|Blair and Corbyn - rival mind-sets within the Labour movement|
In my own constituency of St Ives in Cornwall, I have produced a report - following a survey of new members - in which I summarise some common threads of concern that are now apparent. Most of those surveyed felt uncomfortable at meetings due to the tension between the two wings of the Party. I make it clear that I think these differences need to be much more out in the open with both sides prepared to articulate and justify their positions - with respect shown by all to all. We need to remember the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox, and her line that there is more uniting than dividing us. And we need to remember how much of our exponential increase in membership - the Labour Party is now the largest democratic socialist party in Europe with over half-a-million members - is due to Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader.
Those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn within Labour ranks have had their mind-set shaped by history. They grew into political maturity when Tony Blair's vision of a New Labour Party was being
endorsed in electoral victories - first in 1997, then again in 2001 and yet again in 2005. It was the triumph of Tony Giddens' 'Third Way', eschewing the socialism of Labour's traditional past and the capitalist excesses of the nasty Conservatives. Those who still believe that the Third Way is the best and only route to electoral success point to the achievements of those new Labour governments over nearly a decade and a half: reductions in pensioner and child poverty; doubling spending on schools; raising the level of health spending as a proportion of GDP to its highest-ever level; creating a network of Sure Start centres to support early years education; extracting more money than ever from the wealthy to redistribute to the less well-off.
|Wetherby, Yorkshire - Children's Centre - Sure Start base - 2015|
As a Labour Party member who has re-joined because I identify with the socialist vision of Jeremy Corbyn, I of course applaud these achievements of the Blair/Brown years. But there should be no surprise that Labour governments over 13 years have something to show of value for their years in office. The relevant issue however is this. What more could have been done to create a fairer and more equal society. Margaret Thatcher did not reply to the question 'What has been your biggest achievement? with the response: 'New Labour!' without good reason. The inexorable rise and triumph of neoliberalism continued unabated throughout the years of New Labour government. That is the relevant big picture story.
And this neoliberal ascendancy meant that a myth developed within the New Labour movement. No electorate would ever again vote for a party embracing a socialist agenda. MPs such as Corbyn and McDonnell were dismissed as freakish throw-backs, part of a group of a dozen or so ostriches who would eventually wither away in the sands of their own stubbornness. Miliband was elected leader in 2010 and refused to challenge the lies of the Tories and shared their political choice of austerity albeit in a lighter form. What happened next? A party committed to a belief that only by adopting programmes that would please and not alarm voters has now lost two elections in a row - 2010 and 2015. Doh!
There is such an extraordinary paradox apparent now for those who can see it. PM May has called a General Election now - on the advice of the likes of advisors such as Lynton Crosby - in order to inflict the maximum damage to the Labour Party. In effect, to destroy them as the main party of opposition. But in doing so she has gifted Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party the opportunity of presenting to the country an authentic socialist programme of recovery and renewal which all Labour MPs are compelled to follow as their campaign manifesto and script. And wonder on wonder! These policies are proving popular with the electorate! The myth is smashed. Socialism can be popular with the electorate.
We still have three weeks left to reverse the effects of the personal rubbishing of Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing elites and those within the Labour Party who couldn't see the wood for the trees. There is every reason to believe that a socialist vision can succeed. We can turn hope into reality.
Campaigning and door-knocking is vital! In every community in the country, let's talk about a bright new socialist future and be proud of the strength and vision of our leader, Jeremy Corbyn. .