Opinion – Jeremy Corbyn. Life after death
Having won the Labour Party leadership election on 8 May 2015 following the party’s defeat in the 2015 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn has come in for the most vitriolic and biting criticism that I have ever heard levelled at a Party Leader. As a Labour supporter and someone who has nothing more than a fleeting interest in the political scene, this unsavoury attention directed at Jeremy Corbyn made me take a closer look at why there was so much ‘incoming fire’ aimed at him.
A brief synopsis of Jeremy Corbyn’s career will resemble something like this – he identifies as a democratic socialist; was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group; worked as a representative for various trade unions; elected to Haringey Council 1974, later becoming Secretary of Hornsey Constituency Labour party until elected as MP for Islington North; renowned for his activism and recalcitrance; long-standing anti-war & anti-nuclear activist, was a chair of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’; Corbyn supports reversing austerity cuts to public services & welfare funding and proposes renationalisation of public utilities & the railways; a vote of ‘no confidence’ in him was passed after the June 2016 EU Referendum by 172 votes to 40 following the resignation of approximately two thirds of his Shadow Cabinet. September 2016 saw him retained as leader of the party with an increased share of the vote of 61.8%.
This character onslaught that Jeremy Corbyn had to endure, for some reason made me sit up and take notice of politics once again and I made a point of trying to find out if he was as unelectable as he was being made out to be; mainly because, subconsciously I’d found myself a passenger on the ‘Down With Jeremy Corbyn!!’ bandwagon and didn’t like the fact that I had not formed my own independent opinion of him first, before buying a ticket for this ride.
I had given up on the veracity of politics long long ago and found politicians to be, among a number of other things, evasive at best and blatant liars at worst. The fact that they seemingly got away with it also, made me lose interest even more. They spoke of working for, or representing, ‘the electorate’ but whenever the electorate had a gripe, they were never listened to. I found politics to be a massive contradiction and yet the politicians were able to get away with hoodwinking us over and over again, as if we were unimportant or didn’t really matter.
Ok, so why was Jeremy Corbyn so unpopular with all and sundry? I mean, even my 82yr old mother had noticed that everyone was on his political case and she is far from being even an armchair politician. Well his unpopularity can be diced up like this; MPs are for the most part into the ‘winning general elections’ business and to be brutally frank, Jeremy certainly did not appear to be even close to winning one of those. Especially as Labour heavyweights such as Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, David Miliband and Allistair Campbell had claimed Corbyn’s election as leader would render the party unelectable. You see, Jeremy is from the grassroots end of the Labour spectrum while these other chaps are from the centre-to-right wing; a veritable gulf if ever I saw one. Jeremy wants to champion the people’s causes, fight for people who’ve already lost their jobs, or who cannot get one, or those who already have jobs but still struggle to stay solvent at the end of the month.
Corbyn goes against the ‘establishment’ grain as a rule, a principled politician who sticks staunchly to his activist guns and cannot be swayed easily. He is diametrically opposed to the ‘champagne socialists’ situated at the opposite end of the party. These ‘champagne charlies’ dislike Jeremy because he appeals to the grassroots and they have always despised the grassroots, terribly. Jeremy’s support-base is made up primarily of teachers, nurses, the unemployed and renters. These are the people who have struggled to make ends meet and who’re looking for someone to be their champion. Enter left, Jeremy – I’m sticking to my principles – Corbyn, into the political fray. With sleeves rolled up, tie-less and looking more like a school headmaster than a politician, Jeremy was more ready for a scrap than anyone, including me, had him down for. Any onlooker could be forgiven for thinking Jeremy Corbyn was a ‘dead man walking’, such was the incoming fire he had to endure; lesser men would have thrown in their political towel long ago but JC was used to scrapping, he’d fought for what he believed in all his career, so he was well versed in political jousting. Granted, this was a tad more intense than mere jousting, this could be described more as a ‘right kicking’. in the blue corner you had the Tories, hell-bent on sticking the proverbial boot into JC; in the red corner you had the ‘champagne socialists’ from within the Labour Party; and just for good measure, you had the right-wing media posing as the referee but sticking their boot in at every given opportunity. What chance on earth did Jeremy Corbyn stand in the face of such adversity? Only the big man upstairs knew.
Personally, I thought it was just a matter of time before the tsunami of criticism washed Jeremy Corbyn off the political map and consign him to history as one of the most despised leaders the Labour Party has ever had. That could have been the story had Corbyn been made of lesser stuff but he was not going down without a fight, and fight he did. He fought for the people and the people answered his rallying cry. Granted, he was assisted by a ‘weak and wobbly’ Theresa May who appeared not only weak and wobbly on her feet but her manifesto too appeared to contain weak and wobbly policies. Couple this to her rather robotic style and an apparent aversion to real people and you had an electorate who started to see the candidates for who they really were. A gulf in the polls was quickly reduced to a fissure and soon the political landscape was ‘for turning’, similar to charges levelled against Theresa May, that she was ‘for turning’. Not a good look, as the great Magaret Thatcher was never one to turn back from the direction her policies were taking.
The snap election Theresa May called, presumably to cash in on the gulf in the polls between them and the Labour Party, soon appeared to be a calamitous decision. Halfway into the election, Jeremy Corbyn was not only still standing, he was actually growing in stature and electability right in front of our eyes. An appealing manifesto caught the people’s attention and almost overnight Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party appeared electable. Even Diane Abbott’s incompetency as Shadow Home Secretary in the wake of mid-election terrorist atrocities did nothing to damage the resurgency Jeremy Corbyn was enjoying.
In the end, although Theresa May and the Tory party won the election via numbers, Jeremy Corbyn certainly won the political high ground and was hailed by all and sundry as the real winner with a 40% increase of the vote. This served to bring his whole party into line behind him with many turning up to celebratory meetings merrily licking humble pie from their sorry faces.
My takeaway from this ‘renaissance’ experienced by Jeremy Corbyn is this; never give up, even in the face of insurmountable adversity, one can still prevail.