Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Corbyn's policies are moderate, sensible and can win an election for Labour

Today at 3pm the chance to vote in the Labour leadership election closed. Ballot papers go out on Friday and then the result is announced on 12 September. According to YouGov and the bookies Jeremy Corbyn is the favourite to win, and if he does it will bring about a seismic shift to the left in British politics.

To be honest I've found the whole contest 'compulsive viewing'. From the very early stages when it became clear that Corbyn was beginning to gather support and the attacks on him started, I've followed every twist and turn. Except so far there haven't been any twists and turns - support for him started as a trickle, then became a torrent and now appears to be a flood which means the veteran left-winger may win the contest outright. 

The attacks on Corbyn, from within and without the Labour Party, have ranged from the vicious to the hilarious, and as support for Corbyn has grown so has the hysteria amongst the media and the establishment who sense they are in danger of losing control - so damned inconvenient democracy isn't it? We've had Tony Blair and his 'heart transplant' comment and Alastair Campbell with his plea for 'anyone but Corbyn' but the more Corbyn is attacked the stronger he appears to become - it is almost like science fiction.

The reason for Corbyn's strength and success isn't difficult to work out - although it hides the fact he has played a blinder - he remains calm, sticks to his beliefs, refuses to engage in slanging matches with opponents, sets out clear and popular policies, and because of this, in contrast to his lacklustre opponents, he comes across as completely authentic. And the 'opponents', tainted by their embrace of the neoliberalism of New Labour, have had nothing to say for themselves, preferring to attack him and parrot out tired and vacuous soundbites. No wonder they are losing and Corbyn is packing halls all over England and Wales.

Many of the policies Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled so far are remarkably similar to the anti-austerity pro-public services policies you will find in the Green Party manifesto. These include support for a publicly delivered NHS, nationalisation of the railways and quantitative easing (QE) for investment in jobs and housing. On the latter point there are differences but the fact that QE is being proposed at all by Corbyn is very significant. All of these are common sense responses to the economic crisis we are in which are popular with the public and which could win Labour the next election if they united behind them.
"Jeremy Corbyn No More War crop" by Garry Knight 
The real significance of the 'Corbyn effect' is that it scares the pants off the neoliberal establishment - they know that Corbyn could win, that his ideas are popular, and that they are a genuine backlash, and threat to the the cosy 'free' market, tax dodging, asset stripping, stitch-up that has been established in the UK over the past 30 years or so. Of course that anti-austerity backlash had to happen, and indeed has been happening for several years. The Green Party, which occupies the space vacated by Labour, and UKIP, which is largely a working class protest against austerity aimed at the wrong target (immigrants and the EU) together garnered 5 million or so votes at the last election. But how much more threatening if the Labour Party could turned against austerity?

At this point its worth quoting Owen Jones on Alastair Heath - the Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph:
"A Jeremy Corbyn victory would have a “disastrous effect”, he [Heath] warned, because it “would become acceptable again to call for nationalising vast swathes of industry, for massively hiking tax and for demonising business. The centre-ground would move inexorably towards a more statist position”."
Although there are significant differences between the Green Party and Labour, which mean that labour hasn't got the wherewithal to deal with climate change and move to the no growth economy that we all need, like my Green Party colleague Derek Wall, I would welcome a Corbyn victory. This is because, as Derek says, it would benefit the entire left not just Labour. Will Corbyn win? I'm not so sure. The knives will be out. He may well be defeated on second preferences. Yvette Cooper as the 'stop Corbyn' candidate may just edge him out, but whatever the result, the genie is out of the bottle, the Labour Party will have changed for the better, and anti-austerity will be firmly on the agenda in England and Wales.

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