In the words of Tom Paine: - “These are the times that try men’s souls”. I have never felt so despondent about British politics as I do now. All those who want a decent, socially just society must resist succumbing to despair.
It was only just over a week ago that Jo Cox MP was brutally murdered in the street. She was a strong advocate for the rights of refugees and for a tolerant multicultural society. The man who killed her was linked to an extreme rightwing group. Her murder led to a discussion about the toxic political culture in the UK. Many, rightly, criticised Nigel Farage and the Leave campaign. In my view, David Cameron, who has used inflammatory language in the Commons and elsewhere, also bore significant responsibility for the political climate.
One politician might serve as an example of a better way to conduct politics. Jeremy Corbyn, despite being constantly vilified, has remained dignified and has never responded in kind. He practices the kinder, gentler politics which he advocates for everyone. Corbyn is nothing like Cameron, nothing like Tony Blair, nothing like Boris Johnson, nothing like any other recent leader. Millions of people like him precisely for that reason.
Last Thursday, the UK inflicted a disaster on itself. The Leave campaign succeeded with the help of lies and fomenting of hatred. The British people will suffer as a result for decades to come, economically and in many other ways. It is no consolation at all that Cameron will go down in history as one of our worst and most destructive prime ministers.
It is now said that somehow Corbyn is to blame for the result in the referendum. Here, I need to explain something. I put it in bold for emphasis. The BBC and the Guardian give as accurate an account of Corbyn as the Mail and the Sun do of the EU. I know this because I follow events involving Corbyn on social media. I know, for example, that Corbyn travelled frenetically around the country during the EU referendum but he was not properly reported on the BBC or in the Guardian (or in most of the rest of the media).
In any event, according to the journalist Paul Mason, Corbyn did get the Labour vote out.
And now, Corbyn’s enemies within the parliamentary Labour Party are moving against him. They say, as if it was as true as 1+1=2, that Corbyn “can never win an election”. What many, probably most, members of the party believe in contrast, is that it is these same MPs' refusal to accept Corbyn’s overwhelming mandate that hampers the party’s electoral prospects. I certainly believe that if the party united behind him, Corbyn could win.
No doubt, the MPs will depose Corbyn. There will then need to be another leadership election. All candidates will need to get the nominations of a certain number of MPs in order to go forward to then be voted on by the party in the country.
If Corbyn’s name goes forward, I expect that he will be re-elected by an electorate composed of those who voted for him overwhelmingly in September last year plus many more who have joined the party since because of him.
If, however, the MPs conspire so that Corbyn’s name does not go forward, I think it is inevitable that the party will split. The money and the members would then mostly go with Corbyn.
The rebel MPs have no realistic prospect of achieving any outcome favourable for them: they are being stupidly self-indulgent. They are damaging the party and helping the Tories at a time when the country is crying out for mature leadership from the political class.
And here are some questions for the rebels
- Who is your candidate?
- Do you have any significant policy differences with Corbyn, apart from Trident?
- If Corbyn wins again, will you this time respect the result and work with him to beat the Tories?