What’s caused me to consider the issue above is a sense that in the European Union and the UK voter opinions are changing which in my view has centred on opposition to Free trade and austerity policies. On the European level Greece stands out in the way its government has opposed austerity and has been forced by the EU to agree economic policies which will increase the country’s unsustainable debt over the next 5 years in order to remain a EU member. Interestingly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been very critical of the agreement for this reason. I was listening to Radio 4 Today program on 14 August which reported that Greece and the EU had almost agreed the terms for continued financial support. On the debt question it was suggested that to keep the IMF involved there is a chance that some debt forgiveness is on offer. I’d like to add that in Europe Greece may not be alone in its opposition to austerity. In the recent Spanish municipal elections left wing coalitions which include long established members of left wing parties and ordinary voters put into power Mayors (both of whom are women) in Madrid and Barcelona which could pose a threat to the ruling right wing party’s majority in elections later this year. Pademos which has previously led the opposition to austerity and the current government coalition is having to consider an alliance with this new movement.
Over here I’ve been fixated by the Labour Party leadership elections and the increasing popularity of Jeremy Corbyn. For someone who’d call myself an ‘old style’ socialist I’ve been inspired by his slow burn low key campaign which has galvanised members like me to join his campaign. Locally I supported Jeremy’s nomination for Hackney which he won on a first vote. I attended a meeting on 3 August at Camden Town Hall which he addressed, what excited me was the enthusiasm of the audience and the clear way that Jeremy outlined policies he’d support if he becomes leader. He was clear about his opposition to austerity, a wish for the Labour Party to adopt a left wing position and opposition to international intervention in Syria. He gave the impression that a Labour Party with him as leader would attract members who’d left because of Blairism and UK involvement in Iraq, retain the current membership and reach out to disaffected voters who’d backed the SNP and UKIP in the Scottish referendum and last election . It’s clear that in the last 6 months that Labour Party membership has increased significantly, with previous members returning and a large group aged between 25-30 years who now strongly support Jeremy Corbin.
On a personal level I’ve backed the Corbin campaign by regularly joining his phone bank in London. What’s interested me there is the diversity of campaigners in terms of ethnicity, age and background which made it feel very inclusive. The passion I felt there and discussions which took place were very exciting. My take on the election process is that it was somewhat disorganised, however how membership lists were compiled became irrelevant in my view because the voting rules worked to establish a popular election which was a very interesting exercise in democracy. What surprised me and commentators was how Jeremy Corbin’s election campaign engaged with the voters, making the other candidates look lacklustre and rather devoid of ideas at times. Traditional means by previous Party leaders, political commentators and the establishment to derail the campaign didn’t work because it was clear that voters for the Labour Party Leader elections were completely turned off by that approach. My view is that this was in reaction to career politicians and their perceived need to have strong leaders who’ve debased democracy. What the Corbyn campaign has shown is that engaging with voters on a personal level without spin and with strong beliefs worked. In the event of him not becoming Party leader I think whoever wins will have to take account of the grouping who supported Jeremy Corbin in the Labour Party. It’s interesting that Andy Burnham has adjusted his campaign to be closer ideologically to Jeremy Corbin and he has said if he wins that Jeremy Corbyn will be invited to join his Shadow Cabinet.
On a broader level I think that the Conservative Party is extremely worried what will happen if Jeremy Corbyn becomes the Labour Party leader. This is because the Conservative Party has a small majority in Parliament. What was significant this week is that the Party lost a vote in Parliament about the European referendum when a coalition of the Labour Party, Scottish nationalists and anti-EU Conservatives defeated them. I think such coalitions will be possible after the Labour leader is chosen. My view is that Jeremy Corbyn as leader would use the coalition with the SNP, disaffected Conservatives and other minority Party MP’s to prevent major legislation on health, welfare, housing, fracking, nuclear power, the Middle East and refugees going through without significant revisions.
When it comes to who will be elected as Labour Party leader my view is that Jeremy Corbyn will have had a hard task to convince about 100000 long-term Party members to give him their first preference votes. His best chance is to win an outright majority with first preference votes. If the vote proceeds further I think that Andy Burnham will be likely to be the other main candidate, were this to happen I think the vote will be so tight that it’s impossible to predict the outcome. Whatever happens I think the Corbyn campaign will influence how the Labour Party operates in opposition and any leader will have to take account of voters wishes to have a different leadership style which I also think will make it possible for the Labour Party to win the 2020 election.