Labour, are you sure you want to kick out Jeremy Corbyn and become the 'nice face of the establishment' again?
This week, sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party, our elected representatives, are attempting to undemocratically oust Jeremy Corbyn, who received a historic mandate not ten months ago and has seen the Party membership double since. But, this isn't really about Jeremy Corbyn, as I'm sure he would agree. It's about much more than that.
It's about the crisis at the very heart of how we do politics, or more aptly, how politics is done to almost all of us.
For the past 35 years or more, neo-liberalism and free market fundamentalism have shaped our politics. In this system, power and wealth flow to and concentrates at the top. For the majority of us, it's not even clear who has power, or where it is held. All we know is that there is very little we can do to exercise any of it in our own lives. Whether it is zero hour contracts, spiralling rent or soaring utility bills, it's not us who are calling the shots. And what is more, the electorate have never been asked if this is what they want or not, of course, but it's certainly what they've got.
During this time, the Labour Party has not countered free market ideology enough. It has been too weak in challenging our disempowerment. A growing wedge has been driven between the Westminster Labour Party and our movements’ grassroots. This weakness has led many Labour MPs to be seen as the nicer part of the establishment, rather than being the empowering force for the overwhelming majority that we need.
Add six years of bruising, Tory austerity on top of all that, and now we're at breaking point. The backlash has taken many forms: the SNP, UKIP, Brexit, Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn's leadership campaign was a break on “business as usual”, Westminster politics. It tapped into, and inspired, a movement for social justice, a movement for a more equal and decent society and a movement to give ordinary people more power in their own lives. That energy now lives on in Momentum and was seen in Parliament Square last night, where, with just 24 hours’ notice, 10,000 gathered to give Jeremy a vote of confidence.
So, what do the so-called “coup plotters” think is going to happen? That flying in the face of the membership, they can take an unaccountable, illegitimate ballot, replace Jeremy with someone in a smarter suit, and we, the electorate, breathe a heavy sigh of relief that everything has returned to the good old days of May 2015 when we lost the general election badly? And what about the traditional, working class support base who Corbyn is “failing to speak to” despite huge numbers turning out to hear him speak in traditional working class towns? Will they suddenly, after years of structural disempowerment, realise that actually do feel represented and empowered in the political process after all?
Not only does this show a total disregard for democracy, but it highlights a profound lack of self-awareness, reflection or analysis of what has been going on over the last few decades.
Corbyn isn’t going to fix this on his own. That is his greatest strength, the surest sign of his leadership. The difference between him and the plotters is that Corbyn recognises we, the grassroots members, have to be involved in finding the solutions.
Secret discussions in parliament drive wedges between the political elite and ordinary people. Corbyn wants to open up the party to become more of a movement, more rooted in our communities and firmly committed to redistributing wealth and power to the overwhelming majority of us. In short, a Labour Party fit for the 21st Century that will make society more equal, more democratic and give the overwhelming majority control. That’s inspiring. A big internal conflict that talks politics and ignores the major issues facing a country steeped in crisis? Not so much.