Last year, Labour members voted overwhelmingly to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party. The unexpected election of an avowed socialist followed two decades of the neoliberal New Labour project. From the heartlands to the backbenches, many expressed their dismay that the project had embodied the wrong ideals. Was power without principle worth having?
Although many acknowledged the progress that being in power represented - legislation that did help the people Labour is supposed to serve - people were unwilling to accept the loss of core principles as their reign became entrenched. The richest sectors were rewarded, such as big business and finance, wars were fought without international consent or domestic support, and in the end it was the people, both home and abroad, who were the hardest hit, whilst the grandees raked it in to the hilt.
Twenty years on since New Labour's election and the party is a key battle ground for antagonistic forces fighting for the keys to the party's soul. Since the election of Corbyn threatened to destroy the false idol of Blair, the Party has been trundling towards a crisis, and the dispute manufactured in the wake of Brexit has been used as the pretext for a number of MPs to rebel. The split can be said to reflect a divided party, with an entrenched cabal of Blairites on the one hand voting no-confidence in the will of the majority of party members, who are younger voters with no personal or ideological investment in the New Labour project on the other hand.
The 'coup' against Corbyn requires context. The process has been facilitated by the UK corporate media, who have been furnishing a character assassination against him ever since he appeared on the ballot on an anti-establishment ticket. This much is illustrated by the way in which Corbyn's achievements as leader of the opposition have been overshadowed by a blatant campaign of misinformation led by senior correspondents at the BBC. The question is not if there is a conspiracy - but how deep that conspiracy runs. We have almost complete paralysis of serious discourse about Corbyn's policies and achievements, induced by trivial and banal griping against him for inconsequential matters like his looks, or the gradient at which he bends for the Queen. Corbyn's column inches soared in 2016, but it was bad news for the iconoclast.
Any attempt to oust Corbyn will certainly undermine the integrity of internal democracy in the Labour Party. The greatest threat is to Corbyn's democratic mandate: 59.5% of first preference votes cast were cast for Corbyn, giving him a landslide majority. Although Labour grandees have rushed in to remind us again and again that he is 'unelectable,' the inability of the other candidates to, well, be electable, or offer any tangible alternative on austerity make these words very empty. Although Corbyn's exit could mean the end of Labour's trouncing in the media, a key factor in its electoral viability, it is difficult to believe their prospects could improve without an anti-austerity leader.
It is a bitter irony that Labour is being used as an emblem of the struggle for electability, and yet the future of the party is being wrested away from the capable hands elected to lead it. Only a party seeking to hasten its downfall would opt for a leadership challenge at this time, instead of taking to the opportunity to consider how best to unite the party against the Tories.
Making policy which helps the working people should be Labour's priority - in Parliament, on councils, in the local party. We have the opportunity to lift millions out of the oppressive conditions of life under Conservative government, or we can opt for another generation of Tory rule, which will exacerbate inequality and undermine the proud achievements of previous Labour governments. Protecting each other should be our priority - which is why MPs should think very carefully before committing to an internecine conflict. I believe that a fresh generation of party activists are ready to take on the task of reforming the party, and bringing it back in to power. Just imagine what they could achieve, they could transform the country for the better. Turning our energies towards fighting each other sends a dangerous signal to our enemies that Labour is weak and divided, that we're too busy imploding to even talk about what the Tories have been doing. At a time of insecurity, instability and crisis, that is the precise opposite of what we should be doing.
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