At 11:45 today we learnt that Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as leader of the Labour Party with an increased mandate – 61.8 of Lablour members picked him over rival Owen Smith.
I am glad he won. He deserves it and I love the way in which Labour is becoming a proper mass movement – Labour is now the largest political party in Europe. Politics is about life and a party that is thriving at grassroots understands this. Reports that the Labour Party is dead are quite frankly a load of rubbish.
A year ago I felt very differently. I had voted for Andy Burnham. I was baffled by the popularity of Corbyn and felt he seemed very retro. He reminded me of colleagues I disliked at work who used union meetings to peddle their SWP type views. I saw him as dated and irrelevant.
So what changed my mind? First of all I started to warm to John McDonnell, frequently reviled as a proto-Stalinist IRA supporting loon. I read his ideas about economics – quite frankly about as radical as the policies of Ted Heath. McDonnell believes in investment and so do I. Anything I have in life (my home) is down to investment and taking a long term view. I think our country has been crippled by lack of investment and it worries me that the only successful industry is financial services. Our economy is unbalanced and that needs to change.
And Jeremy himself? What made me change my mind? I wasn’t that keen on him during the run up to the Referendum as I felt he was a bit lukewarm about EU membership. I was running around like a woman possessed trying to drag people out to vote. I felt proud that I was doing my bit – why wasn’t he? The reality is that he was out on the streets, crossing the country as much (if not more) than many MPs, but his ‘seven out of ten’ comment about the EU stuck in my head. With hindsight that was a fair comment. There is a lot wrong with the EU (as well as a lot right with it) and he was merely being honest. Which is ultimately why people like him.
But for me the watershed moment was Brexit, and more importantly the bungled coup by the PLP that took place in the immediate aftermath. Not only duplicitous but incompetent. It made a mockery of the Blairite trump card – competence and professionalism as opposed to the ‘loony left’ of the Corbynistas. Any respect or regard I had for Tom Watson died at that point – I have met him many times and find him charming and entertaining. But that is no substitute for principles. I respected Corbyn for not giving in under pressure. That must have been hard. He showed steel.
This is all ancient history now. The important thing is for the party to unite and just get on with the job of opposing the Tories and spreading the message at grassroots level – in the workplace, in schools, pubs, local communities and online. If Blairism was about top down politics – deciding on a ‘message’ and then disseminating it via tame journalists and news outlets – then Corbynism is about something quite different. It is about creating networks of support and information that rival the more established news outlets. In the 21st century we are all journalists and commentators – being able to broadcast your opinions is no longer the preserve of the elite. Whatever we think of megacorporations like Apple and Facebook, they allow very ordinary people to get their views out. Obviously there are dangers associated – the rise of trolling and online abuse – but I genuinely see the fact that information moves more freely as a good thing. What Corbyn and his team – many of whom are very young – have tapped into is the need to translate online activity into real political activity, to turn the clicktivists into activists. Will they do it? Who knows? But I have more faith in them to execute change than the stale wonks of the Blairite elite.
I must finish my rant now as my son needs lunch and a good friend has arrived. Some thngs are more important than politics….