During the 2016 Brexit referendum, we were told by Vote Leave that leaving the European Union would deliver the biggest blow to the establishment in decades. Indeed, this is how various media outlets reported it in the aftermath. And with the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne falling from power, who could really blame them. But the truth is this the establishment weren’t against Brexit; they were divided on it. And leaving the European Union, aside from being an act of economic self-harm, isn’t going to topple from power the defenders of the status quo: those who actively work to preserve the current economic system that concentrates power and wealth within a fractional minority at the expense of the many. As far as delivering a blow to that establishment goes, no one ever came as close as Jeremy Corbyn.
Don’t get me wrong: the prospect of a Corbyn government was always a possibility, but it was never a probability. After all, Labour have been battered in the first-past-the-post electoral system since 2010. But to have a Leader of the Opposition who genuinely stood for a radically different vision of economics than the Conservative Party, well, that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. And with the surprises we’ve endured over the last decade, can you really blame the establishment for, right from the get-go, throwing the kitchen sink at the man who threatened their power? Honestly, if western governments had had that early-on attitude toward the coronavirus, we would have avoided a pandemic altogether.
I’m not surprised that the Conservative Party enforced a policy of austerity that sent millions into destitution, whilst pedalling the fantasy that it produced GDP growth and reduced the deficit. Or that they held a referendum that led to the brutal murder of an MP and tore this country apart for years, simply to win a few extra seats. I’ve even grown numb at the mass disinformation that Rupert Murdoch continues to print for their benefit. I expect it from them. It’s who they are. It’s what they do. They do it to keep power and will do anything to crush those who threaten that.
But I am appalled at the Labour Party, who are supposed to be the voice of the majority of people in this country; the way the powerful, centrist wing of the party viciously and relentlessly undermined Jeremy Corbyn’s genuinely social justice-based leadership right from his historic landslide in the party’s elections. I understand that they disagreed with his policies. That’s why we have debates. But after the debate comes the vote, and Jeremy Corbyn won that fair-and-square in 2015. Working to unseat him after that is no less despicable than the Republican Party who refuse to acknowledge Biden as president-elect.
When Tony Blair won the leadership in 1994, the left of the party accepted that graciously and worked together for the common goal of an end to Tory rule. This was on a different universe to what happened after September 2015. It wasn’t enough to baselessly force another Labour election in 2016 that only gave Corbyn a larger victory; evidence has surfaced that many senior members of the party deliberately worked to prevent a Corbyn victory in 2017. Now, I get that a Corbyn government may not be every Labour MP’s cup-of-tea. But surely, every member of the party that advocates for a fairer society, would prefer a Corbyn government to more of the same rank inequality offered by the Tories?
But clearly, ensuring his downfall as Leader wasn’t enough. Now that he is just a quiet back-bench MP, the Labour establishment rejoiced the other day at what they saw as a perfect excuse to banish him into the wilderness. Taking to twitter to state a plain and simple fact: Yes, antisemitism is a terrible disease that exists in the Labour Party, that it needs to be dealt with, but that it hasn’t helped that this has been exaggerated by political opponents and the media. Any Labour MP who says they don’t agree with that statement is lying.
Looking back on the Corbyn movement, I can’t help but draw a resemblance to Bernie Sanders in the US and how the Democratic Party establishment used their power to rig the primary elections in favour of a centrist candidate in 2016. This does not mean that Progress will never come or that their work has been useless. Change takes time. As one of Corbyn’s heroes would say, they can cut all the flowers they want, but they cannot stop the coming of spring.
Image: Wikimedia Commons