Mark Perryman explains why he’s signed up to Vote Corbyn
Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Labour Party? No, not exactly, I joined Labour Students when I went to University but a fortnight or so of careerist politics was more than enough to put off an idealistic eighteen year-old for life, and thirty plus years later still does.
However growing up politically through the Thatcher and Major years meant voting Labour in the fighting belief that contrary to the Tories’ mantra there was an alternative, flawed or otherwise. And for a while there really did seem as if there might be something in the argument with CND and nuclear disarmament such a central issue in the early 1980s Labour was more or less on our side.
There was Red Wedge reaching out to a younger generation via music and comedy while Labour produced a magazine New Socialist open to left wing and social movement writers, radical politics mixed with popular culture alongside Labour writers and thinkers too. Under ‘Red Ken’ the GLC and others pioneered a model of municipal socialism which plenty of us cheered on, an entirely different version of a modernised Labour to the one Blair was to lumber his party with.
So not a member, but I guess I qualified as a supporter. Blairist-Brownite new Labour changed all that. Iraq was bad enough, but there was also a cavalier attitude to civil liberties, privatisation, timidity on taxation and renationalising the railways, scapegoating asylum seekers and migrants. There was more than enough not to like no thankyou very much. So I voted Green , Respect if there was a candidate and at the last election I publicly supported the SNP too. Not exactly a Labour voter then, not if I could help it.
So it was with a degree of hypocrisy I did the Labour supporters sign-up in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership campaign. But then I read the rules and regulations. Its hardly my fault if Labour MPs and their party have moved so far away from Labour’s aims and values that me, and millions like me, cast our votes for other parties. Isn’t that precisely what Jeremy Corbyn is setting out to reverse? And there’s no local, General or European election between now and when I’ll cast my leadership and Deputy leadership vote to test my loyalty in any case.
So sod it, if this is the franchise Labour itself voted for I’m going to have my part in it and anybody who wants to change Labour for the better and halt the never-ending since ‘94 forward march to the right surely has no excuse not to do the same. And the polls are beginning to say we might just make the difference. Ignore the Daily Telegraph Public-schoolboy jolly jape of Tories4Corbyn it’s the tens, hundreds of thousands that Labour left behind when it started that march rightwards who have the potential numbers to swing this for Corbyn.
And in an election where the total vote isn’t likely to be really that huge, and no weighting in favour of MPs, party members, affiliated union block votes and the like one supporter one vote really does add up to something significant.
Does any of this matter? Well with events in Greece over the past week and the greatest respect to Jeremy Corbyn a degree of well-founded cynicism is surely in order. But a cursory think back to the 1980s is more than enough to keep such dark thoughts at bay. In those years it was Tony Benn who was contesting Labour elections. Just imagine what Labour might have become as a Bennite party, don’t believe the Labour revisionists, this was a strand of Labour thinking that really was an alternative to Thatcherism rather than its Blairist pale imitation. But without joining Labour and signing up to all it stood for apart from Benn those of us on the outside couldn’t vote, so instead we ended up with Healey and his like instead. Now we have the moment the 1980s outside Left was deprived of.
Meanwhile there’s an interesting contest for Deputy Leader not being played out in so much of a public glare. Instead of the Blairite Right vs Continuity Labour vs Labour Left two of the Deputy Candidates, Tom Watson certainly, but Stella Creasy in particular, have a genuinely fresh vision of what Labour could become, framed to a considerable extent by Tom and Stella’s campaigns outside of the Westminster bubble, against phone hacking and payday loans. Its too comforting some times to slot straight into the more traditional left v right debates, these are candidates who offer something a bit different, its just a shame such an ideas contest is limited to the Deputy election, to really make a difference we need more of this from the Corbyn camp too.
Corbyn to win? Nobody in their right minds could even begin to imagine the consequences. In next to no time there would be two Labour Parties but is the one anything worth clinging on to? But if he loses make no mistake, those spaces which have allowed the insurgency to take place will be closed down.
‘Reclaiming Labour’ really does remain as forlorn as it ever was, a thankless task that only the precious few believe in. So don’t confuse mine, and others’ enthusiasm for a spot of in, out and in-between shake it all about, instead of the mission impossible the partisan Labour Left remain committed to.
This is the politics of the moment, the deed and when the dust settles the institutional paralysis of Labourism is unlikely it have shifted much, but if it has even just a bit it will be well worth my £3 and a smidgin of hypocrisy
Sign up as a Labour Supporter and get your vote in the Leadership and Deputy Leadership elections, plus London Mayoral candidate for residents of Greater London. It is free to members of affiliated trade unions, £3 if not.
Mark Perryman is a member of both the Labour Party and Momentum. Co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ aka Philosophy Football, he has also edited numerous books on the politics of the Left. The latest is Corbynism from Below and is published by Lawrence & Wishart, available to order from here.