I don’t define myself as a ‘Corbynite‘, neither would I define myself as a ‘moderate‘ or a ‘Blairite‘ or ‘Brownite‘ or any other label. I am a Labour party member (my personal politics are inherently socialist). I joined after my first election in 2010, having voted for the first time aged 18. This was an odd time to join Labour, it lost the 2010 election to the ‘coalition’. I was a member of the ‘Labour-Students’ at university from September 2010 until around the end of 2011. Then I just didn’t renew my membership. I didn’t stop supporting Labour, once or twice I nearly joined the ‘Greens’, whilst in my third year, but Labour is my party. I graduated from university in the summer of 2013 and returned to my home town. I rejoined just before the 2015 election to help my local CLP with campaigning, delivering leaflets, canvassing ect.
A little background information:
I’m from Bassetlaw, a Labour seat. My dad has been a miner, an NHS nurse (in a psychiatric-criminal hospital) and is now an ‘lubrication technician’ at a power-station (or grease-monkey) , as he puts it. His dad (my grandfather) was an Italian immigrant and a labourer who came from post-war Italy (the traditionally economically devastated south Foggia, San Marco) to build for himself, and his family a better life. My great-grandfather came with him. Both worked in Britain’s concrete factories, during the post-war house building projects of the Attlee government. When they had earned enough money in 1959, they sent for my great-grandmother, my grandmother, her sisters, her brothers and much of the village, all moved to Britain. At the first opportunity, all joined trade unions. My dad is a member of the NUM (National Union of Minerworkers), the POA (Prisoner Officer Association) & Unison. He didn’t vote in the labour leadership election, (he could of as an affiliate by virtue of his membership of the above unions). He has always stressed to me the importance of collective bargaining & strong union rights to support workers (when they are needed, and they are now more than ever).
On my ‘English’ side (my mothers side) my family is also from the working class. My Grandad was a brick-layer. During the Second world war, he was conscripted and fought in Belgium & Germany in the Rifle Brigade. He never collected his medals, and as with so much of that generation, he never spoke of his service or combat.
This plays into why I will always feel an affinity to Labour. It is my party, the party of working people. Labour governments have done so much for the British people. The Clement Attlee government, following the cataclysm of the second world war, built the basis of the modern British welfare state. Attlees Labour created the NHS, the institution of legal aid & built more than a million homes (80% of which were council houses). The government of Harold Wilson engaged in vast social reforms which changed the face of Britain for the better. His government supported backbench MPs in liberalising laws on censorship, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, and abolished capital punishment. Further crucial steps were taken towards stopping discrimination against women and ethnic minorities. Massive reforms were implemented in Comprehensive Education , Housing & Family Allowances.
Even despite its many failings on civil liberties, the unmitigated catastrophe & humanitarian disaster of the invasion of Iraq, the banking sector & its acceptance of PFI (to name but a few) the Blair & Brown years should (in my humble opinion) be acknowledged for the benefits they brought to Britain . The introduction of a minimum wage, devolving greater power to the Scottish Parliament & in Wales, and reducing poverty markedly among children and pensioners, when compared to the extremes of destitution of 18 years of Conservative government. Blair’s government (in a formal legalistic manner) banned the barbaric practices of fox hunting. ”New” Labour under both Brown & Blair, invested heavily in flood defences , invested in the NHS & introduced Civil Partnerships & the Human Rights Act.
Despite its failures (on civil liberties & human rights, in foreign policy, becoming too complacent in regards to inequality, and its all to comfortable relationship with both Murdoch & the banking sector) it is because of the above, all these achievements that have built & transformed modern Britain, I support the Labour party, even when I was not a member. As 2016 begins, I find myself uncertain, very uncertain. As I said I’m not a ‘Corbynista’ , I am not a militant ‘Trot‘ nor am I a ‘Stalinist’. Equally I am not a ‘Blairite‘, I am not ‘blue labour‘ / ‘Brownite‘ or a member of the ‘Judean Peoples Front‘. (Little joke about factionalism).
Given what I think I am not, I don’t know what that makes me. I’m sure for many it makes me a coward, makes me someone unable to commit with no moral compass or sense of certainty. Maybe that makes me a ‘red tory’ (I hope not.) I wish I had certainty. But here is what I do know; I am lucky. Because of the hard work of my great-grandfather, grandfather & father, I have been able to attend university (the first in my families history). I have never personally experienced abject poverty, and statistically because of my education & qualifications, nor am I likely too. I have been instilled with a sense of where I have come from, and how far my family, as with so many other families, have come.
