13 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn's stunning victory

The stunning victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election on 12 September 2015 has changed the political game for the Left

One of the advantages of being a rather insignificant person is that I can be wrong about things without it having any great significance. I was among those who didn’t believe until it actually happened that the bureaucracy of the Labour Party, probably in cahoots with the security services, would allow Jeremy Corbyn to be elected leader of the Labour Party. But fortunately from my point of view the Labour Party bureaucracy screwed up to an extent that nothing could help them.

Ed Miliband thought that widening the leadership franchise to one-person-with-three-quid one vote would excite Britain’s middle class into choosing between a handful of New Labour politicians, and so bring them over to Labour. It failed: progressives and working people took up the offer and used it to batter New Labour. Then Labour MPs miscalculated in nominating Corbyn, thinking that a defeated left in the party would be better than facing a challenge to Labour from outside. But very soon they then had to contend with the fact that Corbyn was not about to be defeated. And even though they responded by disqualifying thousands of Labour supporters with the sole purpose of denying Corbyn votes, they failed to prevent his election. Corbyn won among party members, affiliate organisation members and registered supporters. And all together he won a stunning victory garnering just under 60% of the vote.

And I was wrong too about the Labour Party. I wrote recently: “[Since the 1990s] The Labour Party has swung to the right, and under the label of New Labour became a mere adjunct of capitalist power, while jettisoning any meaningful attempt to reform capitalism or the British state in a progressive direction. By the end of the 1990s, even before the Iraq War, I ceased to identify with Labour, and saw the way forward - if there were one - as outside the Labour Party.”

So I was wrong again. The election of Jeremy Corbyn with a quarter of a million votes is the greatest victory for the left since at least the defeat of the poll tax. But the way ahead is difficult. Not only will Corbyn face an onslaught from the media and the wider establishment, but also Labour MPs and and party bureaucracy will do what they can to undermine him. But all that underlies the key point: the coming political fight is now inside the Labour Party not outside it fiddling around in left groups. To the extent that parties like Left Unity played a role in bringing about Corbyn’s victory it won, but it no longer has a meaningful role opposing Corbyn’s Labour - certainly not in putting up a Left Unity candidate in Islington North.

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