Notes from the front of 22-08-16
From today ballot papers will be arriving in inboxes and in the post in the Labour leadership contest. It is vital to mobilise support for Jeremy Corbyn not just by voting but also in rallies and meetings, social media and phone banking. All polling data and the overwhelming number of CLPs who were allowed to vote made nominations in support of Jeremy Corbyn. The main danger now is complacency by his supporters. The Labour right are still trying to get as many people as possible excluded from the ballot on the flimsiest of excuses.
At the higher levels of the Labour Party, among MPs and full-time officials, the trend had been for the Labour right to draw in wider layers of former centrist and ‘soft left’ figures. But the opposite trend has been taking place among Labour’s members, supporters and affiliated supporters in trades unions. Many ordinary members who were not immediate Corbyn supporters were shocked by the decision of a sub-committee of Labour’s NEC to go to the appeal courts to block them from voting.
Organs of the state such as the courts are not politically neutral and ‘dispense justice’ reflecting the state’s interests. In the case of excluding from the ballot all party members who joined Labour from 12 January onwards, it was relatively easy for the courts to maintain this exclusion as they could claim to be upholding the decision made by the Labour’s NEC. For a similar reason it was more difficult in the earlier court judgement for there to be a ruling that Corbyn could not automatically be on the ballot paper, as Labour’s NEC had already voted to allow him on the ballot paper.
Many party members have been disgusted by the tactics pursued in the effort to overturn last year’s election of Corbyn. These tactics now include pretending there is policy agreement between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn, even though the former failed to oppose welfare cuts, backs wars, and has supported the fake ‘choice’ that could only come about by privatisation of the NHS. This pretence testifies to the overwhelming support for Corbyn’s policies on these and similar issues. Instead, the plotters’ campaign has relied on smears directed against Corbyn and his supporters (including calling people: rabble, dogs, Trotskyite entryists, Nazi storm troopers, misogynists, anti-Semites, etc, etc).
These attacks on party members and supporters can only mean the plotters have no intention of accepting the vote if Jeremy Corbyn wins and are attempting to delegitimise it in advance. The Labour right has always seen itself has a loyal opposition to the Tories, that is never challenging any fundamental aspect of the current policies of the British ruling class. As the latter’s main party, the Tory Party, is still in disarray after the Brexit referendum, with no clear line at all on what to do next, ruling class interests demand that Jeremy Corbyn must not lead a united party with the prospect of winning a general election. For them, Corbyn is unacceptable because of his positions on austerity, war, Islamophobia and racism. If he leads Labour, it must not be unified.
The Corbyn campaign has focused on popular policies and mobilising supporters. It can be a winning strategy and will stand it in good stead even after victory. But first Corbyn’s re-election much be achieved. All socialists, supporters of Labour becoming a more democratic party, all those fighting against austerity, war, racism and climate change should make sure they do everything they can to get out the vote for Jeremy in the days and weeks ahead.
The Jeremy for Labour website is here where there are details of event, phone banks and more.
The Brexit referendum has shaken up the kaleidoscope of British politics and all forces are now in motion, with none having settled. In Ireland, in the wake of the Brexit vote the first and deputy first minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly have written a remarkable joint letter to Theresa May following their initial talks post-referendum.
The letter sets out key areas for concern following the vote, including the issue of the border itself and arguing that both access to the single market and freedom of movement are vital to the economy in the North, as well specific points related to key industries and the maintenance of EU subsidies. On the economic front, this is a manifesto for maintaining the current arrangements, irrespective of the vote. The two ministers also demand a formal role in Brexit negotiations on this basis.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been accused of a sell-out by signing the letter. The DUP campaigned for Brexit and it is anathema in Unionist circles that the border even be discussed. But the DUP leader is obliged to live in the real world and the letter acknowledges that the stark situation facing the NI economy if Britain were to leave the EU. It also contains one potentially dramatic caveat on the ministers playing their part in negotiations while, ‘recognising the possibility that it cannot be guaranteed that outcomes that suit our common interests are ultimately deliverable’. The two ministers have a common interest, as the letter demonstrates, but this may be different to Britain’s choices.
Sinn Fein campaigned for a Remain vote. Brexit could only mean a setback to Irish unity, huge economic dislocation and a strengthening of the most reactionary forces in British society. No doubt the current Dublin Government would concede to these at every possible turn. In the referendum 55.8 per cent of votes in NI were cast for Remain and the overwhelmingly bulk of the population in Republic also supports EU membership. Sinn Fein has renewed its call for a border poll following the vote.
The reality is that Irish economic interests are separate from those of Britain. A unified Irish economy has the potential to boost living standards across the island, most especially in the North. By contrast, Brexit is already lowering the living standards of the UK following the fall in the value of the pound. The DUP leader seems to share few illusions about the rosy future prevalent in England and has already moved on from buyers’ remorse for her party’s earlier position. If she can bring her party to work pragmatically with Sinn Fein on representing the interests of Irish people, this may have far-reaching consequences.