Debate: We all have an interest in Labour’s future
A discussion piece from Michael Chessum on Labour and the political landscape after the EU referendum19th July 2016
This is a discussion piece reflecting the author’s views. Another Europe does not take a position on the Labour leadership election.
You have until Wednesday at 5pm to sign up for a vote in the Labour leadership contest. If you can you should and there’s no doubt about who we should be supporting.
The past few weeks have been terrifying in many ways. Those of us who warned of the dangers of Brexit have, unfortunately, much reason to feel vindicated. Hate crime has spiked. The tabloid press is cock a hoop. The Tory Party has united and looks for all the world like it might form a stable government – continuing a ruthless politics of austerity and migrant-bashing with a newer, fluffier style.
As we come to terms with the result and plan a wider campaign, we must engage directly with the political landscape. We need a government – and fast – committed to freedom of movement and an alternative to austerity, which seeks to empower people to improve their lives rather than washing them down in a rhetoric of “taking back control”.
Whatever formulation you choose – and personally I am favourable to some kind of political alliance – it is extremely likely that the central part of the political force that will achieve lasting social progress in Britain will be the Labour Party. You simply have to take an interest in what is happening in the current leadership contest – and, if you are eligible, I want to convince you to sign up and vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
For some people involved in Another Europe is Possible this might seem like a strange proposition. Corbyn is widely portrayed a closet Eurosceptic who only campaigned lukewarmly for Remain. In reality, however, Corbyn’s position on the EU was not really different to that of Another Europe: he was, like us, opposed to the neo-liberal dogma which was absorbed into the text of EU treaties; he was, like us, critical of the EU’s institutions and policies.
But like us, Corbyn, came out for Remain because he understood what a Leave vote would mean, and what EU membership did for migrants, workers and the environment. Corbyn’s supporters were our supporters; Momentum gave us heavy support in the final stages of the campaign; and both Corbyn and his close allies – Clive Lewis, Julie Ward, John McDonnell and others – toured the country, mostly under our banner, drawing big crowds.
The next few years are going to be tough. Against a backdrop of and with our real enemies (the Conservatives and UKIP) regrouped and united, we will have to make a case for freedom of movement, human and workers’ rights, environmental protections, and a real democratic mandate (probably a second referendum) for what comes next. There is absolutely no doubt as to who we should prefer to be Labour leader during that time. Corbyn is the only candidate who has consistently supported the cause of migrant rights, and stood shoulder to shoulder with workers and campaigners – even he was isolated and his case inside Labour looked hopeless.
The attempts to remove Corbyn, on the other hand, are being run by a grouping of centrist social democrats whose political tradition and record in government got us into this mess in the first place. Eighteen years of Tory rule smashed working class communities all over Britain. But it was New Labour that failed to build social housing, advanced privatisation of the NHS and public services, and presided over a massive increase in social inequality.
And it was New Labour who, working in lockstep with the tabloid press, used easy scapegoats: immigrants, asylum seekers and their great protector, the European court of human rights. The people running the coup against Corbyn spent years boasting about how ‘tough on something’ they were, or working for people who did.
Owen Smith may have intimated that he wants a second referendum on the terms off exit, a position not a million miles away from our own – but what Smith is talking about is a process. What we need is something much bigger than that: to win public support for freedom of movement, to find a democratic way out of this disaster, we need to address people’s concerns and win them round. That means a radical social programme, a clear principled campaign against the scapegoating of migration, and a mass movement to push our demands forward. And on that, Jeremy Corbyn is simply the only show in town.
If you are eligible to do so, please sign up as a registered supporter of the Labour Party in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. You have until Wednesday 20th July at 5pm to do so. You will not need to do this if you were already a Labour member before January 12th 2016.
Michael Chessum is a member of Momentum’s national steering committee
Another Europe is Possible is a diverse, cross-party campaign and does not have a position either on membership of the Labour Party or on its leadership election. We publish this piece in the spirit of free debate among our supporters.