No leader in recent political history has been so badly assailed as Jeremy Corbyn. If it’s the not the onslaught of a vicious unilateral media attack, it’s the concerted rebellion of 172 Labour MPs who voted no confidence in his leadership during a time of national crisis.
So all the more impressive then that he withstood the challenge from Owen Smith and has been successfully re-elected to lead the Labour Party in to 2020. And all the more impressive still that, notwithstanding efforts to stamp down his support, he enlarged the percentage of his mandate to a resounding 62%.
The result, which comes as a surprise to none, follows a long and intense summer of intra-party conflict. The split can be said to reflect a divided party, with an entrenched cabal of Blairists on the one hand voting for no-confidence in the will of the majority of party members, who are younger voters with no personal or ideological investment in the New Labour project on the other hand.
The tension was bought out in to the open a little over a year ago when Jeremy was elected to lead the party, drawing in a mass of new members with a new vision of politics. The party establishment were quick to portray this as hard-left entryism, instead of seeing ways to take advantage of the potential created by a huge membership of previously alienated voters.
The goal now is to build a movement that starts with, but goes beyond, Corbyn. The party needs to find ways to harness the potential created by a huge increase in membership, drawing new members in to local parties and communities to act as conduits for positive change. The party must work to unite a local grass-roots movements which fights for workers rights with a strategy to elect radical representatives at the local and national level.
The party establishment have been keen to portray Corbyn as out of touch with the realities of seizing power but he and his talented team of supporters are on the ball, proposing specific legislation to help working people and suggesting a general direction for public policy (namely, anti-austerity policies) And he is winning support for it. We can create a fighting Labour the public wants to vote for in 2020, if only we would believe it.
Labour has a pool of talent ready to come and build the alternative party that people have voted for. MPs have subscribed to Jeremy’s calls for unity and pledged to support his vision. The grass-roots is thriving with momentum.
In a characteristically sanguine piece in the New Statesman, Diane Abbot celebrated the significance that Labour has attracted more members this year than are in the Tory party, affirming the party’s relevance to the plight of modern Britons. She reiterates the need to make Labour an anti-austerity party which fights for equality.
In the aftermath of the referendum our nation is in disarray. Economic risks are growing. Hate crime is going up. The Tories are divided, and will continue to be. Labour, too, has been pulled in to a crisis which has caused a definitive split. Meanwhile, fringe parties like UKIP seem to be the only ones to stand to gain.
It goes without saying that Labour’s priority must be to ensure that working people are protected, that our rights and jobs are not endangered any more. We have to do everything we can to fight against those who see Brexit as a mandate to shill our democracy to big business – and not turn against the leadership of Labour when the fight is elsewhere.