I think of myself as a ‘socialist‘. I believe that the state needs to be ‘strategic‘ as Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell have been arguing. I am not happy at all with the state of modern ‘capitalism’ and the terrible consequences of the banking collapse. The ‘ponzi’ schemes and financial alchemy that devastated the global economy need to be addressed. I support the re-nationalisation of the railways. Being a regular rail-commuter for work, it doesn’t make sense that British tax-payers should subsidise the profits of private firms and foreign state-owned operators. I believe in not cutting the welfare state to the bone, the short-term costs of investing in infrastructure (roads, railways, broadband ect) are dwarfed by the potential long-term benefits. Nothing has reinforced my belief in properly funding public services & infrastructure than the recent crisis of the floods (exacerbated by coalition cuts to flood defence budgets). From 2011 onwards the Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition cut, year after year the budget for investment in Britain’s flood-defences. For the sake of Osborne’s austerity & saving approximately £200 million, the damage caused by the exacerbation of the impact of flooding that stems from these cuts, may top £5bn. This ‘cut now, pay much more later’ attitude shows the stupidity of the Conservative party and their mentality in government.
I despise the cosy, ‘revolving door‘ between government departments & major corporations reliant upon the public sector. It is often a case of ‘socialism for the rich‘ and capitalism for everyone else. G4S, for example, continues to receive very lucrative government contracts, despite failure after failure & causing untold human misery. In 2012, £4bn of taxpayers’ money was paid into the accounts of the largest private contractors: Serco, G4S, Atos and Capita. At the time Margaret Hodge observed that this outsourcing had created:
…quasi-monopolies, the inhibiting of whistle-blowers, the trapping of taxpayers into lengthy contracts, and a number of contracts that are not subject to proper competition.
At the end of 2013, the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into Serco and G4S, after they allegedly overcharged the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds for the electronic tagging of clients. ATOS, the infamous French IT firm tasked by the Department of Work and Pensions with assessing the ability of disability benefits claimants to work, has been linked (arguably directly responsible) for the deaths many individuals declared ‘fit for work’. Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed that during the period December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were found fit for work.
Between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,580 recipients of ESA had died. Of this number, 2,380 – or 4.7% – had received a decision that they were fit for work.
I know that I support Trade Union rights. For me the TUBill represents an abhorrent, regressive & draconian piece of legislation. It is a clear attempt to reduce the ability of trade unions to fund not only political parties but a wide range of non-party political entities. These proposals represent an attack on & attempt to de-politicise the trade union movement, in order to prevent opposition to government policy & de-fund the Labour Party. Workers’ rights have been decimated under the coalition & even further by Cameron’s majority government. Strong trade unions are needed now more than ever.
I also know that I support the NHS. Too me it represents the best elements of progressive socialism & public service. Many of my friends from university & secondary school are studying to be doctors or are currently junior doctors. Other friends of mine have studied & trained to be nurses. Plans to remove the student nurses bursary are absurd & another example of pigheaded stupidity by Cameron’s government. Again, as with junior doctors contracts, its the Tory government attacking the NHS which is already at breaking point. It is short-termism distilled & Jeremy Hunt & Osborne are beyond foolish – they are engaged in a deliberate attack on the NHS. The Conservatives have been undermining the NHS. They have slashed its budgets, gutted & decimated services via the Health & Social Care Act. Annual increases in the health budget, designed to keep pace with a growing and ageing population, have been severely reduced – meaning that the NHS has been through the longest, and most damaging budget squeeze in its history. There is a shortage of GPs meaning patients are struggling to get an appointment to see their doctor. Pressures on maternity services mean that many women are not getting the high quality care they deserve. Major accident and emergency departments in England have failed to meet their waiting times targets year on year.
I did not support extending British military involvement and air-strikes into Syria. As emotive & ‘barnstorming’ as Hilary Benn’s speech was as to the vile fascist nature of da’esh I do not believe bombing in Syria by the UK will help resolve the civil war or prevent terrorism. In the short term, yes it is likely targets will be hit (with or without civilian casualties I cannot say – but more than likely with). As to the fact that da’esh is a manifestation of death, intolerance and fascism, again Hilary was correct. Yet Benn’s conclusion, that bombing is the only way to deal with them was wrong in my view. I will not go into greater detail in this post, however I will point to the arguments of radical Tory David Davis MP, and commentator Matthew Parris ,which I find persuasive.
To reiterate, I also know that I am uncertain. Though I don’t consider myself a ‘Corbynista‘ I do however support Jeremy Corbyn as the democratically elected leader of my party. His politics are close to my personal politics. (I will admit, however, that I voted for him as my second preference in the leadership election, voting for the apparently ‘electable‘ Andy Burnham first). Jeremy won with over 59.5% of first-preference votes, and this was across the board (party members, trade union affiliates & £3 voters).
