A short post to end months of ranting.
Corbyn’s victory has actually been a rude awakening for me. This is the first election “I” have ever won, and for him to win with such a staggering mandate in all three electorates (absolutely necessary for him to have any success in leading the PLP) has been a real shock. I’m now used to, and comfortable with, being sceptical, backing the underdog, and trying to convince my more idealistic friends that they have to compromise. Yet, when Corbyn’s result was announced, and the whole room erupted with applause (I was worried the PLP would boo him), my anxieties about him losing, about him not winning by enough, about him winning on the second round, etc. etc. evaporated, and, like the fool that I am, I actually got tearful. I found it impossible not to be optimistic. It was quite uncomfortable.
Now, as I write with LBC’s rolling coverage in the background, hearing posturing from MPs, learning of shadow cabinet resignations, and the posturing of the SNP who are clearly going to fight dirty, I feel I’ve already been brought back to reality, and that hubristic optimism has been chipped away.
This isn’t a bad thing. Realism is a virtue, as the fight over the coming years is going to make the last five look like nothing. But, “sober” Corbynites—those of us who cringe at #jezwecan, roll their eyes at suggestions he has “thrown out the rulebook”, who, in spite of agreeing with most of his policies, voted tactically for him or even voted against him, or those that know that the most any social democratic party can achieve is soft capitalism—we need to remember that this is a victory. We are in for a bitter battle. But, there are actually things to be enthusiastic about. I for one, am going to enjoy being able to get behind a candidate I don’t have to make excuses for while it lasts (probably about a fortnight).
For sure, the political rulebook still exists, and Corbyn’s staggering victory within the Labour party is no indication of victory in a general election. But, we have to remember that the other candidates were unelectable too. In some cases, they were even more unelectable. That Corbyn exceeded even optimistic estimates of his vote share is not nothing. It indicates he is more electable than has been reported, and that he has broader support in the party than any of us thought.
Further, the sheer scale of his mandate and his victory speech, in which he was careful to stress the inclusivity and democratic process, both indicate he will have a better chance of uniting the PLP than we could have hoped. A party split to me now seems unlikely, though unfortunately still not impossible. He is doing everything he needs to do to keep them together. His promise of democratic selection of policy, whatever form it takes, means he is not going to force Corbynomics or any of the other policies he put forward on the PLP, and include them in the formation of a strong opposition against a Tory party who are weaker than they seem.
It is because of this move that, despite our reservations about electoral victory and press coverage, we have to get behind Corbyn wholeheartedly. The solution to Corbynmania is not doomsaying, it is to support our leader in his promised project to reform the way the labour party works. I say this not because I want a democratic Labour party for its own sake, but because it will result in shadow policy that is to the right of Corbyn’s platform and the more naïve of his supporters are going to be in for a shock. This can go one of two ways.
It could prove to be a very clever way of inducting new and returning members of the party who identify as socialist into the necessities and compromises of parliamentary politics. Feeling included in the process of compromising with the centre left, they will be less inclined to split (again), and may even feel ownership of this process. I think this is Corbyn’s real goal, and if anything can re-unite the left under the red rose, it could be this.
The alternative, and danger, is that this democratic selection of policy, as valid as Corbyn’s election, could be perceived as Corbyn going to the right, and betraying his mandate for change. Labour will be “proved” to be as corrupt as ever and it will be party time in Green HQ (bring your own hummus).
Those expressing outrage about the Labour Purge may have been defending democratic ideals then, but that is no indication that they will be so keen on democracy when it isn’t going their way. This must be prevented if possible, and, for this reason alone, we all have to sing Corbyn’s praises, sceptical as we may be.