Veteran journalist Tariq Ali goes down the list of all Labour Party leaders and makes the case that in Jeremy Corbyn, the party has elected the most left-wing leader in its history. But he says that Corbyn will have his work cut out for him. The Blairites of so-called New Labour had put the selection of candidates for parliament so much under their control that the current crop of Labour MPs in parliament (the Parliamentary Labour Party or PLP) will obstruct him.
The ironies of history never fail to surprise. Measured by any criteria, Jeremy Corbyn is the most left-wing leader in the history of the Labour Party. He understands that those who do evil abroad are unlikely to do much good at home. He is the staunchest anti-imperialist Member of Parliament.
No one who knows or sees and hears Corbyn can doubt his authenticity. I have shared numerous platforms with him over the past 40 years. On the key issues he has remained steadfast. What appealed to the young, who transformed the campaign into a social movement, was precisely what alienated the traditional political and media cliques. Corbyn was untutored, discursive, too left-wing, wanted to reverse the privatisations of the railways and utilities, etc. Many who registered to vote for him did so because of this and to break from the bland, unimaginative and visionless New Labour.
As Labour members elect their most left-wing leader, the overwhelming majority of the PLP is in the death grip of the right. Anyone listening to Sadiq Khan’s speech after being elected as Labour’s choice for London mayor would have noticed the difference with the Corbyn campaign. Khan’s clichés were a reminder of how isolated Corbyn will be in the PLP. Corbyn will call on the party to unite behind him. But there is no getting away from the fact that the PLP majority is opposed to his policies. I guess they will try to tire him out and force compromise after compromise to discredit him (remember Alexis Tsipras in Greece), but I doubt they’ll succeed.
Corbyn understands the key issues on which no compromise is possible. He’s been campaigning for them long enough. His closeness to the Green agenda is not a secret, and the single Green MP now has a solid supporter in the new Labour leader. Taking back public transport from the profiteers is another element; cheap public housing for the young and the old will help rebuild communities. A robust tax regime that reverses the decades of privileges afforded the rich will unleash a fierce offensive by the City and its media and political acolytes, but it’s considered absolutely necessary.
There have been many articles comparing Corbyn with Bernie Sanders in the US. While they are both taking aim at the obscene wealth gap and the control of their respective countries by the oligarchy, Sanders is not nearly as left-wing as Corbyn though his opponents in the US are painting them with the same brush. A group called Correct the Record, a SuperPAC associated with Hillary Clinton, has attacked Sanders for sending a congratulatory message to Corbyn, using tactics that would make the Republicans proud.
According to journalists who received an email from the group, it attacked Sanders for congratulating Corbyn on winning the Labour leadership election and drew attention to the British politician’s “most extreme comments” on foreign policy.
Many of the alleged comments, such as remarks referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” and the death of Osama bin Laden as a “tragedy” are similar to attacks on Corbyn from rightwing critics in Britain that his supporters say are based on distortions of his positions.
The email also reportedly compared Corbyn’s support for the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez with a decision by Sanders to help negotiate the purchase of discounted heating oil from the Latin American country for a number of US states.
This attack suggests that the Clinton camp is worried about Sanders’ rise in the polls and the drop in her favorability ratings.
One of the surprising things has been the number of young people that are flocking to both Sanders and Corbyn, despite the fact that they are both much older and unpolished in their appearance and manner. I think this may be because they have been holding to their positions consistently all their lives and talk seriously about issues that matter, and the young are seeing in them an authenticity that other candidates lack.