The Left Need to Get Behind Corbyn... and Be Prepared If He Loses

17/07/2016 22:57
Neil Hall / Reuters

Despite much evidence to the contrary, there's a well embedded narrative that the influence of newspapers is waning. Newspaper sales are declining and people first hear about world events on social media - and so you'd therefore expect users to have access a much wider range of commentary and perspectives than those of the establishment. Whether we like it or not, though, newspapers still set the agenda. Sure, your favourite left-wing website might earn thousands of shares/likes refuting allegations made in mainstream broadcast media (which can be a worthy cause) but those allegations still permeate in people's minds.

Why is this particularly relevant? Because it's important not to lose sight of why there was a coup against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the first place.

As The Huffington Post reported, The Media Coalition found that "the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn ... with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage". Let's not beat around the bush: the MPs that orchestrated the Labour coup are the same ones that have been regurgitating these smears on social media and broadcast media for months now.

The official coup to oust Corbyn effectively began after the EU referendum, even though the grounds for dismissal look a bit shaky on reflection. Even his own former shadow cabinet ministers, such as Chris Bryant, said he believed Corbyn to have voted Leave. The fact that Corbyn gave numerous speeches for Remain around the country, wore 'Remain' badges, urged people to vote Remain in front of a big massive banner saying 'Vote Remain', and tweeted that he'd voted Remain suggests he voted to Remain.

How passionately Corbyn campaigned for EU membership is up for debate, yes, but the statistics show that two thirds of Labour voters ultimately went with Corbyn. Based on empirical evidence, the referendum was not a reason for Corbyn to step down. Indeed, our new Prime Minister Theresa May campaigned less regularly and with arguably less enthusiasm, and yet her honest reservations about the EU are by contrast seen as evidence of sensible leadership.

Corbyn, quite rightly, has not allowed himself to get worn down by the constant attacks, but I know people who voted for him that have been. They point to his lack of charisma, lack of fire at PMQs and stuttering speeches. They forget that they knew all this a year ago and why they voted for him regardless: his vision, his policies and his ideas. Without the support of his MPs and supporters, Corbyn's anti-austerity policies were always going to be lost in the fog caused by the media onslaught.

It's why I'd urge anybody on the left that thinks the post-Brexit coup was a good idea to get real. Even ignoring the absolutely disgraceful manner in which the Conservatives behaved in the aftermath of (and indeed during) the EU referendum, there was a massive open goal for Labour to hammer home the Prime Minister's failures. He's leaving a country that is among the most unequal in Europe and where food bank use is at a record high. It's Labour's job to point out these failures - that's literally what the party is supposed to be for.

Instead, the PLP's hatred of their leader supersedes everything else. Rather than attempting to come to terms with why so many people registered to vote for an anti-austerity candidate only a year ago, they're determined to revert back to safe centrism and candidates that are willing to betray their own principles, as is the case with Owen Smith, or candidates whose principles are so vague they're barely discernible, as with Angela Eagle.

The message from the right of the party is, as ever, that Labour are never going to win back middle class voters under Corbyn and so won't have the numbers to win an election. The irony of that is that the working classes that they have historically represented are disappearing under their feet. The process began in Scotland long ago, but in England the only real alternative is worryingly UKIP. Instead of fighting the right's anti-immigration message, expect 'New' Labour to continue patronising working class people rather than fighting the real enemy (see my last blog).

The left need to get behind Corbyn because the alternative won't help the party 'win back voters' and 'gain electability'; they'll just offer empty platitudes and chase wealthy voters. The argument is that if Corbyn stays, 'Labour' as a political party won't survive, but a return to 'New' Labour is scarier. If he goes then people need to be ready to join trade unions, campaign for proportional representation, support local food banks and fight for our NHS because God knows the country need the left now more than ever.