Labour activists in Liverpool speak about the election, the Labour right and the future
There was jubilation at the election result but not much surprise amongst Corbyn supporting Labour activists in Liverpool. Along with thousands of others they have been involved in an bitter three month fight over the soul and direction of the party, and they knew they had been winning for some time.
But the scale of the achievement is still remarkable. ‘All the same we should still celebrate,’ one Liverpool delegate told us, ‘because winning is not something the left is used to in the Labour party’. As Fathi from Jeremy Corbyn’s own constituency in Islington told us, ‘this victory was won in the teeth of a massive campaign of disinformation and sometimes abuse by the right wing in the party, and it shows the amazing strength and commitment of the activists that they came through.’
Satisfaction is mixed with hope for the future. For Liverpool-based playwright and activist Esther Wilson, the vote confirmed that both Labour and the wider population had changed fundamentally: ‘For me, Tony Blair represented war and Jeremy Corbyn stands for peace and principles. The people have come around to peace and that is amazing. I have joined Labour on an anti-war ticket and I am so pleased that we have won. The important thing is that he keeps on doing what he's doing, people know he is the underdog, but they love him all the more for it.'
Liverpool activist and writer Alan Gibbons expressed the same enthusiasm about Corbyn's result: 'He has raised his vote and that doesn’t take into account that they excluded so many supporters and expelled many people like me to try and engineer the result they wanted. He still romps home with an increased majority, how cool is that. Now we can go on and create a really radical mass socialist party that can change things in this country, but not just to get into office but really introduce major reforms and social change.’
The big question in people’s mind is how to deal with the right in Labour. One delegate who was in the conference hall during the election announcement told us: ‚It‘s absolutely clear that they are not going to calm down. Some of the delegates refused to be part of a standing ovation, to say they were ungracious would be an understatement' A senior Labour MP too told us that right wing delegates at the regional executive had been downright rude to Corbyn on Saturday. 'They are not going to go away, their behaviour is simply disgraceful, we will have to take them on and we need help from the unions and the wider movement to do that'.
John Davies from Riverside CLP was convinced from bitter experience about the need to deal decisively with the right. 'My advice is, don't conciliate, the right have bitten us once and they will fight us again, if you do try to include them and they do the same it will demoralise people and end up driving a lot of them out of the party.' He was angry about what had happened in his Mersey constituency of Riverside. 'We have had the spectre of anti-Semitism raised and three honest comrades actively traduced by the party. This has to be called out as a witch hunt, which is what it is. They are trying to rewrite what has happened and we have to be firm and call things out for what they are and be less defensive.'
For Isobel from the Midlands the best thing about the result was that it proved Corbyn can win a general election. ‘Despite everything that the press throw at him he was still the people’s choice and that is because he is offering something different. I think the Labour Party and the country actually need him. People will vote for him because he is different – not him personally but his policies. If I could give him one bit of advice I would tell him: don’t be too nice, compassion is good but he doesn’t need to subjugate himself to the MPs that have brought the party into disrepute, he doesn’t need to do that at all, be passionate but don’t subjugate yourself.'
Cameron Panting is National Organiser for Counterfire and is a member of the editorial board. He is active within the People's Assembly and is a member of Stop The War.
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