Photo: Flickr/Berit Watkin
Last year, during the 2015 Labour leadership election, I like many others joined the Labour party. I joined because the values that I hold – anti-war, anti-austerity, pro-equality, pro-immigration, internationalist – were for the first time in my political life being articulated by a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party – in the persona of Jeremy Corbyn. Despite being proud to be a trade unionist and a member of the labour movement, I had never joined the Labour Party before. I had never felt close to ‘New Labour’ and its vision for the Labour Party and the political debates that I was interested in seemed to have no place in the 1990s with the arrival of Tony Blair and his entourage. I became active in anti-war movements, in international solidarity movements, but throughout the last two decades felt estranged and disenfranchised from the parliamentary and party system in the UK. I guess I carried with me the idea that if voting changed anything, they would abolish it.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election in September 2015 as Labour leader gave me renewed hope that there was a parliamentary route to progressive social change. For the first time, in a long time, I felt represented politically, that my vote potentially matters, and that finally I could cast it for a party that didn’t just offer more of the same neoliberal, elitist and destructive policies that have produced record levels of inequality here and around the world. Jeremy Corbyn and the political programme that he was putting forward had brought me back in to the mainstream. I started believing that through the formal parliamentary system we might just be able to build a better future for all of us.
Today, ten months later, I feel hopelessly naïve. Each month that has gone by I have become more aware of the obstacles that we face. The media was the first to rudely interrupt my hopes. Ever since Jeremy was elected there has been a vicious onslaught of attacks on his integrity, his legitimacy, his personal and private life, his past, his attire, his character, his patriotism, his morality. Nothing has been spared by both the right and ‘left’ leaning media. In evidencing this, the recent report by the London School of Economics is really useful. Basically, their argument is that the media in this country, rather than presenting an open and critical analysis of events, has in relation to Jeremy Corbyn become an ‘attack dog’ acting in the interests of the establishment (both liberal and conservative, left and right).This is our chance to build a better, more socially just, more inclusive Britain for all its inhabitants
Inside the Labour Party the levels of bile and viciousness are equally pervasive. From day one, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the party machinery – both of which unsurprisingly are dominated by ‘New Labour’ supporters, have plotted and planned Jeremy’s demise, waiting only for the opportune moment to insert the knife.
Presumably, the fallout out from Brexit was the chance they had been waiting for and the coup began. Just at the time when the Labour Party could have been channeling the anger of the population against the Conservative administration, or challenging the racist attacks that spiked after the referendum, they instead chose to channel their anger at Jeremy. Orchestrating resignation after resignation, timed for maximum impact and maximum pain. That Jeremy has survived this vicious onslaught is a testament to his sense of duty to the people who voted him in.
For further proof, if needed, that an anti-democratic political coup is taking place inside the Labour Party, I received a message about Brighton and Hove Constituency Labour Party’s recent AGM, where elections were held for the key CLP party positions. It stated that all the election results from last week’s meeting are null and void due to alleged intimidation and threats and that no new elections will be held until after the results of the Labour leadership contest are announced.
For the record, I attended that meeting and cast my vote. It was an inspiring meeting, not for its content, which was brief, and to the point, but for the number of people who chose to attend. There were so many people that they had to have several repeat meetings to accommodate everyone. In the meeting I attended, and in the queues to get in, I saw no evidence of threats or intimidation, not even rudeness. What I saw was a lot of new Labour members, like myself, enthusiastically present to cast their votes, slightly unsure of the formalities of the process, but eager to participate. The meeting was conducted in a civil and open manner. So what was the problem then you ask? Why is it that all results have been voided? Well the answer to that is quite simple. The candidates put forward by Momentum were all elected, and presumably for the Labour Party machinery that is unacceptable.
So this is where we are at, just ten short months after the election of Jeremy Corbyn we are in the middle of a political coup. A coup backed by the majority of the mainstream media, led by the PLP and the labour party machinery and probably funded by a range of undisclosed wealthy individuals who want to se the Labour Party return to its neoliberal owners. We have to resist this coup, peacefully but persistently, because it really does matter. This is our chance to build a better, more socially just, more inclusive Britain for all its inhabitants. We just want a fairer and more equal world and your lies, hatred and dirty tricks will not destroy us.
Mario Novelli is Professor in the Political Economy of Education University of Sussex