The battle for the Labour leadership drags on. The attacks on Corbyn continue, and his opponent tries hard to erase his past as a pharmaceutical lobbyist, and to establish some Socialist credentials. For his part, Corbyn does his best to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, and takes part in debates with the person who once happily worked with him, instead of against him. Expensive lawyers have been engaged to overturn the voting regulations for new members, successfully excluding more than 100,000 potential Corbyn voters.
The Conservatives must be enjoying watching this collapse unfold before their eyes. They just carry on doing what they like, as the only viable opposition disintegrates in front of the public gaze, and the glare of the media spotlight. Accusations are flying thick and fast. Some Labour members of parliament are accusing the Corbyn camp of seeking to undermine the very foundations of the party, by infiltrating this arguably moderate party with a secret hard-Left agenda behind the scenes.
The outcome can only be a loss for the party, either way. If Smith succeeds, they will be left with a Welsh M.P. who has a history of working for big business. A man who thinks we should have a second EU Referendum, and will almost certainly fail to engage with the working-class traditional supporters of that party. If Corbyn survives the vote, as many believe he will, he will be left in charge of a Labour Party where only the rank and file members really support him, struggling to find enough elected members of parliament to form a credible opposition, and under constant threat of yet more leadership struggles.
If they are ever to return to government, which currently seems highly unlikely, they have to respect the will of the people, and offer radical policies that hark back to the real Socialist ideals of the original Labour Party. It is obviously what the members want to happen, and would have the benefit of attracting undecided voters, and those transferring their vote from parties like the Liberal Democrats in the next election.
At the core of it all, is the need for Nationalisation. There should be a radical programme on offer, starting with the re-nationalisation of the railways. Rail commuters have never suffered as they do now. Higher fares, constant rises in ticket prices, and a mind-boggling fare structure that makes it cheaper to fly to most cities in the UK, than to take a train. Private rail companies have their hands tied by a different private company that manages the rails and tracks, as well as being restricted by short-term franchises that negate the desire to invest in improvements for the future. The answer is simple. Stop awarding franchises, and nationalise the lot. Offer reasonably-priced travel on reliable trains, and let the workers get to where they need to be on time. If nothing else, it would reduce road congestion in certain areas. Cancel the high-cost and unnecessary building of express links to cities that already have plenty of rail services running to them, and do a long-term deal with the unions to ensure safety and decent working conditions for all.
Once they have tackled the railways, they can get on with the utility companies, and the telephone providers too. Then they could stop contracting out expensive medical procedures and clinics to the private sector, and spend the money on improving the NHS instead. Once the much-disputed ‘Brexit’ deal is done, there will be money available for many projects, despite the gainsayers. Labour needs to formulate a real Socialist agenda, with Nationalisation and the NHS at the heart of it. A real alternative to more privatisation and cronyism under the Conservatives.
They have to learn that being The Opposition has to mean more than just having the same policies, whilst wearing cheaper suits. And they have to swallow the bitter pill of telling people the truth for once.
Will they do it? I doubt it, but they should.
Despite predictions of a moderate winning the election to become leader of the Labour Party, an outsider has confounded expectations, by becoming the front runner. Jeremy Corbyn has been the M.P. for Islington North in London, since 1983. Before that, he was prominent in Haringey Council. He has always been regarded as a rebel, and to the Left of the party line. He lives in his constituency, takes little money for expenses, and espouses causes, both domestic, and international.
During his political career, he has campaigned in favour of nuclear disarmament, and the dissolution of The House of Lords. He supports re-nationalisation of the railways, equal rights and pay for workers, and the return of the six counties to Ireland. He has a long association with the Trade Union movement in the UK and abroad, and once worked for the National Union of Public Employees. On the international stage, he has been outspoken against Israel, and fought for fair treatment of the people in Chile. He is also a well-known for his support of the government in Venezuela, and for his views on animal rights and welfare.
So, his Socialist credentials are fairly sound, it would appear.
If this is the case, why do so many people think that his becoming the leader of the Labour Party would be a disaster? Well for one thing, times have changed. We live in an acquisitive society, overwhelmed by avarice, where selfishness has replaced selflessness. Huge multi-national companies control almost every job, and international financiers control our economy. The politics of the so-called ‘man in the street’ has moved further to the right than ever before, with immigration and terrorism replacing health and education as the main concerns. If this is the case, then the mild-mannered Corbyn is certainly not electable as a leader of the nation. The doomsday scenario is that Labour would return to being a party of the far Left, with an agenda unpopular with almost everyone, save for those who voted for Corbyn.
His opponents claim that Labour would become a minority party; a party of protest, a party that would never again see itself in power. Of course, they are lamenting their own demise, their own inability to achieve that power, whatever the cost to their principles or background. They claim that the opposing parties are delighted, that they want Corbyn to win, so that Labour will lose whatever vestige of power it still clings to. But is politics really only just about winning? Perhaps most people see it that way. I do not.
Corbyn offers at least a partial return to the roots of Socialism in the UK. Nationalisation, equality in education and in the workplace, fair treatment for the poorest in society, as well as the sick and disabled. Ridding the country of nuclear weapons, and tackling the energy crisis. Reopening the mines, closed by spiteful politicians and businessmen as supposedly unprofitable, as a punishment to the miners after the strike. He offers respect to all, regardless of social position, sexuality, or creed, and a chance to rebuild the economy without reliance on invisible industries, or foreign companies.
This might all seem to be just an unworkable ideal, but it is not. It is all possible, if you are brave enough to take on the gainsayers, and conglomerates. It might well be that the time for this has been missed, and all the stories of the Labour Party becoming an anachronism under his leadership are true.
But at least it would restore its honour, and its self-respect.