The People's Choice
WITHIN HOURS OF DAVID CAMERON announcing his exit from political life, colleagues - who never dared utter a peep of criticism while he was their patron - lined up to trash his reputation. Such is UK politics-as-normal.
One of the more damaging attacks on his legacy came from the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report into military intervention in Libya in 2011. The report claimed the British government had not carried out a proper study into the character of the rebellion in Libya, had no “defined strategic objective” and took insufficient action to prevent abandoned weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists. Libya, post-intervention, remains a failed state and a major base for Isis.
The bigger picture, missed as ever by the mainstream media, was that only 13 MPs voted against bombing Libya at the time. One of them was Jeremy Corbyn. He and a handful of others, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, were prepared to take a principled stand against the drift to military action that made a bad situation much worse.
When Corbyn’s critics today claim that his past role as a serial rebel against the Labour whip makes him unfit to be leader, they should look more closely at what he was rebelling against. Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record - in contrast to those who put career before principle - puts him on the right side of history. And it’s this lifelong track record of integrity that explains his growing popularity today. It’s why people queue round the block to hear him speak - unlike so many politicians, he can be trusted.
This is why we can predict a Corbyn win in the leadership contest, despite all the obstacles placed in his way - mostly by the party apparatus itself. These include appealing - at considerable cost - the court ruling overturning the irrational six month cut-off date for supporters being able to vote; the exclusion of over 20,000 people because the Party could not find them on the electoral register; and the purging of thousands by the shadowy Compliance Unit which has spent the summer trawling through members’ social media accounts to find pretexts for exclusion.
In reality there has been little enthusiasm for Corbyn’s opponent, Owen Smith, a gaffe-prone puppet in the hands of reckless forces, who are quite happy to pursue an endless vendetta, whatever the cost to the Party’s standing in the polls. That they should be doing this at a time of national crisis, when Theresa May’s government is revealing itself to be utterly clueless about what to do after the Brexit referendum, is all the more scandalous.
Even a second victory by Jeremy Corbyn within twelve months will not be enough to deter the hardcore bitterites. Media reports suggest preparations are well under way for a permanent faction of anti-Corbyn MPs, complete with their own whips and policies. We’ve already seen a degree of vindictiveness by these diehards in their hostility to those who continued to show loyalty to the elected leadership following the orchestrated resignations from the Shadow Cabinet at the start of the summer.
A clear win and a fresh start by Team Corbyn can hobble these plans. With Theresa May going in right wing directions - for example on reintroducing discredited selective grammar schools - where even Cameron feared to tread, there is a real appetite for Labour to unite against a government with a thin majority and no mandate. A broad-based Shadow team drawing on the talents of a range of Labour MPs could isolate and render irrelevant the diehard plotters.
With the internal election over, Labour’s leadership needs to address the country, not the Party. On policy after policy, Labour is more popular than the Tories, but that is not enough. We have to construct a narrative that gives people real hope for an achievable alternative. The obstacles are formidable - an unremittingly hostile media, internal critics and the potential loss of dozens of Labour seats in a boundary review based on inaccurate information. But with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm and a growing movement of grassroots supporters, we have the capacity to take the fight to the Tories and transform the political landscape.