I support Jeremy Corbyn. I am not “hard left”.
Previously, I supported Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown and then Ed Miliband. I was undecided as to whether to support Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham for the Labour leadership, until they both shocked me by abstaining on the Welfare Bill. My shock was partly because the contents of the bill were deeply objectionable and partly because I thought that the tactic of sticking-close-to-the-Tories, which lay behind the decision to abstain, was a recipe for electoral disaster.
So, I voted for Corbyn. I saw a man guided by decent political principles, who does not need to consult a focus group before giving his opinion. Given the fact that since then every powerful interest group in the country has tried to crush him, I think he has done well.
I am not hard left but I am “hard anti-Tory”. I was brought up to believe that those (like me) who are lucky enough to be doing well enough, should help those who are less fortunate. My mother told me as a child that the Tories would always put the interests of the rich above the interests of the rest of the country and that it was immoral to vote for them.
I do not think Corbyn is perfect. Nor did I think Blair was (although I was carried away like many in 1997), nor Brown, nor Miliband. However, politics in England and Wales usually requires a binary choice. Are we to have a Tory government or not? Like Blair, Brown and Miliband before him, Corbyn represents the best chance that the country has of getting rid of the Tories at the next General Election. There is no remotely likely scenario under which an alternative Labour leader could replace Corbyn and have a better chance to beat the Tories.
My hard anti-Tory attitude makes me deeply frustrated at the constant public undermining of Corbyn - often in the Tory press - by some Blairite MPs and others. This current Tory government is the most destructive and most right-wing of my lifetime; they are the clear beneficiaries of this behaviour.
I use the word “Blairites”, adopting the shorthand used by the press. Actually, not so long ago, some of those now called Blairites were known as “Brownites”. For many years the Blairites and Brownites fiercely denounced each other in vicious anonymous briefings to their respective contacts in the media. Now, they have discovered that the differences that once seemed of such importance, turn out to be not really so significant after all.
Despite the sound and fury of the Blairite assault on Corbyn, there is far more in terms of policy which unites Blairites with Corbyn than divides them from him. Some Blairites understand this very well. Charlie Falconer, Lucy Powell, Gloria De Piero, for example, are all serving effectively in prominent roles under Corbyn, fighting the Tories.
Corbyn’s policies are not “extreme left” as described by the Tories and the media. They are essentially Miliband’s policies plus no Trident plus the courage of ones convictions. There are clearly significant differences over Trident and there were over Syria but the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party are comfortable with Corbyn’s domestic agenda on the economy, on welfare, on tax, on schools, on health and so on. In policy terms, the Labour Party may be more united now than the Tory Party.
Despite this, some Blairites are constantly and publicly plotting to depose Corbyn. Imagine if, somehow, they managed to depose him. What then? The new leader would be elected by the same electorate who overwhelmingly voted for Corbyn only six months ago. Actually, the membership since Corbyn’s election is now far larger and, according to polls, even more pro-Corbyn that it was in September 2015.
Some Blairites say that the MPs would make sure next time that Corbyn or an ally would be kept off the ballot paper to deny the membership the chance to vote for them. This is a highly dangerous idea. If MPs were so foolish as to conspire in this way, it would lead to incalculable damage to the party and quite possibly lead it to split.
But, say the Blairites, “Corbyn cannot win”. They say it as if it is a proposition that cannot be gainsaid like 2 plus 2 equals 4. But the proposition is not self-evident. On the contrary, what is self-evident is the opposite. It is possible for Corbyn to win.
Corbyn has a mountain to climb but that would have been the case for any leader who took over in 2010. Not least due to the electoral disaster that Labour suffered in Scotland (even his most implacable critics cannot blame him for that).
Corbyn faces an almost uniformly hostile media. It is not only the Tory press that refuse him a fair hearing but also left-leaning publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman. Meanwhile BBC flagship programmes like Today afford him “balance’ in the same way they afford it to UKIP, making it clear that his views are not mainstream - and therefore, to be treated with caution.
Historically, it may have been impossible to win an election in a democracy with such a hostile press. Hopefully, with the advent of new media, the power of the press-barons and the broadcast editors is weakening so that this small group can no longer define which policies are acceptable and who is electable. That would be a great leap forward for democracy.
Finally, Corbyn has one advantage that Cooper or Burnham would not have had. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic new members. I have met some of them. Not a swivel-eyed Trot amongst them. Just decent people who care about social justice and want to get involved in our democracy. It is sad how the Tories, the media and some Blairites often seem to hold these people in contempt.
If you want to get rid of the Tories, support Corbyn or - at least - don’t undermine him.