Corbyn Must Stay

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In the wake of the EU referendum which Britain voted to exit the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a crisis where several members of the Labour Party shadow cabinet have resigned following the sacking of Hilary Benn. Much of the media who have been hostile to Corbyn since the beginning are exerting pressure on him to quit, but Corbyn refuses to succumb to the pressure, maintaining that if he is to leave it will have to be through a democratic election.

Since Corbyn won the Labour leadership contest in September with a huge mandate, winning an unprecedentedly high share of the vote there have been several attempts to undermine his leadership, most prominently during the Syria vote in December and the manufactured anti-semitism scandal in April. The claim in December was that because Corbyn failed to unite his party into voting against the airstrikes his position had become untenable, which failed to take into account that most of the MPs in favour of airstrikes in Syria failed to provide a coherent reason for why the airstrikes would make a significant contribution in weakening ISIS and didn’t address the futility of bombing ISIS without the presence of a diplomatic plan to deal with the underlying causes of why ISIS has risen to power in Syria; the fact they refused to listen to persuasive arguments against the bombing in Syria reflects poorly on them, not Corbyn. The vote also underscored the ideological divide between Corbyn and other MPs, many of the MPs who were in favour of the bombing subscribe to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention where Western militaries are a force for good in the world. Indeed the man who made headlines during the Syria vote was Hilary Benn, he made a stylish speech which led to many in the media fawning over him but his speech was devoid of substance as he failed to outline a feasible strategy for defeating ISIS. The fawning from the media illustrated just how incompetent they are at doing their job, Hilary Benn may be an eloquent speaker but his views on the Syria vote should have been immediately dismissed on the grounds of his previous role in illegal and murderous Western interventions. He supported both the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, which serve as an indictment of his judgement on foreign policy. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Iraq war was a humanitarian disaster, he expressed no remorse for the way he voted and even worse has voted against enquiries into the war. The fact that much of the media extolled his Syria speech despite his voting record underscores how uncritical of power they are. The anti-semitism scandal which erupted in late April was manufactured to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership before his first important test in the UK local elections at the beginning of May, many MPs seised on the accusations and implied Corbyn had made anti-semitism acceptable within the Labour Party. The coup would have to be put on hold though as the disastrous results many predicted for Corbyn in the elections failed to materialise. While the anti-semitism scandal was a plot designed to weaken Corbyn, there were instances of inexcusable posts and statements made by both Naz Shah and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Corbyn acted decisively and suspended both members and explicitly stated that anti-semitism would not be tolerated within the party displaying clear leadership during a moment of crisis. But the real animosity for Corbyn stems from his dedication to the Palestinian cause, he has been a relenting and vigorous critic of the state of Israel which continues to commit crimes in Gaza and the West Bank with impunity. Many of the MPs in the Labour party are apologists for Israeli terror and find it very unsettling that someone who is overt in their hostility to the state is the leader of their party. To many of them opposition to Israeli war crimes is indistinguishable from anti-semitism which again demonstrates the invidious position Corbyn is in.

When Corbyn was elected in September he tried to pacify some MPs by assembling a shadow cabinet which consisted of people who had views quite divergent from his. But it was always bound to fail as the divisions are too severe to be reconciled. In truth Corbyn should have confronted this problem much earlier and sacked disloyal members and unified his party. But it’s good news that this problem will finally have a resolution because the situation Labour found themselves in was clearly unsustainable. It certainly was not in Corbyn’s interest to have this problem persist for much longer as a general election within the next 12 months is not inconceivable, by the time that arises ,the party has to be united behind Corbyn therefore the exodus of anti-Corbyn MPs is necessary if a Corbyn Labour can succeed. The PLP have opportunistically used the result of the EU referendum in an attempt to stage a coup against Corbyn, the glaring flaw with this strategy is most Labour party voters are closer to Corbyn’s position on the EU than with those opposed to Corbyn. Corbyn for years has been a critic of the EU as have many leftists like Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis, Owen Jones and Noam Chomsky. Many of the criticisms include the EU’s embrace of neoliberal capitalism which has had a disastrous effect on most of the world, it’s harsh imposition of austerity in peripheral EU states like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the creation of the Eurozone which has been an undeniable failure, even acknowledged by the former president of the European commission and most recently its appalling handling of the refugee crisis. The lack of enthusiasm for the EU is entirely of its own making and if Corbyn fully embraced the EU after years of reasonably outlining the very flaws of it, he would have completely lost credibility with the electorate. Voters deserve honesty, not deception and Corbyn gave them the best possible defence for remain, he like Jones, Mason and Varoufakis harbour a lot of disdain for the EU, but they understood that without a progressive alternative in place, leaving would not yield a successful outcome. In addition it’s been claimed Corbyn sabotaged the remain campaign by refusing to collaborate with Tory prime-minister David Cameron, a claim which is ludicrous in the extreme. The man who bears responsibility for the lack of cooperation is Cameron himself, as he is the man who called the referendum and the was the leader of the country campaigning to remain in the EU, it was his responsibility to avoid alienating the leader of the opposition, but in the months following Corbyn’s election Cameron labelled him as a threat to national security and a terrorist sympathiser, the hyperbolic and inflammatory language he used rendered any chance of cooperation remote. In addition, if Corbyn campaigned with the Tories he risked making the same mistake Labour did during the Scottish independence referendum when several Labour MPs campaigned alongside Tories to remain in the United Kingdom, in the general election only months later they were destroyed. The truth is, the outcome of the EU referendum is simply a pretext for the attempted coup, Corbyn campaigned without deception unlike many on the leave side and he should be commended for that.

