As the Labour leadership contest rumbles on, James Beeson, Editor, gives 3 reasons why party rogue Jeremy Corbyn is the best candidate to succeed Ed Miliband as leader.
1) He represents Labour values
If you asked someone in the street 30 years ago what the Labour party meant, what it stood for, the response would probably go something along the lines of ‘representing working class people’ or ‘standing up for social justice.’ Flash forward to 2015, and the Labour party is undergoing the biggest identity crisis in its history. The reign of New-Labour and Tony Blair lead to the adoption of broadly progressive and centrist policies, alongside an embrace of free market capitalism and privatisation of state industries. A brief shift left under Ed Miliband looked almost certain to be followed by a lurch to the right after a heavy election defeat, until a late surge of nominations saw Jeremy Corbyn make it onto the ballot sheet.
Of the four leadership candidates, only Corbyn’s views represent anything close to the original meaning of the Labour party, as shown recently when he was one of 48 MP’s who rejected Harriet Harrman’s plea to abstain from voting on the Government’s new Welfare Bill. Corbyn is clearly a man who supports the most vunerable in society, who stands up for what he believes in and refuses to stick to ‘the party line’ on issues he feels passionately about. It is this desire and spirit which has been severely lacking in the party in recent elections, and which is completely devoid in the other three candidates. Corbyn is Labour through and through, having held his seat in Islington North since 1983 whilst opposing austerity and fighting for social justice.
One major criticism of the Labour party in recent years is that it has become little more than Tory-lite in its attempts to win over middle-class voters. Accepting the Conservatives agenda of austerity and failing to oppose their programme of mass privatisation has often lead me to wonder what purpose the Labour party serves in the 21st century, and what it even stands for anymore. On the back of Labour membership cards, ‘democratic socialism’ is cited as the party’s core ethos, but aside from Corbyn, can any of Labour’s potential leaders truly claim to represent this cause?
Corbyn would be a throwback to traditional Labour values and would give the party a true, distinct identity again, something the party has been crying out for.
2) He stands the best chance of winning support from outside the party
Now I’m aware that many people will see this argument and dismiss me as crazy, particularly given the frenzy already being whipped up by Murdoch and the rest of his right-wing media cronies about the possibility of Corbyn as Labour leader. ‘He’ll doom the Labour party forever!’ they cry, ‘He’s unelectable!’ they scoff, whilst singing the praises of a Government that saddles students with debt and attacks the disabled and working poor.
However, I actually think that the reality, currently reflected in the latest YouGov polling figures (although we all know better than to trust polls now don’t we?) shows something rather different. Corbyn may not be able to win over the scores of people in middle England who voted Conservative, or the mass of Scots who voted SNP back in May. However, he might just be able to win over a resource that is more than big enough to help Labour become the dominant force in UK politics once more; the non-voters.
I think part of what appeals to me most about Corbyn as a politician is the fact that he’s absolutely nothing like a politician. Scruffy and unshaven, Corbyn is a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by suited white middle class males. He doesn’t claim vast sums of taxpayers money in expenses, he doesn’t engage in vitriolic negative campaigning and he doesn’t talk in vague terms about ‘aspiration’ and ‘progress’ in that annoying smarmy way that the majority of the Westminster elite do. It is this down-to-earth attitude and genuine left wing values which could help persuade the millions of disenfranchised voters, who long ago lost patience with slick career politicians and empty promises, to get out there and engage in democracy again. Combine this with his passion on Environmental issues and his support for the Free Education movement and you’ve got a potential leader with some serious appeal to young people, disillusioned voters and Green party supporters. You never know, he might just even be able to persuade some of those Scotts to vote for him yet…
3) He has the best policies
Fairly straightforward, this one. Corbyn offers a clear and defined alternative to Tory-Britain that is both appealing and hope-inspiring. In an age where personality dominates so much of our politics, it is refreshing to see a candidate who supports and offers practical and popular policies, rather than making vague statements about wanting to provide something, and then utterly failing to do so.
Corbyn is offering the kind of policies that 30 years ago would have been considered fairly standard for a leader of the Labour party, but which are now labeled as extremist and fanatical. This only serves to highlight how far the political spectrum has shifted to the right in recent years. As shown in countless public opinion polls in the last few years, British people are overwhelmingly in favour of the renationalization of key industries such as the rail network. It has been proven that state or public ownership of the railways would be a viable and more efficient method than allowing private companies to continue to exploit consumers with ever higher prices and shoddier services. Corbyn’s support of renationalization of key state industries, and his calls for greater state intervention in both the energy and rental markets are popular and achievable goals that will improve the lives of millions of British people and make them better off, despite what the media might lead you to believe.
Abolishing tuition fees and reinstating maintenance grants is another sensible and popular policy that will help support poorer members of society and reduce inequality; key goals that the Labour party could and should strive for. The scrapping of the Trident programme is more controversial, but would provide enough money alone for free education ten times over. Finally, raising national insurance contributions for those earning over £50,000 and increasing corporation tax by 2.5% are moderate redistributive policies which will help the working poor and the most vunerable members of our society, which ultimately is what the Labour party should be all about.