A mass campaign with meetings up and down the country, drawing on the whole of the left, could seriously shake up politics in Britain
In defiance of expectations, left MP Jeremy Corbyn has made it onto the ballot paper for the Labour leadership contest.
Some on the left doubted he could do it. Many are pessimistic after May’s general election result. But serious pressure on Labour MPs from Jeremy’s supporters, and a calculated move by the front-running candidates to “lend” him their own support, ensured Jeremy cleared the 35 MP nominations hurdle.
This is a huge step forward for the entire left. It’s pretty incredible that the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party interpreted the election as demonstrating Labour was not right-wing enough. After all, Labour lost overwhelmingly in Scotland to a party to its left. Labour did very well in London and other big cities. And Labour’s vote went up nearly a million since 2010 – despite the loss of Scotland.
The blunt facts have not stopped the other leadership contenders attempting to out-Tory or even out-Ukip each other with increasingly desperate statements against those on benefits and immigration, and further spending cuts. They look to Tony Blair as an example, ignoring the fact that Blair lost Labour four million votes during his time in office.
Jeremy’s candidacy disrupts this. It means that a serious argument against austerity, defending the poor against the rich, and opposing racism and attacks on migrants will be at the heart of the campaign.
I know from personal experience the many strengths of Jeremy Corbyn, through my work with him in the antiwar and anti-austerity movements, and in many other campaigns. He is an ideal of an MP – hardworking, committed and principled, without any of the remoteness or privilege that mark so many MPs.
There is a groundswell of support for Jeremy, in and out of Labour, as social media have demonstrated over the last few days. His campaign can be a golden opportunity to galvanise the whole of the left, and not just Labour.
A mass campaign, quite unlike those of the other contenders, with meetings up and down the country, drawing on the whole of the left, could seriously shake up politics in Britain.
Combined with the resurgence of the anti-austerity movement, it can mean rebuilding the left in places that desperately need it – those traditionally Labour areas now menaced by Ukip perhaps most of all.
And any member of a trade union affiliated to Labour (which is most of them) can vote, if they register to do so before 12 August.
Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the Dangerous Times Festival, 6:15pm, Saturday 27th June on 'Why Labour lost - and how the left can win' with Owen Jones, Kate Hudson and Lindsey German.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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