Jeremy Corbyn as seen by Le Monde.
“The antidote to the Blair virus.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the man who’s shifting the Labour Party towards the left.
Nobody would have bet a penny on Jeremy Corbyn, when the Labour Party ‘primary’ to appoint the successor to Ed Miliband – who’d immediately resigned following his defeat in the legislative elections of May 7 – opened in mid-June.
On Tuesday an opinion poll by YouGov gave Corbyn 53 % of the vote, 32 points above Andy Burnham, (a figure close to Ed Miliband), and 35 points ahead of the moderate candidate Yvette Cooper.
The antidote to the Blair virus
While Labour’s failure in the General Elections is generally attributed to it taking a position too far to the left, the emergence of one of the few party members to call himself “socialist ” in a country where this word is equivalent to a red rag, is considered suicidal. The left of centre press has also long patronised Mr. Corbyn, attributing his popularity to the fashion for retro styles and deep dismay at the electoral failure.
But the crowds at his rallies, the broad support of local party bodies, and above all, his endorsement by the unions Unison and Unite, which finance Labour’s campaign, have now forced the media to take him seriously. Corbyn is “the antidote to the Blair virus inside Labour , “said Dave Ward on July the 30th, bringing the Corbyn the support of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), 200 000 members strong. ” We reject the idea that Labour must position itself at the centre, ” he said advancing a programme in favour of “a more just distribution of wealth, jobs and decent wages.” The refusal of Harriet Harman, acting leader of the party, to condemn the drastic cuts in social benefits decided by the Cameron government has exacerbated Labour’s internal tensions.
For Labour’s party apparatchiks, believers in unbridled economic liberalism and the withdrawal of the State, Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are nonsense. A frequenter of trade union pickets, an anti-monarchist, a supporter of the renationalisation of the railways,a nuclear disarmament activist, a believer in solidarity with Palestine and an opponent of the Iraq war, the Islington MP spends his time in Parliament opposing his own party’s line. Ascetic, vegetarian, refusing to drink alcohol and own a car, he is seen as a caricature of a North London intellectual. From Karl Marx, he said there is ” a lot to learn” causing ripples in a BBC audience. Certainly he is in favour of staying in the European Union, but in ” a better Europe defending social justice and not finance. “
Devoid of charisma but strong in his simple and clear demands, something totally lacking its competitors, the sexagenarian Corbyn has mobilised young people exhausted by the Cameron government’s austerity policy. Supporters see him as the British leader of a Podemos or a Syriza. To those who say that no election victory is possible with his programme, Corbyn has replied that the Scots gave the SNP, positioned to the left, a landslide vote, and that in England, 36% of the electorate did not vote. He plans to mobilise the voters who abstained with a state intervention programme to ” eliminate the worst vestiges of poverty in Britain . “
Tristram Hunt, Shadow Minister of Education, estimates “the danger is that Labour Party, a great governing party, will be reduced to a mere pressure group” . . The opponents of the rebel MP evoke a previous Labour leader, Michael Foot, whose very left-wing programme led to the triumph of Margaret Thatcher in 1983. That programme is known as ” the longest suicide note in history. ” The complex internal electoral system in the Labour Party means that there is no certainty in Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. But whatever happens, the next Labour leader will not be able to ignore his radical message.