Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader carried with it a change in the political landscape of Britain. An unprecedented shift from the 35 years of plastic politics, with an attempt to bring back some humanity into parliament. Corbyn has a massive battle on his hands if he wants to unite his party under this ‘kinder politics’. But he has already successfully challenged the political consensus and is starting to create an alternative to the Tory agenda. At last it seems the Labour party could be the party it once was, and the party it needs to be. At last the Government is not presented with a mirror from the opposite benches, but a real alternative to austerity, to conservativism, and to the bottom-up redistribution of wealth. Labour has a chance to stand up for the people that the Tories don’t. Let’s hope they take it.
Labour have always been a ‘Broad Church’, with a mixture of different stances, views and thoughts on policy. These different thoughts and feelings can sometimes be seen as dissent within the party, but really it is just healthy political debate. At the end of the last century and the start of this one, Labour was represented by a certain type of this broad church; the Blairites. With over a decade in power, they reconstructed Labour to be a party with a drastically more right-wing stance than the Labour party of years before. A party that seemed to be a reaction to the political environment left behind by Thatcher and Major. Blair’s ascension to becoming leader of the ‘New Labour’ movement may have got the Tories out of power, but did it get Tory politics out of power? No. Blair was Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievement, turning Labour into a party of tory-light ideals. The absence of an alternative policy to the Tories’ led to the rise of a multi-party system in Britain. In essence, the Labour party was infiltrated by supporters of the ‘New Labour’ movement, a movement of Tories trying to claim Labour as their own. They led a successful annexation of Labour and now, they still claim the party to be theirs. Now they have a leader that opposed this annexation, a leader that represents what Labour once did; the working people, equality and social justice. But when you have had more than a decade to consolidate Labour to what it was during its time under the Blairites, it is going to be a challenge to move it to the left.
What we see today is a struggle not only over the Labour party, but over the shape of politics as a whole. Jeremy Corbyn has been voted in on a mandate that exceeds any party leader prior to him. This must show something, it must show the failure of Blairism and the need for a real alternative. But no, the PLP- which is mostly consisted of these Blairites- are defying their new leader, saying he is unelectable. The reality is that Jeremy Corbyn is challenging the political consensus, he is providing a clear alternative, and he is representing a politics not of hate, fear and spin, but of compassion, hope and truth. Something the Blairites are not exactly used to.
What I think Corbyn represents, and I think most people would agree, is a different use of politics, one that we seemed to have forgotten. Politics is a decision making mechanism by which we shape the type of society we wish to live in. What the political consensus seems to have been for the past thirty five years is a politics used for the benefit of the few, not the many. Thatcherism is the elephant in the commons, it was the cause of this change in consensus, a change that has cost us 35 years of social prosperity.
Thatcher endorsed the decentralization of the state and wanted to give any asset we have as a country to ‘the markets’. This policy has become the consensus over 35 years of right-wing Governments, Governments that have failed the many, and continually propped up the few. Corbyn represents a politics that was only really seen during the post-war, pre-Thatcher years, where Britain was run in the interests of the many, not the few. Within these years, we saw the working class come back from a devastating war and they were fed up. Fed up by being used as pawns in wars created and maintained by the elites. They came back and wanted to make sure that the devastation that they experienced, would never repeat itself again. They wanted a society that was no longer run by the establishment, but a society that was run by real representatives, from all walks of life. It was the British revolution, or rather evolution, of British political thought. During this time we had a deficit that made the one we have today look like a walk In the park, yet we did not have austerity. Instead we invested in the country, in the economy. Atlee’s welfare state, one of the greatest political achievements in British history. The NHS was created, the benefits system and real investment in people, at the same time as having a deficit bigger than the one we see today.
We lost this type of politics at the end of the 70s, when Thatcher initiated the destruction of all that we had built up since the war. We need the type of politics that was present before Thatcher. We need a type of politics that invests in us, the people. Because, at the end of the day, we make up the majority of the country, we are the people who need investment, who need the institutions that we would call quintessentially British and who don’t want to see the type of politics that the Tories advocate. Corbyn is a show of the tensions that have been brewing since Thatcher took the reigns. He is a representation of how fed up we are of being lied to, exploited, and continually punished for the failures of the Capitalist system we use in Britain.
The British people are now presented with an alternative to the political consensus. This is and will continue to be undermined by the right wing press, right wing parties and even Corbyn’s right wing colleagues in the PLP, but Jeremy Corbyn is in charge now. Labour has a leader that can represent us, that can understand the problems we face today and won’t carry on with the taking of money from the most vulnerable people in our society as a ‘solution’ to these problems. Labour has a leader that is giving socialism a voice after being denounced so many times by people who claim to represent a party founded on those very same socialistic principles. What we need to think is whether the past 35 years have actually created a Britain that our fathers, grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers would be proud of. We need to look at what the role of a Government should be, to work in the interests of the many, or the few. We need to consider why we are allowing Atlee’s welfare state to crumble right in front of our own eyes. To crumble at the hands of a jealous, deceitful and malicious group of people who say ‘we are all in this together’, but decide to destroy the most vulnerable, in favour of the most powerful. Jeremy Corbyn is a representation of the problems the Tories are creating. He is asking the things an opposition should be asking, representing a politics of hope, against a consensus of fear. We are being given a chance, the Tories have power, and they will continue to wield it if we don’t put some questions to our conscience.
Corbyn has changed politics, and has given us something to hope for, not despair. At last we have something that resembles real Labour in the commons. After 35 years of adhering to the Tory agenda in order to pick up Tory voters, we may now be starting to realise that Blairism is a lie. It is not compatible with today’s society. The Government needs to be continually held accountable for their agenda and we need to provide a real alternative. Blairism was only a method of withdrawal from the Thatcher era, now we have a chance to consolidate as a party and provide something different. A new take on an old type of politics, a politics that works for the many not the few.
This may be our last chance. Corbyn may be the last hope for Socialism. The Labour party should be getting behind their leader with the knowledge that, if they don’t, The Tories will continue their agenda against the most vulnerable in our society. Corbyn’s contribution to politics in the Labour party is one that could be the key to getting the Tories out. What we need as a country is a Labour party that is opposing the Government, something that Corbyn is doing. Labour has the ability to kick Cameron out, but they need to accept Corbyn. Let’s make sure we are not being divided by the Tories in order for them to conquer us. Let’s instead conquer the Tories with the democratic will of the people. One last chance, one last hope.