Thursday, 30 June 2016

Jeremy Corbyn is the only man who can solve Britain’s post-Brexit problems

Youssef El-Gingihy in The Independent

The Brexit vote has precipitated the deepest political crisis in Britain in a generation. The nation is divided and the climate is lurching dangerously towards the far right. At this critical moment for the future of the country, the Blairites have opportunistically mounted an anti-Corbyn coup. They have been incubating this coup from day one despite Corbyn's overwhelming mandate.

They talk of Corbyn as an aberration. It is, in fact, the other way round. It is the Blairites, who represent a deviation in the history of the Labour party away from its values and eponymous constituency. The biggest threat to the Conservatives would be an alternative, viable anti-austerity manifesto.

Fortunately, the Blairites are outnumbered, in the wider party, by the massive influx of new members joining since the general election. This new membership alone is greater than the entire membership of the Conservative party. Contrary to the media narrative, Corbyn's victory has galvanised whole swathes of the electorate, particularly amongst young voters.

Blair may have won three elections, but in so doing he nearly destroyed his own party. In Scotland, millions felt they had been abandoned by New Labour's policies including the Iraq war and the embrace of neoliberalism. The same pattern has been repeated in the North of England with traditional working class voters in Labour heartlands defecting to UKIP. The UKIP vote went up from under a million in 2010 to nearly 4 million in 2015.

Labour did not just lose the election. It lost the previous five years by acquiescing to a bogus Tory narrative of excessive public spending as causing or exacerbating the crisis despite the IMF clearly rebutting this. Miliband tried to appease his base with attacks on predatory capitalism but, at the same time, he tried to out-tough the Tories on immigration and cuts. This schizoid approach did not convince voters. Why vote for austerity-lite when you can have the real thing?

The idea that Corbyn is unelectable or cannot be sold to the media is a strange one. Real politics and real leadership is about creating a vision for the country rather than merely chasing votes according to what is perceived to be flavour of the month. The post-war Labour government pursued its monumental achievements by being bold and radical. It set the agenda for a social democratic settlement, which shaped the future of Britain for decades, forcing the Tories to accommodate. When the neoliberals started out, they were in the political wilderness. They gradually transformed politics with the backing of powerful allies. For the worse admittedly. But Thatcher never asked the media or the political establishment for permission.

The notion that a return to Blairism would rescue Labour is completely out of touch. And dangerously so. Neoliberal economics is broken and we are in an era of perpetual economic stagnation and crisis. If the left does not offer a convincing, progressive alternative then UKIP and the far right will capitalise.

This is a battle for the soul of the Labour party between neoliberal Blairism and the progressive left. Certainly a split now looks almost inevitable. If that is what is needed to save the party then so be it.

The Conservatives are offering up a prospectus of more of the same - privatisation, financialisation, dismantling the public sector all in the guise of austerity. Now more than ever, we need a strong left with transformative policies to counter the dominance of the right and the framing of politics in the reactionary discourse of nationalism and racism. Only progressive forces can steer Britain away from the dangers of far-right fascism and offer working class people a better future.

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