The line between productive debate and infighting has long been taut enough to draw blood – for some political garroting has been their major preoccupation over the last few months.
The vilification of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters had been hinging not only on the validity of their views but of their electoral appeal. Regarding the latter various luminaries stepped forward and prophesied a reckoning from which Labour may never recover and those who had the temerity to support the long-standing Labour MP for Islington North were decried as at best naïve and at worse deliberate wreckers. As many of the left-winger’s supporters were young people ‘grow up’ seemed an obvious and offensive epithet. It is telling that those who don’t believe in class politics in many cases show so little class in their politics.
In the interests of full disclosure I both voted and advocated for Jeremy Corbyn in both the leadership elections. This led in turn to profound disagreements with some of my kith and kin in Labour (not least of which the editor of Labour Vision…). I was informed by some that this was Labour’s last stand and that I had played a part in its destruction.
The results of the General Election signal not an end of the Labour Party but of a renewed vigour. Labour consolidated their position, gained seats, and denied the Conservatives a majority government. Labour are now well poised for a bid for government. Various commentators have questioned how this has been achieved and stated that no one could have predicted that there would be a surge of support for Labour. Yet expecting such a surge was the reason why many voted for Jeremy Corbyn.
One demographic in particular has startled the coterie of political pundits. Post-election Jeremy Corbyn asserted that he has “youth on his side”. Given the volume of young Labour volunteers engaged both attending his rallies and campaigning on the doorstep it’s difficult to disagree. “The world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind […] It is a revolutionary world we live in.” The words of Robert Kennedy seem apt for the Labour campaign – revolutionary both in tone and action. This was a campaign that coursed with vitality and enthused all those with which it came into contact.
Youth turned to – and turned out for – Labour. They identified with the message and not merely piecemeal aspects (as some would claim). The Labour manifesto declared that it was For the Many, Not the Few and each constituent part supported that central aim. Young people didn’t just engage with policies but with politics. For this they stood vilified and now stand vindicated.
It would be a disservice to say all critics of Corbyn and his supporters have been rendered silent. Many are letting their voices be heard and the word on their lips is ‘sorry’. Sorry for not engaging, sorry for not listening, sorry for the times that I have overstepped the mark. We stand at a point where we can improve the quality of discussion within Labour. A rapprochement may be reached (Labour has long benefited from dialectical debate) but must have as its bedrock the validity of a Labour party with a socialist character along with an acknowledgement that it was a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour which achieved the first parliamentary gains for the party in nearly two decades.
The vindication of those that advocated realignment back to the left must not be merely noted then ignored. Instead it must be seen for what it is – the beating socialist heart of the Labour Party – and protected accordingly. Those who advocated a transplant cannot be allowed to rip out this vital and healthy organ.
It is for this reason that I am an advocate of Open Labour (on whose National Committee I sit). Open Labour is a movement with the express purpose of ensuring that Labour members engage with left of centre ideas and in turn deliver such ideas to a wider public. We need such forums and their advocates to further embed and refine the presence of left wing ideas within Labour. After campaigning on such a manifesto it is natural that we continue to hone our policies and the form of politics we wish to champion.
Under Corbyn “a new kind of politics” has indeed emerged. A Labour Party with socialism not only at its core but in every fibre of its being – from the pages of its manifesto through to the volunteers on the doorstep.
Labour’s gains were no bolt from the blue but a rallying of the red.