Photo: Flickr/Garry Knight - At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August.

Why should we care about Corbyn?

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Second Year Labour Member and History and Politics student Matt Pearce explains what makes the newly-elected Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn so significant and especially, what makes him so important to students. 

In 1994, Tony Blair won the Labour leadership election by a landslide, a resounding 57 percent of eligible votes going his way. Over two decades later, Jeremy Corbyn’s even more emphatic victory represents a similarly colossal shift in the discourse of the Labour Party, and indeed within the political arena as a whole. Seemingly, when the Labour Party recognises it needs fundamental change, it does so in overwhelming numbers.

…while I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader, I do believe that the Labour Party must do all we can to unite around him.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn represents a sense of dissatisfaction with the Left of the party with what they perceive to be lack of opposition to Tory government. This lack of opposition is encapsulated by what many believe is the moment Corbyn won the campaign: the abstention of the other three candidates on the Welfare Bill, which cut an extra £12bn from the welfare budget, thus hitting low-income families the hardest. Along with the discontentment with Labour policy, the Left of the party have voted for a new type of politics, epitomised by Corbyn’s remarkably clean campaign, a more democratic PMQs and the first female-majority Shadow Cabinet.

In the last five years, we have seen unprecedented attacks on students and young people with the tripling of student tuition fees, not to mention recent attacks including excluding under-21s from claiming housing benefit, excluding under-25s from the recent increase in the minimum wage, and abolishing university maintenance grants. The Leader of the Opposition…is the person best placed to reverse these targeted attacks…

I didn’t vote for Corbyn because while I appreciate and often share this discontentment with the lack of opposition to Tory austerity and with the top-down politics of spin, soundbites and suits, I was sceptical of Corbyn’s ability to win an election. Jeremy Corbyn has been a Member of Parliament for Islington North for over thirty years and has been a prominent figure on the Left of the Labour Party for just as long. In addition to promoting the economic agenda of Labour’s hard left, he has been a strong supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Stop the War coalition and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. He has remarked that Britain should leave NATO, that Ireland should be united and believes that Britain should become a republic. While I do not believe he will lead the Labour Party in the broadly unpopular direction of nuclear disarmament, leaving NATO and abolishing the monarchy, the media have already begun their unrelenting attacks towards him on these issues.

However, while I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader, I do believe that the Labour Party must do all we can to unite around him. While there are many in the Party who may disagree with some of his policies or are sceptical of his ability to win a general election, his victory was overwhelming and to attack and undermine him before he has a chance to prove his critics wrong would not just be disrespectful to his supporters, but also wholly undemocratic. Labour Party members who did not vote for Corbyn must respect his mandate. Just as importantly, those registered and affiliated supporters who did vote for him have a huge responsibility to follow through and become active members.

In the last five years, we have seen unprecedented attacks on students and young people with the tripling of student tuition fees, not to mention recent attacks including excluding under-21s from claiming housing benefit, excluding under-25s from the recent increase in the minimum wage, and abolishing university maintenance grants. The Leader of the Opposition, regardless of the outcome of the Labour leadership election, is the person best placed to reverse these targeted attacks on students and young people by winning the next general election. Students were the driving force in Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become Labour leader, and must become the driving force in Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become Prime Minister if he is to have a chance of doing so.

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