Around this time last year, I was one of hundreds of thousands of people who joined the Labour Party, having been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader. In this past year, being a Corbyn-supporter has meant being in a position of perennial defence. The interminable criticisms of Corbyn's personality and leadership by the media, as well as friends and acquaintances, have forced me to consider and reconsider my position. In this time I have heard many valid points and criticisms. But the pressing issue of the leadership election has necessitated that I, and all Labour members, take a decisive stand. The following are three reasons why I have decided to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
Fundamentally, I am voting for Corbyn because I support his policies and his leadership. I did so a year ago and I still do today. I respect the fact that his political track record of over thirty years of public service shows prescience and integrity. In his responses to issues ranging from foreign intervention to public service cuts he has demonstrated foresight and consideration for the consequences of political choices, which is far more than can be said for some of our recent prime ministers. I appreciate his inclusive attitude to politics; we need this in divided times. I appreciate the fact that he sticks to the issues at hand and never descends to personal attacks on his opponents. Corbyn's leadership style reflects the core values on which the Labour Party was founded, and his embodiment of these values was the reason I and hundreds of thousands of others were, and are, inspired to join the Labour Party.
The most compelling and often repeated argument I have been offered for voting for Owen Smith is that he is more electable than Corbyn. It is not enough for Labour to be ideologically pure, the argument goes, because it can't put these principles into practice if it can't win a general election. The problem I have with this argument is that I'm unconvinced that Labour will be in a comfortable position to win the next general election under Owen Smith's leadership. People seem to have forgotten rather quickly what happened at the last general election. In 2015 Labour was led by a moderate, centrist candidate who tried to please as broad a base as possible and in the process left a lot of people confused about what Labour actually stood for, and how this was better than what the Tories were offering. Labour's outright defeat under Ed Milliband proved that a moderate, centrist candidate was not persuasive enough to beat the Tories in a general election. It was in the wake of this that Corbyn came to power. Corbyn's initial support came from people who wanted a candidate with a clear, comprehensive and consistent vision and this is what Corbyn offered and continues to offer. Now, less than a year later, in what appears to be an all too common case of political amnesia, people seem convinced that Labour under Owen Smith - Ed Milliband 2.0 - will somehow be in a strong position to win a general election. I'm sorry, but this argument simply will not fly.
My third and last point has to do with democratic principle. Ever since Corbyn was elected leader last year, there have been repeated, and increasingly insidious, attempts to undermine him and ultimately oust him from leadership. The contemptible behaviour of Labour MP's has done more to sink my estimation of the party than anything Corbyn has done. I don't take issue with dissent and opposition, this is an integral part of democratic politics. What I take grave issue with is the nature that the opposition against Corbyn has taken. After Angela Eagle first triggered a leadership election this summer, Labour MP's did all in their power to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper, trying to deny him the chance of a fair fight for his position. Failing in this, Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled brazenly that Labour members who joined the party after the 12th January 2016 would have to pay a £25 fee or else be stripped of their rights to vote in the upcoming leadership election. These attempts to remove Corbyn from power are appallingly anti-democratic - to put it at its mildest - and it is of vital importance that they be opposed. Corbyn's victory in this leadership election will not only show that these kinds of anti-democratic tactics will not be tolerated, it will also demonstrate the strength of his popular mandate with the party's members and supporters. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to get rid of him this is something that Labour MPs will have to come to terms with or else resign otherwise they, not Corbyn, will be the ones digging the Labour Party's grave.