Jeremy Corbyn: “old-fashioned”, “not credible” and even “anti-Semitic”. It seems if there is a way to tarnish Corbyn, then politicians and the right-wing media will jump at any opportunity.
Corbyn entered the leadership race as the rank outsider and has now surged to the top of the polls as the favourite. After a surprising triumph for the Tories in this year’s General Election, it is no surprise that Labour supporters, amongst others on the left, are traumatised by the outlook of the next five years. These bewildered supporters are in search of a new leader who will act as a sincere opposition to the Tories…. Enter Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn has been described as a “breath of fresh air” by his supporters; after all, he was the only leadership candidate to oppose the Tories’ welfare bill in the House of Commons. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper may personally oppose it, but they only abstained from voting and did not contribute to preventing the bill from passing. Since Corbyn’s surge in popularity, politicians from his own party, including ex-PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have been warning voters of the problems Labour will face if he wins the leadership race. Many have made reference to the party’s split in the 1980s, when the ‘Gang of Four’ (Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers and David Owen) left Labour and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Let’s rewind to 1983, when Michael Foot was ready to face Margaret Thatcher in his first General Election as party leader. Foot’s manifesto – dubbed by Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman as the “longest suicide note in history” – had many policies which are still hot topic today. Foot was fighting for a national minimum wage, which even the Tories’ are now proposing to increase in the next few years, and the abolition of fox hunting – a policy which was strongly opposed back then but is now considered barbaric amongst even some Tories. He was also calling for closer control over bank lending – a prospect which could have prevented the Global Banking Crisis of 2008 hitting the UK as hard as it did – and the, still divided, decision to scrap nuclear warheads in the UK. So, to dismiss Corbyn as a “dinosaur” for still believing in the Socialist views of Foot is hardly fair or, necessarily, true.
It is also important, however, to look at Labour’s crippling defeat in the 1983 General Election. The general public were not ready for Foot’s radical vision, and Labour lost 60 seats in parliament (269-209) gaining only 27.6% of the vote. In years to come, Neil Kinnock managed to claw back some of those seats but it was not until 1997, when Tony Blair stood as Labour leader, that the party gained a landslide victory. New Labour had been created and the party peaked with a whopping 418 seats in parliament. This victory can be put down to Labour’s shift to the centre and Blair’s shrewd lobbying of Rupert Murdoch – which led to his endorsement on the front page of The Sun.
Right-wing media has been notorious in the past for influencing readers with filtered versions of the facts. It is noted by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in Manufacturing Consent that US media would report extensively on corruption in Communist countries whilst sugar-coating atrocities committed in countries supported by the USA. One example used is the way the US media over-dramatised the murder of a priest by Communist Polish officials whilst glossing over the brutal rape and murder of four US churchwomen by members of the Nicaraguan National Guard.
Although the severity of censorship in the UK media in recent years may not be as great as it was in the USA in the 1980s, it is still apparent today, with political journalist, Peter Oborne, leaving the Daily Telegraph after accusing them of not reporting enough on tax evasion by HSBC, due to advertising priorities. It is sad to see the media, the public’s window to worldwide information, be influenced by the rich and powerful. This has been the case with Rupert Murdoch and General Elections in the UK. The Sun deterred people from voting for Ed Miliband with a picture of him making a “pigs ear” of a bacon sandwich in 2015; it convinced people to vote for Blair in 1997; and it told the people of Britain they should leave the country if they voted Neil Kinnock in 1992. Each time the Sun triumphed. Although Murdoch may have recently endorsed Corbyn for Labour leader, judging by his previous endorsements, there is surely an ulterior motive.
Voting for Corbyn in the current economic climate would be like voting for a ventriloquist in a national talent competition – although they may be the most talented act, they will not be as popular as the singers and dancers. He is like the album that won a BRIT award and a Grammy but only made it to No.19 in the charts. Corbyn certainly is a “breath of fresh air” for those on the left, but those in the centre and on the right are not ready for his policies. The constant rhetoric used by the Tories, accusing Labour of being “bad for the economy”, has left people of afraid of veering to the left. Blair won the nation over with New Labour, but Labour cannot go any more right than Blair without becoming Tory. So it is time for Labour to veer left, but at the same time regain the trust of the public.
No matter how well Corbyn explains his way of rebuilding the economy, people hear Socialism and run to their four bedroom house in suburbia to check their shares in Lloyds TSB have not dropped. As Labour legend, David Blunkett, pointed out to his party about Corbyn: “If you want a really good, vigorous opposition and you want to continue being in opposition, vote for somebody who is good at opposition”. To see Labour win, the party needs a leader that appeals to the public on a broader scale than Corbyn; but, that is not to say that the party should return to the days of New Labour, it is time to gradually move to the left. The utopia of a Socialist Britain is possible, but these things take time.
By Jonathan Pickles