The last few days have also reinforced just how hostile to Corbyn the media are. Despite Cameron’s humiliating defeat, the disarray the Tories are in, the lies from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who misled the electorate, the media have instead decided to focus much of their attention on Corbyn. The notion that the media are yearning for Corbyn to fail is not some crackpot conspiracy theory but one very much grounded in fact. A study from November showed the British systematically tried to undermine Corbyn’s leadership with their extremely critical coverage of him and in May former chair of the BBC trust said it was likely the BBC had shown bias against Corbyn. In addition just this weekend the appalling Daily Mail posted a very offensive picture of Corbyn with the word “Labour Must Kill Vampire Jezza” emblazoned on it, this less than 14 days after the left-wing politician Jo Cox was assassinated for her political views. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, the establishment media are averse to anyone who challenges power, and setup in way which is conducive to biased political journalism. Years ago with so many powerful forces opposed to Corbyn the likelihood that he could survive would have been remote. But with the advent of social media and the profusion of alternative media, the power they wield isn’t quite as formidable as it once was. Corbyn’s many loyal supporters are well connected on social media, and won’t let the coup succeed without a fight. Already thousands have signed a petition backing him to stay as leader, and there are plans for a demonstration in support of Corbyn tonight in London. The support from the trade-unions, grassroots movements and the Labour party members should be enough to stave off the coup attempts from the deplorable MPs. They will probably succeed in winning a vote of no confidence but it will likely trigger another leadership contest which Corbyn hopefully will win. It’s claimed that Corbyn has been a failure as a leader, but in fact his victory and the support he has received remains one of the most positive developments in UK politics for some time. In May 2015 when Ed Miliband led the party to one of its most humiliating defeats in electoral history Labour Party membership stood at 201,000, by January 2016 it rose to a whopping 388,000 a huge success on Corbyn’s part, in addition the amount of younger voters flocking to the party has exponentially increased since his victory. A criticism of Corbyn is that he comes across as mundane and uncharismatic, but I myself find that refreshing. At a time when extremism is on the rise, and dramatic figures like Trump and Boris Johnson are dominating the headlines the calmness of Corbyn is somewhat appealing, he isn’t a great orator but he speaks honestly and from the heart and I’d much prefer that than someone like Obama who has the ability to inspire and exhibits great charisma but is so disappointingly lacking when it comes to policy or principles. The claim that he’s done nothing is also absurd. Since his victory in September he’s helped force U-turns for Saudi prisons and police cuts, helped stopped Osborne’s 4.5bn welfare cuts plan, got firefighters to re-affiliate with the party, made re-nationalisation of railways an official policy, and spoke out against the UK’s role in Saudi’s hideous war in Yemen.

Study from the Media Reform Coalition in November:

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a “neutral” stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders – and claims that “the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage”. … In the days after he was selected, Corbyn was criticised for his controversial shadow cabinet appointments, policies that were at odds with the views of many of the party’s leading figures, his decision not to sing the national anthem and his poor relationship with the media after pulling out of an interview on the Andrew Marr show. … “One might expect news items, as opposed to comment and editorial pieces, to take a more balanced approach but in fact the opposite is true. A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292) were positive, versus 61% negative stories and 32% taking a neutral stance.”

“This ‘default’ position is particularly significant given how these stories make up the bulk of the coverage during Corbyn’s first week”. … The research is part of the Media Reform Coalition’s project campaigning for a reduction in the monopoly of the UK’s media ownership, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

“Newspapers have every right to take a partisan line in their reporting and freedom of the press is a key component of democratic societies,” the reports author Emily Seymour wrote, but she stressed their concern about the monopoly over ownership of UK newspapers, which they called “profoundly anti-democratic”. … “What concerns us, however, are the ownership structures underlying this degree of political intervention,” the report said. “The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it’s hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in the way that they are.”

If Corbyn is ousted, it’s the end of the Labour party. It would be a betrayal of voters and would lead to an exodus of Labour party members. I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future, there is no guarantee Corbyn could win a general election and perhaps his message won’t resonate with most of the electorate, but he’s the best man Labour have got at the moment. He’s also dragging the party further to the left which is necessary after the disaster of Blair’s tenure, and the terrible campaign Ed Miliband led. The foundations for future success are being built, Corbyn must continue.

Update: In a huge display of solidarity thousands of people have congregated to express their support of Jeremy Corbyn in both London and Newcastle. The vote of no confidence by secret ballot takes place tomorrow.