May must go
Jeremy Corbyn’s incredible election success represents a seismic change in British politics. Thirteen million people voted for a radical, progressive and internationalist government. To gain 41% of the vote is staggering – the biggest swing to Labour since the Atlee government of 1945. To do so in the context of an election that had two horrific terrorist attacks is quite extraordinary.
May announced the election believing that it would be a walk in the park and very few disagreed with her. The only disagreement was about how big a margin she would win by.
But something quite spectacular happened in this election. Something the vast majority of establishment pundits told us could never happen. Political pundit after pundit, and some left-wing ones too, wrote off Corbyn as being unelectable. Even those papers like the Guardian who came kicking and screaming behind calling for a vote for Labour still don’t really understand why millions turned out to vote for him.
They have, like many others, consistently failed to grasp what is taking place at the base of society. Too often they only looked at the top instead of digging beneath the surface to listen and understand the real concerns of working people. For them Brexit was seen as a mass anti –immigrant vote by swathes of working class people. They have failed to understand that at its core Brexit was an anti-austerity vote.
What this election has shown is that working class people can be won back to Labour from the likes of UKIP with radical policies.
A different kind of politician
But it was not simply a misunderstanding of the actuality of people’s views that led so many to dismiss Corbyn as a no-hoper and for the mainstream media to launch such an unprecedented campaign of hatred against him. More fundamentally the establishment were scared that if he won then everything they have stood for, and has become ‘common sense’, would be thrown into question. Not just by a few die-hard lefties but by millions.
If those right wing Labour MPs had not attempted to undermine Corbyn at every turn and had campaigned for the excellent manifesto then the outcome of this election would have meant that Corbyn would be sitting in number ten rather than there being a hung Parliament.
What the brilliant Corbyn campaign showed was that by putting forward radical policies which give support to public over private, collective need over private greed, and peace and unity rather racism and war he could win. It was clear Corbyn slightly lost his way before the announcement of the general election due to the constant attacks by the majority of Labour MPs, the relentless media character assassinations and by those around him wobbling in response. But as soon as the election campaign started Corbyn took control.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are unique amongst MPs. There are a few MPs who hold similar beliefs but what marks them out as a different kind of politician is their campaigning backgrounds. They have not only turned up to speak at strikes, demonstrations and the like (which even some of the more left wing Labour MPs still don’t do) they were part of organising and taking campaign initiatives.
This is what made the difference. You could see Corbyn grow in stature and confidence as he started to speak at the rallies across the country. When he got out of the unreal and stultifying atmosphere of Parliament, the Corbyn that had been shaped by forty years of struggle and campaigning came to the fore and inspired millions.
Perhaps one of the most important speeches he made was two days after the Manchester bombing that located the continuous imperialist wars and bombings of Arab countries as the root cause of terrorism around the globe. This was a courageous speech and showed principled leadership. And it worked because it chimed with the millions of working class people who had consistently opposed war for over a decade.
Left versus right is back: Blairism is dead.
It has become very fashionable over the past decade or so to pronounce that the old left versus right political set-up no longer applies to the modern system. We have transcended, we are told, from the old ‘tribal’ politics. It was never true but because mainstream politics were competitions between two main camps with virtually identical policies this notion became the accepted political truth.
No longer. In this election, there was a real choice between the two main political parties.
Labour’s manifesto was a radical one. It promised to tax the rich, set up a national education service, end zero hours contacts, scrap tuition fees and restore EMA, build one million homes, rid the NHS of the privateers, protect the environment and renationalise the public utilities.
Another accepted wisdom blown apart by this election was the idea that young people would never vote for a radical Socialist programme because they were all ‘Thatcher’s children’. This election saw millions of 18-24 year olds turn out and vote for the most radical Socialist programme for over a generation.
This is where the new ‘centre ground’ of politics is situated.
A world to win
Elections are important. But as Jeremy and John would tell us real change comes through struggle not by simply electing principled leaders to parliament. May has exposed herself as not the new Iron Lady – the knives will be out for her. She must go. We need to get onto the streets as soon as possible to prise open the splits that now exist after the Tories’ dreadful election campaign. We need to build a bigger and stronger trade union movement that is bold and audacious.
I attended Corbyn’s final election rally in Islington. The rally was great. But it was when the rally finished and you exited the venue and you were greeted by thousands of people who couldn’t get into the rally, mostly young, spilling onto the street that you really understood why this election was different. They were not simply there to get a glimpse of Corbyn but because they knew that this election was historic and that they wanted to be a part of something that could be transformative – they wanted to be a part of history – as actors not passive observers.
There is no turning back. We have a world to win. June 8th is an important step on the road towards a society based on the needs of the many not the few.
Everything has changed – now it’s our turn….
Sean Vernell NEC