Josias Senu | Editor-in-Chief, The Box | Tuesday 12 July 2016 | GMT 16:15 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Straight talking. Honest politics. That’s been Jeremy Corbyn’s slogan since his successful leadership campaign held last year in September. During that time, he certainly gave a lot of Labour party voters hope. In fact, membership figures rose from around 200,000 in May 2015 (before the 2015 general election) to around 400,000 in January 2016. So Jez (that’s what I’m calling Corbyn) certainly has an effect. I don’t know what it is, but he resonates deeply with the Labour membership.
Yet, while the media and the parliamentary Labour party staunchly advocate for the resignation of Jez (just last month, following the ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum, Labour MPs passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn by 172 votes to 40 following the resignation of around two-thirds of Jez’s Shadow Cabinet), it seems highly irrational to remove a man who has lifted a declining grassroots Labour movement from the ashes and has arguably been very successful for Labour in by-elections.
Jez has served as an MP for more than 30 years, living a distinguished career – a career that is prided upon his lack of hypocrisy, humanitarian activism and his unwavering convictions for what he believes. On the face of it, this guy is not as bad as the media helps Labour MPs make out. He’s a decent granddad. So why is there such a clamour for Jez to go? Why is the Labour party closer to splitting than ever before since the creation of the SDP in 1981? Surely, it makes absolutely no sense!
But then it absolutely does. Jez has spent almost his whole political career arguing for the UK to leave the EU. He voted against signing major treaties with the EU in 1992 and 2007. But what did he do when the British people faced the greatest political question of our century to date? He changed his mind. He lacked the conviction to follow what he’s always believed in. That’s why Jez has received so much criticism from his own MPs because he delivered a Remain campaign he only believed in for a few months.
Tony Blair described Labour’s contribution to the Remain campaign as “pretty lukewarm”. Lord Mandelson, a former Labour Deputy Prime Minister and ally of Tony Blair, said that Jez’s voice had been “curiously muted” during the campaign and “when he did say anything there were mixed messages.”
The fact is that the UK voted to leave the EU. On whatever side of the argument you’re on, it is very likely that if we were to have a second referendum there would be a significant shift in the number of votes to the Remain campaign, palpably because of the very real domestic shocks in the economy caused by the vote ‘leave’ result. And it’s not harsh to suggest Jez could have campaigned harder to win the first referendum. One survey pointed out that half of natural Labour supporters didn’t even know if the party wanted to remain in the EU.
While Jez will probably claim that the referendum kicked out the policies of a conservative government, was that really the point of the referendum? It should’ve been made clear from the offset that the referendum was not a plebiscite on the popularity of David Cameron. While Mr Cameron (soon to be former British Prime Minister by Wednesday evening), certainly could say he fought his corner passionately, with heart and vigour, I’m not entirely sure Jez could say the same with much credibility.
In the modern era, a leader of the opposition who loses the faith of his own parliamentary MPs cannot be expected to lead an effective opposition to the government. Surely, it’s in the national interest then to resign? Andrea Leadsom got the point. David Cameron got the point. And now we’re going to allow Angela Eagle (who is not exactly inspiring) to get the point too?
Two weeks ago at Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said “For heaven’s sake man. Go!” I will make no such public outcry. But I will say that as a young person watching British politics, Jez has got to be praised for defying the establishment and making the Labour party stand for something meaningful that young people can aspire to. But we’ve just left the EU. The UK does not need to witness a Labour leadership contest, a potential court challenge and the seemingly impending split of the Labour party.
Somehow, the Conservative party have a perennial ability to survive and by meritocracy have placed Theresa May in the top job. She’s said to be a “bloody difficult” woman, but equally uncompromising on her convictions. Just yesterday, she tried to step on Labour territory by outlining plans to put employees on company boards. Evidently, if a split were to happen, it would be almost insane not to think that the Labour party would be completely pushed out from the centre-ground of British politics.
Granted, I don’t speak for all young people. But where was the straight talking, honest politics when Jez needed it? Where was the steely, rebellious character we know he has during the months of the referendum campaign? Some might say that he’s now fighting harder to lead the Labour party than he did to remain in the EU. I kind of cried-laughed at that penultimate sentence…