As the Labour party’s hunt for strong leadership continues, the campaign against the increasingly entangled Jeremy Corbyn looks very grubby indeed. After a vote of no confidence from his own MPs in the aftermath of the tumultuous EU referendum – something of a post-apocalyptic political landscape – the radical, socialist politics of Corbyn are currently being extensively tested.
A second leadership election is largely the result of the still fiery coals of resentment towards Corbyn which have been burning since the election of his ‘straight talking’ and ‘honest’ politics last September. Support for an alternative candidate for Labour’s leadership, primarily Owen Smith, has swelled in recent days.
The incumbent Corbyn has found himself charged by a large proportion of Labour members with crimes of weak performances at Prime Minister’s Questions, failures to deal with outbreaks of anti-Semitism and MP abuse, and even bad dress sense. The real issues concern subjects much more serious than those to do with the style of Corbyn’s jackets or how far up his tie is knotted, though.
A major boost for Smith’s candidacy came after the once favourite to win the leadership election, Angela Eagle – who had taken great pleasure in declaring war on Corbyn for quite some days – suddenly retreated from the frontline. As discontent grows, MPs have become dead set on challenging the present leader who is seen by many as the Labour party’s considerably weak face. Labour’s less radical wing is simply desperate to remove Jeremy Corbyn based on the grounds that he is the party’s first class ticket to years of Conservative gunfire. The argument that Corbyn would currently be unable to deliver general election success is among the gravest of concerns which have been voiced against him. Those who yearn for a more centrist Labour party hope that in September the present leader will be removed just like the failed James Callaghan was in 1979.
The request to remove an unpopular leader must, of course, be taken seriously in any healthy democracy. The major problem, however, is that the tactics of many within the Parliamentary Labour Party in their attempts to oust the current leader are proving detrimental to their own credibility and that of party. The Labour party pledges to stand for progression and fairness, but the PLP and it anti-Corbynista supporters have shown none of these qualities in recent weeks as they taunt the increasingly robust pro-Corbyn camp.
Activists and MPs have, over recent months, blamed Corbyn for failing to deal with the epidemic of abuse which continues to endanger politicians and their staff. Last month saw the fatal shooting of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, and in the light of such a brutal attack, many of Labour’s MPs have feel similarly uncomfortable. In addition, numerous party members have reported receiving death threats, and hurtful comments from worrying online trolls.
But the responsibility for the unsettling motives of albeit very few extremists certainly does not lie on Jeremy Corbyn alone. Preventative measures can only go so far. The real causes for such negativity are set elsewhere. Dangers posed by far-right populism, its endorsement of casual racism, the comeuppance of outspoken politics in relation to the arguable failures of the Establishment, and the promotion of xenophobia have contributed more to building resentment towards innocent politicians. The task of eradicating hatred is not solely that of Jeremy Corbyn – it is one which must be faced by the entirety of the Labour party, and actually the entirety of the global political scene.
What really trumps “anti” feelings associated with UK politics is togetherness and party unity. Surely the Labour party should reinstate this ethos, instead striving to work collectively in halting the Tories’ agenda of austerity and societal hardship. Headlines of late have become dominated by Labour’s internal strife which is rapidly growing tiresome. It’s time Labour politicians and their associated supporters clubbed together. The creation of a strong, socially democratic force, which is capable of holding the government to account, is what will trounce the harm being vehemently promoted by some in their bids to tear up Britain and its political fabric.
In their attempts to halt Corbyn’s radical programme, many of those associated with the Labour party have put themselves in danger of losing their own integrity. Although now reversed, the party had intended to only allow long-term grassroots members to vote in the leadership election. In addition, it had implemented £25 membership charges for new members in possible attempts to throttle support for Corbyn. In the days following the landmark referendum result to leave the EU, it was clear that hundreds of thousands of UK citizens were joining the Labour party in protest.
Corbyn and his crew won’t be silenced, and the radical left will not be easily quashed. Attempting to smother the growing threat to Blairism has only accentuated the divide which currently holds up the Labour party, and has inspired more dignified retaliation from the radicals. Thousands have signed petitions in recent days, aiming to bring the Labour party to court for what they see as a violation of British democracy.
The Labour party’s keenness to fix tough barriers to political participation from a grassroots level suggests the creation of a worryingly closed off party environment. By barricading itself from the realities of Corbyn’s strong political support, Labour is in danger of violating its self-proclaimed democratic principles. Anti-Corbyn advocates ought to allow a fair contest to play out, and get behind their party’s defining principles of grassroots decision-making.
As Corbyn and the left-wing organisation Momentum have come to spearhead an ever growing mass socially democratic movement, the existing Labour Establishment just can’t resist interfering. Every day it looks more flustered and agitated. Their tricks for stifling the grounds of Corbyn’s re-election are now being exposed, and could seriously destroy the Labour party’s political standing.
After a huge public mandate for Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader in September of last year, it looks like his support is only growing as a result of the vendetta against him. The programme of Corbyn’s opponents doesn’t seem to be as effective as they might have previously anticipated. Desperate for a return to the Blairite politics favoured more by a great deal of the Labour party, as opposed to listening to the calls from the party’s local hubs, Labour risks falling down from the moral high ground once again.
The Labour party consistently complains of the inadequacy of Corbyn’s leadership. What plagues the party more is their disunity and consistent infighting. Corbyn could provide adequate leadership if they just got behind him and accepted the public mandate for a leader whose movement gains fresh support day-by-day. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism and his lack of patriotism are unattractive attributes to many MPs and voters, but these are qualms which can be ironed out. No leader is intrinsically perfect.
If the Labour party is still adamant that its fight between radical politics and Blairite-type ‘centrism’ play out, then it should at least take place in an atmosphere of good sportsmanship. The Labour leadership campaign this year has turned dirty and personal. Politicians, activists, and members have lost sight of the real issues. Instead, for many, it is a campaign set on unfairly thwarting the perfectly adequate left-wing principles of a perfectly adequate left-wing politician and leader.
Disruptive internal strife and indecisiveness regarding the party’s controversial Blairite past and its more populist, radical future is exactly what is setting it back from success. Harmful blows against Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the democracy-defying tactics of many attempting to stifle support for a candidate chosen by the people only last year – and one whose support so evidently still exists – should have no place in British society. The reinstatement of intraparty unity, and a return to the true principles of the Labour party – “social justice, community, rights [and] decency” – are the answer to Labour’s seemingly endless policy war. These attributes are exactly what will bring back security to the UK’s currently perforated and paralysed left wing.