Is it just me, or does the assertion ‘Jeremy Corbyn will make the Labour Party unelectable’ sound not only premature, given he was only elected only slightly before we all started making lunch today, but also somewhat illogical? Does the surge in political engagement and the momentum he has gained, not to mention the overwhelming support he has seen outpouring from ‘traditional’ Labour voters, ie. the Left wing, ie. the people for whom Labour was founded in the first place, plus his electoral obliteration of his opponents, say that there might just be a few people around who would vote for Labour if the were a bit more, you know, Labour?
What the Corbyn campaign has achieved is what so many of us on the Left have been crying out for since the day Tony Blair sent our soldiers into Iraq, namely, a fundamental re-evaluation of what Labour means. Do we have to accept the role of the reluctant yet opportunist props to neo-liberalism, of middle-of-the-road panderers to voters on final salary pensions who would switch to any party that promises not to divert any part of their wealth to, say, the generation that’s now paying for their free healthcare? Do we have the right to call ourselves Labour if we’re embarrassed of our relationships with unions? Do we have the right to call ourselves Labour if none of our shadow cabinet has ever had to support a family on the minimum wage? Are we Labour if we demean the working class roots of the Labour movement and the people who still live in conditions unbefitting of a G20 country, in favour of courting swing voters, the middle classes, the Stoke Newington set and retired Labour voters with a bit of capital?
For the first time in two decades the Labour party is being forced to have this conversation with itself, and it’s thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. Labour supporters, pundits and politicians have been calling out for this, and finally it has arrived. Perhaps now, the radical agenda of the Cameron government might come in for some effective criticism. Perhaps now, mainstream political debate can move away from focussing on who is coming into this country and from where, and instead focus on what is being done to the citizens of this country by people the right wing have elected to lead it. Namely, the asset stripping of public services, the demonisation of the poor, the abandonment of the younger generation, the accession of domestic autonomy to multi-nationals? With Jeremy Corbyn, these difficult conversations may finally get some attention. Maybe he won’t win a general election, who knows? But he will change the complacent debate surrounding what sort of country we want to live in, and maybe, just maybe, enough people will come out of the woodwork who have voted Labour just so as to beat the tories, and actually get to vote for a leader they believe in. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance under Corbyn that Labour might once again be able to be Labour.