He has grown and grown on me since the beginning of the leadership race. It was only the click of a mouse that stopped me putting him as my first preference. I racked my conscience over the decision of whom to vote for. I believed (however incorrectly) that whatever the closeness of my personal beliefs to those of Jeremy Corbyn, I was voting for who I thought the wider electorate would perceive (note my use of that word) as a potential PM. In the end I voted for Andy Burnham as my first preference because he seemed like a ‘politician‘, a blank technocratic man in a suit straight from the SPAD political machine.
Corbyn has shook both Labour & Westminster to the core. In his first 100 days (very turbulent 100 days) he has done alot of good within the party. Membership, which was at around less than 200,000 in May has increased since his election to well over 370,000. 15,000 people joined in the week following his victory. Conor Pope, staff writer for Labour list observes:
By drastically changing the nature of the main opposition in this country, he will ensure that the sands of our political landscape will have shifted unrecognisably by the time he exits the scene.
In a Guardian survey (which received around 12,000 responses – 62% identifying as Labour members) the majority of respondents felt that Corbyn would win him enough new converts to take the battle to the Conservatives – and even win 2020’s general election. In regards to Labours victory over the Conservatives on tax credits, it would not have happened without Jeremy Corbyns steadfast rejection of austerity politics. Without him, and the pressure he has applied in writing to David Cameron on issues of human rights, there would have been no government u-turn on contracts to run Saudi-Arabian prisons. Labour has opposed the absurd fiscal charter and defeated the Conservative government plans for massive cuts to the police.
I am a big fan of his style of Prime-Ministers Questions (PMQs) looking down his glasses at the braying Torys on the opposite side of the house, like a teacher too misbehaving pupils. He seems to me calm & collected in the face of childish noises from the government benches. He has substance whereas all Cameron has is style (flashman) and empty rhetoric. At his second PMQs, when Corbyn fielded a question from a member of the public, ‘Kelly’, Tory MPs laughed, seriously watch the video, actually laughed at the plight of ‘Kelly’ as Corbyn spoke. Liam Young, writing in the Independent observed:
‘Some may find this funny,’ he said, as he continued to talk about mass inequality and the housing problem in London. It was a subtle highlight of something glaringly obvious: for millionaires protected by Tory policies, inequality bolstered by unfair taxes and buy-to-let properties really is hilarious.
Bloody hell its Jeremy Corbyn’s lot! No shoot to kill! Love the Terrorists! I’m voting UKIP!
Now this is no indicator of the entire electorate a few days canvassing in Oldham West & Royton cannot be used to draw a general trend as to broader national voting intention and the appeal of Labour under Corbyn. UKIP obviously didn’t win in Oldham. Labour held the seat with a solid majority. However, I think much of that was down to Jim McMahon being a fantastic local candidate who really really cared about his community and understood the issues it faced.
I hope that I haven’t come across as opposed to Jeremy Corbyn. I write this more to vent my worries, and my thoughts on Labour for 2016 onwards. I want the case to be that 2016 is a great year for Labour. I intend to do everything I can to make sure Labour does really, really well in May 2016. I want my doubts and worries to be wrong and baseless. I want it to be the case that with Corbyn as leader Labour is electorally successful. I have always been an individual with a perspective of a ‘glass half-empty‘ than full. I often plan for the worst, assume the worst will happen, perhaps so I can be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t . I want a Labour government in 2020, because the alternative is more suffering at the hands of uncaring Torys. I don’t think Corbyn is perfect, but neither do I think he has been a disaster. If a week is a very long time in politics, four years must be a century, or even a millennia. Further, 3 months is not enough time to judge any individuals performance in any role, never mind to assess the efficacy of someone as leader of a major political party. I don’t want to jump the gun.
Jeremy Corbyn has big plans for 2016, he has explicitly said in his new years video blog that:
….we have to challenge them much more next year. Much more on their cuts to local government and their lack of investment in the needs of our economy and our people. We want to build an economy fit for the 21st century. 2016 will be the start of a journey to deliver a Labour government in 2020. A Labour government that will deliver a fairer, more just, more prosperous society, that we can all enjoy. A society that works for all not for the few.
I like what I am hearing. To me this sounds like exactly what is needed for Britain. Hopefully this message will resonate with the electorate on the door-steps. I want that niggling voice and the doubts in the back of my mind to be wrong.
By Frederick Antonio Gallucci | International Law LLM | @gibblegbble