Seeing as every other has-been or (as in my case) never-was politician has had their two penneth about the Corbyn phenomenon, I’m going to have mine. I’m not a great one for political theory, so anyone who hopes I’m going to be able to relate what’s happening to something in Marx or Gramsci should look away now.
I joined the Labour Party after hearing Ken Livingstone speak at a public meeting in East Ham town hall in 1980, when I was 16. I was an ‘entryist’ apparently, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was never as active inside the Party as I was outside of it, but I stayed loosely attached for about a decade. It was a process of incremental disillusionment. I never had a ‘rip up my card’ moment. Basically, I lost interest as it became clear that the Party was not the champion of the working class and socialism that I’d been brought up to believe.
Despite this, with the exception of four or five occasions, I’ve always voted Labour, but like millions of others, it’s become harder and harder, particularly after Iraq. In fact, I had come to the conclusion that the only purpose of my remaining political life was to help build an alternative to the Labour Party because it was beyond redemption. I still think that, but Jezzmania is giving me pause for thought.
If, as now appears inevitable (barring an act of gross political larceny), Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour Party on 12th September, it will be the most exciting moment in my political life. He will have won – and that in it self is cause for celebration because I’ve long believed the left is more comfortable with losing. I don’t know Mr Corbyn, but I don’t think there can be any doubt about his consistent socialist credentials. He’s been saying more or less the same thing since I went to hear Ken Livingstone 35 years ago. Needless to say, his victory will be a magnificent slap in the face to all the careerists, cronies and opportunists who have disfigured the Labour Party for so long. But as I imagine he would say himself, it’s not about him. I haven’t been to any myself, but it’s clear from the size and mood of the public meetings that a pent-up demand for a genuine political alternative has been unleashed and that’s what Corbyn represents.
I have no illusions about the nature of the Labour Party or the limits of reformism, but I’m 50 now and I want to see political progress in my lifetime, in the hope that it will benefit my grandchild’s generation. So much has been lost and what we absolutely cannot do is wait around until 2020 for a Prime Minister Corbyn because by then it could be too late. This government is determined to dismantle the Welfare State, privatise public services and attack workers’ pay and conditions on a generational scale. But if Corbyn wins, in my small way, I’m going to do everything I can to help him. That doesn’t have to mean joining the Labour Party, but it will mean those who are serious about social change and justice uniting. The full weight of the establishment is going to fall on Corbyn and the only way to resist that will be together.
This may not be THE moment we’ve been waiting for, but it could be A moment and I don’t think there’ll be another one along any time soon. We must make the most of it.