The USA has Donald Trump, we have Jeremy Corbyn; it could have been so much worse, we could have ended up with Nigel Farage. As different as they are they are all a product of the same consolidation of power by neoliberal elites and corporations and a feeling of helplessness in the electorate. The old adage “No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in” has never been so true.
In the UK the ideological lines between Conservatives (= Republicans) and Labour (= Democrats) had become completely blurred. The labour party, until recently, looked more like a soft right than a party of the people, by the people and for the people. They have been happy to see the state assets sold off to private industry, content to take the country to war, wanted to distance themselves from workers’ unions and had created a Machiavellian top down party structure. Margaret Thatcher was once asked, “What is your greatest achievement?” Her reply was “Tony Blair”. Nuff said!
The ConLab parties opposed proportional representation because it would have lost them safe seats into which faithful and able champagne socialists/tories could be parachuted to take up their rightful positons in the party hierarchy. Over time the leaders on both front benches and party spokesmen (almost no women) had begun to resemble each other in terms of appearance, accent and career history that the public could no longer tell the difference. Into this absence of a credible opposition, where two Tyrannosaurus-like dinosaurs fought over the centre ground, initially stepped Nigel Farage. The ridiculous right – a party of racist, anti-european, bigoted middle-aged white males with generally low IQs who believe that the country is being taken over by militant Islamic invaders. Polls suggested that people were so fed up with the same old, same old that they would even vote for UKIP for a change that might give ordinary people a voice.
Fortunately, a man and a moment have coincided and slightly shabby, quietly spoken and not public school educated, Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership contest of the Labour party. He didn’t just win, he won more votes than the rest of the “old school” Blairites and Brownites put together. He didn’t just win the election, he increased the membership of the party purely because people wanted an opportunity to vote for him. The young have come flocking back, people who left the party years ago when it shifted right and people like me – lost socialists (currently a member of the Green Party) are considering engaging.
Apparently winning a leadership election and increasing the membership of the party is a bad thing. Ex-front benchers and current Labour front benchers that Corbyn retained in the name of uniting the party, decry his personality, ability as a leader, friends and policies; all the while proclaiming the need for party unity (Translation: We need to get rid of Jeremy and get back to the comfortable neoliberal, very definitely not socialist, party we had before). They are of course aided and abetted by the Conservative party who love the fact that the Labour party is split. They must however, be a little concerned that come the next election the new brand of Corbyn politics is going to sweep them away. Otherwise, I’m sure the right wing press, or should we just say press in general, would not be constantly and vehemently attacking everything and anything Corbyn does.
I welcome the return of socialism to UK politics and I hope to be able to vote for a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn in the next election.