With a new year stretching out before us I felt it was appropriate to look back on 2016 and the lessons it’s taught us.
Lesson number one – The vast majority of the PLP want Corbyn’s Labour to fail. In fact they would prefer to see the Tories rule in perpetuity rather than see Labour win under Corbyn.
Lesson number two – this lesson, which is entwined with lesson number one, is that we cannot trust the PLP plotters. Their contempt for us and the leadership has not gone away. The temporary lull in hostilities is just that, temporary. They are like cats waiting to pounce on a mouse they hope they have mortally wounded. And if an election is called next year that may prove to be the case because the coup has left us bloodied and lame in the eyes of the public. But with an election in all likelihood not looming large, we have time to dress our wounds and hopefully heal; though the scars will never completely fade. We are only mortally wounded if we give up.
Which leads me to lesson number three – We must NEVER give up. When the chicken coup began to gather momentum so did we, with ten thousand Corbyn supporters gathering outside parliament, the scene of the political blood bath, with just 24 hours notice. This huge display of spontaneous support debunked the myth being propogagated by the devious plotters, of a sharp drop-off in support for Corbyn and set the tone for the leadership contest that followed.
Lesson number four is the most important lesson of all – We chose the right leader. This past year has tested Corbyn in a way none of could possibly have imagined. Yet he has shown utter grit and dignity throughout. Gone are any lingering doubts over his commitment to his leadership role; eradicated by his refusal to bow to the pressure of the coup and his obvious relief and joy when relaying the news of his automatic inclusion on the leadership ballot. Corbyn wants to lead our party; not to further his own career, but because he recognizes he is ordinary people’s best hope of real, positive change. And his confidence has grown along with his determination. Even Owen Smith reluctantly admitted his performances at the despatch box have markedly improved. I’d go even further than Smith and say Theresa May must dread Wednesday’s.
As Corbyn grows in stature and confidence over time, the misjudgment of the PLP plotters is thrown into sharp relief. They gave Corbyn nine measly months to grow from a backbench rebel into leader of the opposition. Except they never wanted to give him time to grow into his role. They wanted to topple him before that happened. They didn’t topple him but they have done terrible damage to his standing in the eyes of the electorate. We have to work our socks off to minimise the damage they’ve wreaked. And we must never forget who wreaked it or let the plotters off the hook for what they’ve done. If they think it’s enough to keep a low profile for a few months in order to pin poor by-election results on Corbyn’s leadership, they’ve got another thing coming. The electorate have memories longer than a few months, and the memory of 172 MPs declaring their leader unfit to lead will not be wiped out anytime soon. Voters who liked Corbyn will be put off voting Labour knowing so many of his MPs are opposed to him and his beliefs, and voters who don’t like Corbyn will be put off by his continued leadership. It’s the worst of all worlds.
The only thing that could pile on more damage to the damage already wrought would be for the saboteurs to regain control of the party. We must ensure they NEVER profit from their sabotage! We were making headway prior to the coup; winning by-elections, mayoralties, narrowing the gap in the polls (only of interest to those rare individuals who still trust the polls). Since the coup our fortunes went into sharp decline. I’m not remotely surprised by this, but rather than it making me despondent it has made me bloody furious. It is my families future; it is the poor, the vulnerable, the homeless, the sick, the elderly, the young and ordinary struggling people who have been most damaged by the plotters self-indulgent coup. MPs who are living on a very nice salary, who never wanted Corbyn to lead and had no intention of letting him lead, have shat on the party they profess to love. Their declared commitment to winning elections should now come with a caveat – as long as we don’t win on a socialist platform. Their arrogance and contempt for our democratic decision is boundless, and I for one will be doing everything in my power to fight for a Corbyn led Labour victory to ensure the plotters damage isn’t permanent, and I know many of you reading this will be doing the same. Which leads me to the final and most important lesson of all.
Lesson number five – We are all in this together. No matter how hard it gets or how low we sometimes feel, there are hundreds of thousands of people feeling the same. The hope of a fairer, kinder society has brought us together and we must ensure nothing drives us apart. Yes there will be disagreements, as we have seen recently in Momentum, but the overriding goal must always drive us forward in solidarity. I for one will never forget the determination and courage shown by my fellow socialists during the leadership contest. I was outside parliament on that first day of that long expected coup, and the memory of the atmosphere will live with me till the day I die. In the past the Left have let themselves be cowed by the determination of the right to set the narrative and steer the party in their chosen direction. We must never be cowed again. We are on the side of right and we must fight for it. And we will have to. No Labour Party worth its salt will get an easy ride from the establishment, and under Corbyn we are worth a lot of salt. So thank you to everyone reading this who voted Corbyn again. It’s wonderful to know I can rely on my determined socialist comrades when the chips are down.
I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. I’d like to wish you a peaceful one too, and I do, but being socialists, we know we’ve always got a fight on our hands.