Over the last few weeks, a succession of right-wing relics have risen up to attack Jeremy’s candidature and to call for a vote against him. A mood of hysteria has gripped the political establishment as the unbelievable seems to be happening: people are rallying around a new mass movement against austerity and the Westminster consensus.
Over the last few weeks, as the Corbyn Labour leadership campaign has picked up momentum, a succession of right-wing relics have risen up to attack Jeremy’s candidature and to call for a vote against him. A mood of hysteria has gripped the political establishment as the unbelievable seems to be happening: people, both from inside and outside the Labour Party, are being inspired to express support for a break with the austerity and the Westminster consensus.
Polls are now putting Corbyn well ahead, with more and more people joining the Labour Party or signing up as supporters to vote for Jeremy. Thousands are attending Jeremy’s rallies around the country, in many cases the largest such meetings for decades, as people sense a mood of change.
The establishment assumed that, unlike say in Greece or Spain, the mood of the masses in Britain was turning to the right. However, the campaigns of the other three candidates for Labour leader have been met with sullen silence at best. Burnham and Cooper have picked up a significant number of local party nominations (111 and 109 respectively), largely based on votes by an existing core layers of party activists who are lagging behind the real mood; however, Corbyn has taken a lead even here, winning more CLP nominations (152 – almost 40% of all nominations) than any other candidate. Most unions, including Unite, Unison, CWU, FBU, and the RMT have, under pressure from the ranks, come out in support of Corbyn.
The Kendall campaign, meanwhile, based on a strategy more appropriate for a punt at the leadership of the Tory party, is dead in the water despite support from the right-wing press and big business.
Blairite zombies: back from the dead
British politics is facing a revolution whatever happens next. No wonder that the so-called big guns have now been pushed out from their luxury summer retreats to try and stop the Corbyn advance. As the FT noted recently:
“When Chris Leslie, shadow chancellor, tore into Jeremy Corbyn’s “starry-eyed” and “hard left” economic thinking this week, he joined a lengthening line of senior Labour MPs to rule out taking up a ministerial position should Mr Corbyn win the party’s leadership race. Mr Leslie is a supporter of Yvette Cooper, a rival to Mr Corbyn to lead the party, who has also said she would not work with him. Neither would Vernon Coaker, the shadow defence secretary, nor Shabana Mahmood, the shadow Treasury chief secretary, nor Liz Kendall, another leadership contender, nor several others.” (Financial Times, 4th August 2015.
Forget the brutal attacks of a Tory government and the capitalist system they represent, this is serious say the Labour MPs – our careers are on the line here! Hence a media-based campaign has been launched against the Corbyn campaign to try and turn things around. As one meme doing the rounds on social media wryly noted (with a picture of John Lennon in the background), “imagine if Labour attacked Cameron the way they attack Corbyn.”
First up to pour scorn over Corbyn’s leadership bid was the head honcho himself – Tony Blair. It had been assumed that he would be kept out of the fray given his unpopularity with young people in particular, not least those who still remember the Iraq invasion that he pushed through. However, the completely self-deluded Blair believes he has done no wrong, and that – in the parallel universe he seems to inhabit – the British people are just waiting to bring him back from unjust exile to rule over us once again. And so he could not be kept quiet.
Blair attacked Corbyn and said that those who supported him needed a heart transplant. The Tory press lapped it up, of course, with headlines like: “If your heart is with Corbyn get a transplant, says Blair” (The Times); “Blair: if Labour votes with its heart, it needs a transplant” (Daily Telegraph); “Blair tells Corbyn backers: if your heart is with him get a transplant” (Daily Express); “If your heart’s into Jez… get transplant” (Daily Star); and “Blair: it’s just plain daft to back Corbyn” (Metro). It should be noted that none of these papers are known to be Labour supporting.
