Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election to the leadership of the Labour Party has shaken the political establishment of this country to its core. A hundred years on from the death of Keir Hardie, the Labour Party at last has another leader who believes in socialism.
His election was the more remarkable because he won despite the storm of disapproval from a right-wing media that was aided and abetted by a cabal of discredited former Labour ministers and prime ministers.
But, the more they condemned his anti-austerity policies, declared him unelectable and mocked his dress sense, the more tens of thousands, young and old, flocked to his rallies and joined the Labour Party, doubling its membership. Many more, who had quit the Party in despair at its right-wing leadership, rejoined in the belief that a party led by Corbyn would develop a credible opposition.
In the end, it wasn’t Corbyn who proved unelectable – it was the other candidates who were spectacularly rejected. Rejected because they all represented the toxic legacy of past Labour governments. Not forgotten are their lies and deceit that ‘justified’ an illegal war, their craven capitulation to the Tories’ economic policies and their steadfast refusal to repeal Thatcher’s vicious anti-trade union laws.
In contrast, Corbyn stood for honest and firmly-held principles: opposition to wars and nuclear weapons, defence of the NHS, opposition to racism, support for public services, an extensive programme of council house building and the renationalisation of the railways.
Above all, he stood up for the no-ifs, no-buts belief that there is an alternative to the Tories’ austerity programme that punishes the poor for an economic crisis caused by the rich.
It was, however, not just his policies that attracted this tsunami of support, it was more than that. In a party dominated by professional, career-driven, politicians, tainted by the expenses scandal and the politicians-for-hire industry, Corbyn stood out as an honest man who could be trusted.
Now the Tories, big business and their media friends are out to get him, to demoralise him and rubbish all he stands for. They fear he has struck a chord with the almost 15 million voters so disillusioned in the political class they refuse to vote for any party.
This would not be a problem for a parliamentary party firmly united behind its leader. But, unfortunately those right-wing MPs who don’t believe the membership has the democratic right to determine policy and elect a leader of their choice are sharpening their knives.
This deep fault line was clearly in evidence when the House of Commons debated whether Britain should add to the misery of the Syrian people by raining down even more bombs.
In ten hours of debate, no one denied that the abhorrent death cult known as ISIS was a creature of the illegal Iraq war. Similarly, the bombing of Libya created the murderous chaos in which Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have flourished.
All the bombs dropped on Afghanistan, at great cost to the lives of innocent civilians and British servicemen and women, have not defeated the Taliban. And now ISIS is rearing its ugly head in that troubled land.
Both sides of the House agreed that bombs alone could not defeat terrorists or that it was certain that bombing Syria would make Britain safer. The only thing that is certain is the definite fact that innocent men, women and children will die.
And yet, 66 Labour MPs voted for this dangerous and failed strategy. In doing so, they defied their leader and the majority of the Party’s members who voted him into office on an anti-war platform.
So, would it be too cynical to suggest that more was going on? Was there a conscious effort to isolate the leader? The barnstorming, over-the-top, oratory of the Shadow Foreign Secretary was undoubtedly a call to arms but was it also the opening salvo in a bid to be leader?
Labour’s massive win in the Oldham by-election suggests the anti-Corbyn camp has miscalculated. Corbyn, it appears, is not only electable but can increase Labour’s share of the vote.
So, let’s all get behind Jeremy Corbyn and make next year’s Gala the focus of the campaign to make the Labour Party a truly socialist party of a million members.
Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the New Year,
General Secretary, Durham Miners' Association