Thursday, June 04, 2015

Support the Challenger from the Left!

JEREMY CORBYN, MP (Islington Tribune)

...and a message from North of the Border we should note.

First, the good news. There is a Left-wing, anti-austerity candidate standing in the Labour Party's leadership election.  I don't know whether Jeremy Corbyn will even get the 35  nominations from fellow Labour MPs necessary for his name to appear on the ballot paper. But he should.

We saw the hurdles John McDonnell had to face when he made a challenge for the leadership.

The news tonight was that Jeremy Corbyn had obtained ten nominations within 24 hours of announcing his intentions, and I'd guess some are from the new MPs who previously issued an anti-austerity statement.  Adding my vote to an online poll run by the Daily Mirror I was heartened to find myself among 87 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn. It won't count in the official leadership stakes of course, but it should count for something.
With the other candidates competing to be most right-wing, complaining that poor Ed Miliband pulled the Party to the Left, and sounding like they've rooted through David Cameron's waste bin for old speeches attacking welfare claimants,  it's good to see anyone making a challenge from the Left.
Not that Jeremy Corbyn is just anyone. He opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has championed the rights of the Palestinian people, with more principled consistency than George Galloway and none of the latter's tainted links or bloated arrogance.

As a supporter of working people's rights and aspirations for a better society (not the selfish individual "aspiration" some other Labour lights have been extolling), Jeremy Corbyn  ranks close to John McDonnell,  with whom he often shares a platform, in respect from rank-and-file trade unionists.

Jeremy Corbyn is also a good MP, known and liked by people in his Islington North constituency. Many years ago when I read about rumours that right-wing, Blairite  councillors  in Islington were plotting to oust the MP, I mentioned it to a mate of mine long resident in the Holloway Road and active in the community. "They must be mad," he opined, "Everyone here likes Jeremy, even if they have no time at all for the council".  Since then those right-wingers have gone, and as local councils go, in these days of pervasive privatisation and cuts, Islington is not that bad, according to my trade union informants.

As for Jeremy, besides those union activists who'll back him, I know people in Tufnell Park who left the Labour Party in disgust at Blair's lies an war, and joined the Greens. But come election time, as they explain to friends, "We have to vote Labour for Jeremy Corbyn". That's anecdotal of course, but Jeremy Corbyn's 21,000 plus majority is real enough.
 Some years back, helping to host a conference of European Jews for Just Peace, I asked Jeremy Corbyn along as a guest panel speaker. Well, we were meeting near Archway, in his constituency, though there were not a lot of votes to be gathered from the delegates from Stockholm, Brussels, Paris and Rome.  Jeremy turned up hotfoot from Heathrow where he had been dealing with an immigration case, spoke and spent more time answering questions and discussion (he is a good listener as well as speaker), before getting away to hold his surgery for constituents.   
More recently, I was at a rally held in tribute to the late Mike Marqusee, writer and journalist, who died at the beginning of this year. It was little more than a week after the depressing result of the general election. Jeremy Corbyn was jointly chairing, or compering, the event, along with comedian Mark Steel, who had us all on our feet not for a minute's silence in memory of Mike, but a rousing cheer in recollection of his life.  Indeed, though we were all, family and friends and comrades, remembering a sad loss, we came away from that gathering with a very positive feeling, some of the unity and courageous defiance that Mike Marqusee bequeathed us.

I see Jeremy Corbyn's challenge for leadership as continuing and embodying some of that spirit.  As he says on TV tonight, the party, and the movement, should really be having a policy debate rather than a leadership contest, but he hopes his his challenge can encourage that debate.  If we can get behind it, and especially if Jeremy can get a decent vote, the Left is finding its feet again. Then we will be on the march.

When Scottish Affairs are All Our Affairs



One of the odd aspects of the campaign against building industry blacklisting was that hearings were held in the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee. As anti-blacklisting campaigner Dave Smith explained to Brent Trades Union Council's meeting the other week this was solely because it was one committee where Labour had a majority and so the issue could be pursued.

Like others, Dave was hoping that an incoming Labour government under Ed Miliband would honour its promises to hold an inquiry into blacklisting, particularly with the evidence that has come out about undercover police activity in trade unions and campaigns. Dave, and the Blacklist Support Group, were keen that is should be a full public inquiry.

Though the return of a Tory government is obviously a setback, Dave Smith said we should not be depressed or give up. "Cameron has only got a 12-seat majority. Thatcher had 144 seats at one point, and we still defeated her!"
Many people are hoping that Labour and the Scottish National Party can combine to beat the Tories, and I have seen messages complaining that Left-wing Labour MPs have not come out openly for an alliance with the SNP against austerity and Trident.

These are still early days, and too early for recriminations before things have really started, but we cannot ignore the message from Neil Findlay, MSP, who was Jim Murphy's challenger for the Labour leadership in Scotland, and resigned last month from the Party's shadow cabinet over its failure to analyse its disaster north of the Border.

Neil Findlay writes (Wednesday, June ):

"Today in parliament I called for a Scottish Inquiry into the Blacklisting of construction workers. It is clear that the Tories won't do it but the Scottish Government could.

Depressingly only two SNP MSPs turned up for the debate and the only one who spoke, Mike McKenzie actually questioned whether the big construction companies had actually blacklisted people!!!!! I find this astonishing as I thought there was a general consensus given all the evidence that has been unearthed in the information commissioners raid. I will post the video later so people can see the debate."

Two Scottish building workers interviewed by the Daily Record were not amused to hear that what they had experienced might all be imaginary.

And here is that video of the Scottish parliament as promised.

PS   In a message on Facebook today, Neil Findlay says:

"Great meeting today with Jeremy Corbyn's campaign team - please urge Labour MPs to nominate him and your trade union to support him - let's have the widest possible debate about the future of the Labour Party".

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