tendency to talk about real issues with genuine concern. This is linked to the perception of him as a Westminster outsider; having never held a cabinet position he was in a position to vote against the Welfare Bill, unlike his opponents. Politically, he is perhaps also the most controversial choice. An ideologically socialist, “hard-left” candidate who has gained huge support from the trade unions, the grey haired MP he is about as far as it is possible to get from the Blairite and New Labour ideas still circulating in the party and a long-standing member of groups such as the Socialist Campaign Group and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
He can be seen as having things to lose rather than things to gain from running in this election, perhaps best demonstrated by his exchange on Channel 4 News with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, in which the interviewer suggested Corbyn might be unsuitable for a leadership position due to his former of claims of “friendship” with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA. This was a memorable moment, even for an already controversial campaign, and whilst such media perceptions can be perceived as advantageous for keeping candidates in the news, it doesn’t do much to add to the perceived electability of Corbyn. He could struggle to command authority as party leader due his serial rebellions and that his parliamentary career includes a grand total of zero cabinet positions.
In a so-called “unity statement” on his campaign website he argues that: “There is no place for personal animosity, negative campaigning, and saying or doing anything now that will damage our ability to work together as one party”. and he urges supporters to add their signatures to this statement of intent. Campaign proclamations aside, whoever finds themselves elected leader in a few weeks’ time will likely have Jeremy Corbyn to thank for an increasingly disunited and fractured Labour Party.
[su_spoiler title=”Caitlin Doherty on Corbynmania.” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, Gordon Brown, the Guardian and the Mirror: everybody (except those who really matter) seems to be avoiding him like the plague, and tutting as they would with the naughty school boy in the corner. Despite a clear lack of support from the so-called ‘big names’, Corbyn has won the hearts and votes of the Labour party public, and is seemingly going to storm next month’s election. After a gradual rise in popularity, having been originally labelled the ‘outsider’ of the contest, it has been revealed that Jeremy Corbyn in fact has the greatest level of support from Labour constituency organisations, given that he has the backing of 152 such groups. When we consider this alongside the fact that Mr Corbyn has already been declared the leader of choice of Britain’s two biggest trade unions, Unite and Unison, it is clear why many are now considering him to be the leader of the pack, ahead of Andy Burnham’s 111 constituency votes, Yvette Cooper’s 106 and Liz Kendall’s 18.
In spite of his decades as MP for Islington North and vocal role within campaigns such as ‘No More War’ and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, before this leadership contest, Corbyn was a relative nobody within the party, as, in contrast to all of his competitors, he has never held a cabinet or shadow cabinet role.
Corbyn’s relative lack of experience in the political playground, partnered with his strong, left-wing stance, led many to believe that he wouldn’t have the support to tackle such a high profile role. This leads to the question: from where has this immense popularity stemmed? Statistics seem to suggest that it is young people, Britain’s student population, who are yearning for a change within the opposition. Key to the interest of this demographic will have been his promise to completely eradicate tuition fees, in favour of a universally free education system, funded by public taxes. In Corbyn’s view, infrastructure such as the education system and the NHS would be more secure and receive greater funding under a 50% taxation system for Britain’s highest earners, something which he claims many well-off people would be happy to do to better fund public services. At the heart of Corbyn’s support for young people lies his commitment to left-wing values, which includes his opposition to Osborne’s Welfare Bill and the Trident nuclear programme, and his commitment to extending the Right to Buy scheme for first-time home owners.
Some may argue this popularity is well-deserved; he seems the obvious choice for any young voter, as well as potentially signifying the rebirth of the Labour party, restoring them to their traditionalist left-wing roots and providing a stark opposition to those currently sat in the Cabinet Office. However, recent statistics suggest that Mr Corbyn’s popularity may not be all that it seems. More than 1000 people listed as a ‘registered supporter’ of the Labour party have been banned from voting in the upcoming contest, as they are believed to be of other political persuasions, or to have registered purely to vote for Corbyn as a way of damaging Labour’s chances of election, thanks to his lack of appeal to centrist swing voters. These antagonisms prove, for many, why Corbyn should not be the leader of the party; he’s just too different, and can never appeal to the majority that lie in the centre ground of British politics. Surely any politician who can be used as a political chess piece, who, if manoeuvred in the right way, can be used to secure the future of his opposition, is a danger to his own party and values.
Jeremy Corbyn represents the very core and roots of the Labour party, in favour of a government that works with both society’s winners and losers in order to help talent flourish and ensure a fair deal for everybody. If there is anything that has come from of the ridicule of Corbyn and relentless attempts to sabotage the party, it is the clear signalling that Corbyn and the socialism for which he stands are laughing stocks. Socialism will never win a general election; the British public simply do not like it. Despite my own left-wing sympathies, and relative support for what Corbyn stands for, the events of recent days have left me thinking that if there is to be any future for the Labour party, then they need to dismiss their history, dismiss their core values. Corbyn has to go.[/su_spoiler]
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