THE BLOG

Call Me a Corbynista

23/11/2015 23:12 GMT | Updated 23/11/2016 10:12 GMT

This is an open letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and sections of the media. I am a new member of the Party, one of thousands who joined before/during/after the leadership contest, enthused by the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn leadership.

Many of you seem at a loss to explain this momentous change in the numbers, composition, and ideas of a newly galvanized grassroots membership. Some of you have been dismissive, even hostile towards us. Please consider, then, just three of the reasons I cast my vote for Corbyn, three that will be shared by many other new members, and that seem especially important today.

Corbyn offers a clear and articulate alternative to austerity. Many of you reacted with horror at his win, citing the general election result as evidence that the voters had spoken in favour of Tory economic policy, and that Labour must continue to offer some version of austerity-light. Therefore, Corbyn/Corbynomics must fail. I found it hard to fathom the haste and simplicity of this response to Corbyn's victory. I approached the leadership contest with a different view of Labour's general election disaster - you had singularly failed to mount any serious challenge to austerity or propose substantive progressive alternatives. Not only did your impulse to damn Corbyn spring from the same timid and short-sighted analysis you had applied to the general election result, but you didn't seem to think the new guy deserved a bit of time to make his case to the voters. Remember us? Well, we voted for Corbyn because we saw him as the only candidate willing to address that failure.

Corbyn will defend public services. I have been campaigning to defend the NHS since the passage of the Health and Social Care Act. Having lived in both America and the UK, I know the NHS is Britain's great contribution to post-war society. It needs help, increased funding, and greater support for its staff. As I write, junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action and they have my wholehearted support. We need a Labour Party that will back them too. The stealthy and gradual privatization of the NHS is but one aspect of the erosion of the welfare state taking place under the Tories. Debates about universal and tax credits, housing - all of these are now high on the agenda. Again, we need the Labour Party to fight with passion, determination, and radical alternatives. Until Corbyn's election, you provided little evidence of that fight.

Corbyn will make the UK a safer place to live, and will do so by upholding our democratic and humanitarian principles. In other words, I voted for Corbyn because he is against Trident and because he has a strong record as a peace campaigner. Corbyn understands that our collective security will be best assured by diplomatic, rather than military, solutions to conflict and terrorism. I am far more worried about a leader who expresses willingness to bomb or press the nuclear button, than one who expresses principled doubt and caution about these. Finally, I voted for Corbyn because he knows that if we pursue a politics of fear, sacrificing civil rights at home and the rights of refugees seeking our help, then we will have lost our souls in the pursuit of a security that will be illusory and short-lived.

Over these past months, New Labour dinosaurs and a host of media pundits have clamoured for air-time, regularly seeking gotcha moments. Corbyn said this, McDonnell said that: it's a disaster! The Party is in meltdown! Since the Paris attacks, you have again gone into overdrive. It is you who concern me and who risk making Labour unelectable, not Jeremy Corbyn. I see some MPs desperately clinging to the routine blindness that attends those who have become too comfortable in Westminster, leaving them unable or unwilling to see the daily struggles of their own constituents. I want to work alongside you, but I ask you to advocate more radically on behalf of those constituents, and equally, to take note of the mandate Corbyn has been given.

Finally, I see a media trapped inside discourses set by the Tories, eager for the circus of a Party at war with itself, and quite willing to coach and goad the combatants. I see a media often so obsessed with the sound of its own voice that interviewees are regularly interrupted and misquoted. I see a media so simplistic in its reporting of key issues and legislation that it has lost public trust.

Of course, there are exceptions, in both the PLP and the media. There are those of you who address these issues with greater openness and subtlety. There are journalists who pose tough questions to all sides, then listen and report accurately the answers they are given. But the voters need all of you to remember that there is a world beyond Parliament and the television studio. A world in which ordinary citizens are facing the harsh onslaught of austerity politics. We have knowledge, experience, and ideas worthy of your attention. Jeremy Corbyn has brought many of us back to political engagement, and we are not going away.