As an outsider looking in on the Labour leadership contest it is sad to see how it so beautifully sums up the sorry state of British politics. The infighting and name calling in place of engagement and debate, posturing and politicking in place of leadership and values.
Corbyn was a surprise candidate who managed to sneak onto the list at the last minute with, it would seem, some pity votes from people who thought he’d make the contest a bit more interesting.
A greater surprise (should the pollsters be believed), and what none of them were expecting, is his runaway success.
The speed with which some of those people subsequently disowned him make me wonder if they weren’t just looking for a left-wing whipping boy that the candidates on the right of the Party could use to make themselves look reasonable and statesmanlike. From claiming they wanted to widen the debate they have backtracked and self-denounced themselves as “morons” for allowing him into the contest.
The red Tories of Blair and the gang have been queuing up to denounce Corbyn, but they and the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party need to come to terms with the fact that they are the ones who are in the minority.
Looking at the breakdown of the polling figures it is not just the “buy a vote for £3” (who ever thought that would end well?!!) brigade who are responsible for his success. Nor is it the Union vote. He has a majority among normal, full Labour Party members as well. It is *only* the Party elite… the MPs and party grandees like Blair & Mandelson who don’t like Corbyn. If the pollsters are to be believed then even if you purged every single £3 or union vote; Corbyn would still win.
The past 20 years have seen the Labour Party leadership move ever more to the right. What they don’t seem to realise is that with each step to the right they take the “centre ground” that they claim to be aiming at moves with them. The “left-wing” values that inspired them to move into politics become left-behind as they do so.
Labour Party voters, supporters and former supporters however have not lost touch with their values. While they might, through feelings of loyalty, or because they saw no viable alternative, have felt obliged to vote for a Tory-lite Labour Party in recent years Corbyn has given them a chance to vote for someone who espouses the original values and policies for which they joined the Party.
Hearing some of Andy Burnham’s interviews in the early stages of the campaign was depressing. The number of times he referred to “The Party” as the thing he was fighting for. The problem with that is that he expects people to fight for “The Party” long after it’s moved so far to the right in its quest to become electable that it bears no relation to what it once was. What is the point of electing a party if it no longer supports the policies and values that you joined it for?
As a member of the Green Party, it’s not the Party that I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the values that I hold dear. The Green Party brings together people who share those values with me. The Green Party has no whip to force me to agree with any Party line. Green Party policies are mandated by members at our conferences, not from on high by the Party leadership.
As a member of the Green Party I wish Jeremy Corbyn well. We share a fair bit of common ground and if he can help move the country to a more anti-austerity, pro-environment agenda then good luck to him!