Forget about the polls for a moment.
We on the left are all-too aware, as we’ve been reminded time and time again, that Jeremy Corbyn’s personal polling ratings are abysmal. This is an unequivocal fact. But please, bear with me.
The recovery of the progressive left is going to be a long and arduous journey. It will require patience, and it is almost certainly not going to be achieved by just one Labour leader in a single year.
Jeremy Corbyn is not the long term solution to Labour’s problems or those of the progressive left. But until a candidate is chosen who can display the same steadfast principles, and the same genuine desire to stand directly in opposition to the Tories and the media narrative, then Jeremy Corbyn is the only choice.
Owen Smith has displayed every characteristic of a politician who will change his mind purely to suit his audience. In the space of ten years, he’s gone from a corporate lobbyist for Pfizer, to, just recently, a devout, born-again socialist. Barring some kind of miraculous metamorphic epiphany, I’m pretty sure Owen Smith is a raging bullsh*tter.
What would happen if Owen Smith became Labour leader?
During the 1980’s, the ideological struggles that Keir Hardie and Nye Bevan fought for were discarded by a Labour Party in disarray. A party in search of quick-fixes and instant electoral-success. And whilst Tony Blair achieved many laudable achievements during his early years as Prime Minister, his steady conversion from middle of the road polished politico, to a full-blooded right-wing Establishment crony was all too obvious to see.
With disappointment and despair, people will always go searching for the easy answers first. Reaching rightwards to take votes from the Tories was the easiest answer of them all. But the cost of this ideological shift was the dissipation of trust in Labour by the working class.
Labour was virtually wiped out across Scotland because of this diminished trust. The SNP filled the left-wing void vacated by a distrusted, establishment Labour, and these 40 Scottish seats would be out of Labour control for a generation should they lurch rightwards again.
Furthermore, with the vote for Brexit showing a clear, but misdirected, anti-Establishment sentiment across much of England and Wales, any rightward shift towards the establishment would spell yet more disaster for Labour.
With Owen Smith at the helm, I believe he would abandon his leadership policies as quickly as he adopted them. And, just as Labour did in Scotland, he would take the votes of the progressive left for granted – using us as we have been for decades; as a political doormat.
I can envisage his 2020 manifesto now; proposing policies that are slightly leftwards of the Tories, but only just – in the vein hope of picking up a few reluctant Tory votes, relying on disillusioned but loyal Labour voters as his fallback.
During the current Labour leadership election, Smith has quite blatantly shifted his political stance leftwards in the hope of persuading some Corbyn supporters to cross over. He would do the same at a general election, but in the opposite political direction.
The left would then shun him, and the right would see through the facade. Labour would essentially be wiped out across the UK.
Am I worried that the Tories are going to hold power for decades if Corbyn wins?
We have been bombarded by Labour MPs, political commentators, and the mainstream media, with a repetitive message that Labour will never win a general election unless Jeremy Corbyn is replaced as leader.
These sentiments, whilst gut-wrenching to envisage, may well be proved right.
But as a disabled person, and as someone who – like much of Britain today – struggles financially, I need a Labour government in power as much as anybody.
However, I need a Labour Party who has the balls, and the backbone, to stand against today’s neoliberal orthodoxy.
I need a government that ensures future generations are not burdened with five-figure student debts like ours.
I need a government that makes owning my own home a real possibility, rather than something only my parents and previous generations were able to do.
And I need a government that doesn’t see disabled people as worthless, a minority to admonish and to scapegoat, or as a tool with which to pander to a media who label us as lazy, scroungers and frauds.
Not only were all three of these things not solved by the last Labour government, they were made exponentially worse. The introduction of tuition fees, the failure to cap rents or to control sky-rocketing house prices, and the promise to be ‘tough on welfare’, resulting in the introduction of the demeaning and demoralising work-capability assessment. All three of these catastrophic failures happened on the watch of the Labour party.
The founding-fathers of the labour movement would shudder if they had seen what became of their Labour Party under Blair. What we must never let happen again, is for our party – the party that prides itself on standing up for the little guy – to become as entrenched in the aims and needs of the establishment as it did under Blair.
Yet even when led by a soft-left leader in Ed Miliband, Labour as an opposition provided little difference, policy-wise, to the Tories. The government and the opposition were virtually indistinguishable.
Am I afraid that the Tories will hold power for a generation? To quote Mr Miliband; hell yes. But a Labour Party offering no alternative is almost as bad – things still get worse for us, the little guy.
We need a radical alternative. An alternative who will oppose rather than capitulate to the Tory-media and the establishment. A leader who won’t desert their principles for whatever audience is placed in front of them. Leaders like this don’t come along often, and Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who can provide these true Labour qualities. Yes, he may not be ahead right now, but with a unified Labour party behind him, anything is possible.
With Corbyn at the helm, however, there is the opportunity for the Labour membership to mound their party back into one the public can trust. We must become what we were created to be again – an anti-Establishment party.
We must capitalise on the nation’s anti-establishment sentiment, and use it to propel our movement into a nationwide campaign against this government and the inequality it causes. We must take on the media and their narrative and call out their establishment-bias, their scapegoating of minorities and their outright bigotry.
Things almost always get worse before they get better, and despite our knowledge that life under the Tories is a monstrous daily struggle, no good is ever gained by taking the easy route out. Every single right and every single freedom that we, the little guy, has fought for, has been the result of immense and incalculable struggle against the establishment. We have come this far, and there should be no turning back now.
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