Alongside Blair, a whole queue of Blairite zombies has formed to sling mud at Corbyn, including Lord Mandelson, David Blunkett, and Alan Johnson. Towards the end of July, Blair then gave a speech at the Chartered Accountants Hall in London. John Crace in the Guardian reported the following summary:
“There were no mentions of the Chilcot inquiry or friendly Kazakhstani leaders, because it just wasn’t that kind of event. To make sure it stayed that way, the organisers chose to prevent the media from asking any questions. This was all about Blair reminding everyone that Jeremy Corbyn was the new Satan, settling a few old scores with Gordon Brown and a laying on of hands for she-who-could-not-be-named. Liz Kendall was probably grateful for that small mercy.”
Much to his surprise, Corbyn’s support did not collapse under the pressure of Blair’s oratory.
Who are ya?!
Next up was John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair. This non-entity waded forth to attack the Corbyn campaign and called those MPs who nominated him “morons”. This angered none other than John Prescott, the former deputy leader of the Party, who replied: “Who the heck is John McTernan? He advised in Scotland and we lost, he advised in Australia and we lost… He has no authority.”
McTernan’s line was that we should have no discussion about the way forward at all, just leave it to the experts with their (non-)vote-winning line of austerity-lite. McTernan also fails to admit that the reason some of these “moron” MPs nominated Corbyn was because the Labour leadership election had turned into a non-event, attracting no interest at all amongst ordinary people, such was the lack of enthusiasm for the Blairite options. They hoped that Corbyn’s entry would reveal the true qualities of the establishment names, sweeping one of them into office. For good measure, McTernan has also demanded “a coup” in Labour should Corbyn win. So much for democratic procedures then.
However, with the Corbyn tidal wave showing no signs of slowing down, John Mann MP was brought forward. Who? Who indeed! This character has done little of note, although older activists may remember him as an anti-left hatchet man in the National Organisation of Labour Students in the early 1980s – so little has changed there then.
Mr. Mann jumped in via Murdoch’s Sunday Times with his views on the leadership election as a whole. “It should be halted,” Mann said. “It is becoming a farce with long-standing members…in danger of getting trumped by people who have opposed the Labour Party and want to break it up, expressly want to break it up – some of it is the Militant Tendency types coming back in.” For people like Mann it is quite alright for big business to infest the Labour Party, supporting candidates, influencing campaigns, sponsoring party events etc.; but let real workers get involved? Certainly not!
Oddly enough, no-one has paid any attention to the wit and wisdom of Mr. Mann whatsoever.
So now the establishment have presented what they see as their last trump card: Neil Kinnock. The former labour leader, who has based his reputation on attacking the left inside the party during the 1980s – but who is otherwise known for helping to betray the striking miners in 1984, losing two elections, and then heading off to Europe to stuff his wallet – was dragged out of his political grave to add his booming voice to Blair and company. Writing in The Observer on August 2nd, Kinnock warned:
“The Trotskyite left and the Telegraph right who might participate in this election clearly have their own malign purposes. I hope that everyone else voting in the leadership election – the great majority who are true Labour people – will make their decision with the greatest possible sincerity and realism.”
Indeed they will, Mr. Kinnock.
A break with the consensus
All the signs are that people want a real change and are going to vote for it. Those at the centre of the Labour machine cannot understand it; or rather they do not want to understand it. They fantasise about Tories trying to vote, but there is no reality to this spurious claim.
The careerist consensus is afraid of the real voice of the working class: a voice which is demanding an end to austerity, Westminster corruption, privatisations, hand-outs for the rich – all the things which the Blairites are demanding Labour should do to gain favour.
It was a disgrace that so many Labour MPs, under pressure to prove themselves to big business, abstained against Osborne’s benefit cuts at the July budget debate. This rotten deed has just motivated more people to say: enough is enough!
Voting for Corbyn will be just the first step in a process of fighting back. What is clear is that those fresh new layers who have become enthused by the Corbyn campaign will need to find a focus for building on the fight for socialist ideas. This is the task of Marxism – join us in this struggle!