Throughout Jeremy Corbyn’s run as leader of the Labour Party, his politics have been embattled and scorned by the powerful. The beginning of his rising popularity throughout the summer of 2015 had a symbolic value. Corbyn became the catalyst for an articulation of the disillusionment felt by many concerning parliamentary democracy. Elites and liberals looked on with mysticism as it seemed that power within the party could be taken away from where they felt it belonged. Once it became the reality that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected leader with a huge mandate, his competitors being 3 forgettable ‘Labour moderates’ with bile softly cushioning their nerve endings, the media and the Conservative Party immediately took the opportunity to encroach on this dissent which they were now being forced to pay attention to. They felt that Corbynism represented a heterodoxy against the fatalism of neoliberalism, and they were terrified.
This has continued pretty much consistently throughout his tenure as leader, his fortitude delineating from a significant grassroots base which always remained loyal to his ideals and worked to push his policies into public discourse. I have not been uncritical of Corbyn. His politics are not quite the same as mine. Not only this but I think the Labour Party is probably the least inspiring vehicle for a socialist project that we have in the country. Just as consistently as his base were trying to authenticate him, the mediocrities of the Parliamentary Labour Party were always pissing themselves for attention, attempting to undermine him. I was nervous that, amidst all of this, the party would damage the chances of left-wing politics being taken seriously (not to say that I blamed Corbyn himself).
The snap election however, called in April 2017 by Theresa May, was a time for the left to rally behind the Labour leader unequivocally. The campaign that Jeremy Corbyn fought signified a lurch from the configuration of the post-Thatcherite politics, which has been febrile and panting as it has thrusted and fucked a generation over the past two decades. Throughout this election, it is not surprising that there had been a huge speculation about turnout. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership pitch was, from the start, that he would bring back lost voters, people who have given up and felt alienated from the system. Therefore, with the enthusiasm for the manifesto, the success on Corbyn’s part depended on the youth turnout, discontented swing voters in Conservative held safe seats and sweeping up a significant portion of the UKIP, Green and Liberal Democrat votes. He needed to confound expectations.
The platform that the Labour leadership ran their election campaign on was fundamentally one of change. Upon it’s unveiling to the public, the programme which Corbyn and his close team had set out in his manifesto was received incredibly well across all of the different categorisations of the electorate. The minimalist case to vote for Labour which we had seen in previous elections had now been shattered. This was a truly transformational set of policies and an exciting pitch to get behind to begin galvanising support for across Britain. Within the manifesto we saw considerable possibilities for the reversal of devastating Tory politics, such as the scrapping of tuition fees, ending the freeze on welfare benefits and free childcare with an extension of maternity pay. There were also pledges to bring back the rail, energy and water companies into public ownership, a potential here to save millions and run efficient services. This would largely be paid for by the raising of corporation tax from 20% to 26% and increasing the income tax for the very wealthiest in our society.
The line which the Tories kept peddling throughout the campaign was that “Labour is taking us back to the 1970s”, not only is this facile and something which ideologically indiscriminate losers would lap up exclusively, it’s also a dire misrepresentation of what the leadership of Labour were proposing. It goes beyond nostalgia and presents a plausible practicality as outlined in their comprehensive ‘Alternative Models of Ownership‘ report:
“Nothing other than the creation of an economy which is fairer, more democratic, and more sustainable; that would overturn the hierarchies of power in our economy, placing those who create the real wealth in charge; that would end decades of under-investment and wasted potential by tearing down the vested interests that hold this country back (p. 32).”
With this ethos firmly rooted in his politics, Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign slogan was, “For the many, not the few”. Although it’s ultimately a slogan, a profound radicalism, evident in his programme, bolstered its meaning. There is no questioning, in any corner of our media, on Corbyn’s exceptional ability for campaigning effectively any more. His palpable fury toward the elite and the way that our country is run is consolidated in the resounding speeches which he gives on how things need to change. This is where he excels. He traveled across the country – to Tory marginals, to Labour marginals, to Tory strongholds, attracting crowds in their thousands to deliver his message for a progressive politics.
Polling day for the election was June 8th and an increased turnout from the disenfranchised voter groups was Labour’s priority. The Conservatives don’t need to consider this, their messaging on polling day is significantly different. Theirs is one of fear for the calamity they feel a Labour government would cause to their blessed order of things. They know that the elderly people close to death will turn out in swathes and do anything to stop the tide from taking their pension, or something. It’s just common sense to vote for the Conservatives, and the common sense in the UK is always from the point of view of warfare. They will vote for whichever candidate would seem more threatening to the world if their face were to be projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover. The electorate would largely be more comfortable to see the destruction of millions of people and the beginning of the apocalypse rather than see society change before them by just 1% for the better. They cast their vote to prevent what they see as an inevitable decline in their way of life.
Needless to say for anybody who had the curiosity to find out what was going on, when the exit poll was revealed and the results began to come in, the Labour leadership and the mobilisation behind Corbyn had proven to be a phenomenal success. They gained seats in places which had been Conservative ever since the Anglo-Saxon settlers dragged a great beast ashore which burrowed its way underground and poisoned the dirt beneath us. Canterbury and Kensington were won, key marginal seats swung to Labour and Tory safe seats across the country had their majorities drastically reduced by party candidates and campaigners. The final count had the Conservatives at 318 seats (8 short of a majority government) and Labour at 262. The pedants and intellectually dishonest clods will insist that this is a parliamentary defeat. The reality is that the Tories were the largest party and it is likely that Theresa May will form a coalition government with the DUP. However, the resounding victory of hope in this election is clearly inexplicable to them.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign had brought a new kind of power into possibility. A shift towards workers’ rights and a reversal of the undercutting of wages. Emancipatory rights for women, with maternity support and investment in vital services. A move towards national self-determination. Public ownership of our industries. Free higher education, leading to the expansion of literacy. An unlocking of opportunity for each and every one of us. These were our incantations, and they landed. We saw an unprecedented surge, unseen in British political history, in support for a progressive programme. It was a dissolving of the neoliberal certainties imposed on us.
What we are seeing is Theresa May’s party in disarray. She called a self-serving general election to wipe out the opposition and she lost her gambit emphatically. For weeks we were warned of a “coalition of chaos” by the Conservative Party. In the best way possible, ironically, this is exactly what has instead now transpired with the Tories and the DUP. She remains as leader of a weak party, a minority political force. The course of the next parliament and the next general election are ours. Irrespective of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is not yet our Prime Minister, this is a project which is necessary to emulate for the left across the world, a blueprint for reform and then to socialism. It’s worth pursuing, to goad what is considered human nature under capitalism, because in the seam of our ruinous world leaders, it’s the only thing that can save us. But don’t mourn, comrades, melancholise.