I’ve shared many platforms with you, from opposing Britain’s disastrous and bloody war in Iraq to supporting investment in the economy in place of relentless and cruel austerity. Your inspiring campaign has put so many of our shared values into the centre of the debate in British politics.
Caroline Lucas to Jeremy Corbyn
As far as I know, no-one has claimed to have predicted the phenomenal progress of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Leadership campaign – and that includes Jeremy himself. Reliant on the nominations of MPs who won’t be voting for him (including Derby South MP Margaret Beckett, a supporter of Tony Benn in her young days, but now publicly regretting her action) who were persuaded to nominate him in the interest of widening the debate (and perhaps under pressure from their constituency activists), he is now the runaway leader in the race and odds on favourite to be elected when the result is announced on September 12th.
How has this happened ? Jeremy himself, in the low key, understated manner which has become a central part of his appeal, told a meeting in Manchester last weekend
“We are offering ideas and are asking people to respond… ( there is) a very broad range of support for radical ideas that have been suppressed for so long by this ridiculous consensus among party leaders at Westminster”
It is Jeremy’s success in challenging this ridiculous (and assumed) consensus that has been so significant and so pleasantly surprising. His campaign seems to involve a desire to offer hope rather than despair and cynicism, and a wish to move rather than merely chase the centre ground.
His campaign benefited from early endorsement by the UK’s largest trade unions, UNITE and UNISON responding to demands from their activists for a challenge to the ‘ridiculous consensus’ that has seen public services slashed and real wages for most workers declining. There also appears to have been a ‘red surge’ in support from both young radicals and former Labour Party members, returning to a party which they felt had left them.Many who remained in the party must also be delighted to be able to reveal their true colours and vote for someone who retains the idealism that brought them all into politics.This combination, of organised labour, young radicals and reinvigorated socialists has created a momentum which looks like winning Jeremy the leadership.
Looking at the reaction to Jeremy’s success in the media and in the political establishment, it’s interesting to see parallels with the reactions to the Green Surge and to contrast it with the reactions to the UKIP rise in popularity. UKIP’s views, despite (or maybe because of) their divisiveness were accommodated and taken very seriously by the media. The Conservative and Labour leaderships moved to challenge not the xenophobic views, but rather UKIPs monopoly in holding them. Those views were no real threat but rather a useful diversion to distract people from the real roots of our problems.
Like the Green Party, Jeremy was first dismissed as irrelevant and then ridiculed (beards, bike-riding, and dressing like a teacher apparently are serious obstacles to being taken seriously). Finally, when it became clear that he could succeed, his ideas were condemned as unrealistic and he was subjected to personal and political attacks and slurs. His proposals, like Green Party policies, are a real threat to powerful vested interests.
Well, as Gandhi said,
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
If he does win he will need all the support he can get, as he faces an all out onslaught by the political establishment and the forces of wealth and power. A meeting of Greens in High Peak at the end of August recognised this, having noted that much of what Jeremy has been saying, against austerity and illegal wars and in favour of welfare and a ‘common good’, accords with
Green Party principles and policies. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has written an open letter to Jeremy welcoming his break with ‘ consensus’ politics and looking forward to working with him “to bring about the progressive politics that has inspired us both for so many years”. The meeting welcomed this initiative and agreed with Caroline that the Green Party has much to contribute to this progressive politics, which needs to be green as well as red, addressing the issues of climate change and ecology as well as social justice, and reforming our democracy including introducing proportional representation.
Peter Allen and Jane Reynolds