Some Left-ish Thoughts On Jeremy Corbyn

by richardhutton

The Labour Party conference concluded this week, with at least one journalist noting that party members were trying to leave the recent past behind.

It wasn’t only Labour who were dismayed by the General Election results, of course – many people, including me, had hoped for a better outcome. Five years of the Coalition oversaw a monumental upsurge of people living in poverty, losing their homes, their jobs, and their employment protections. Hundreds of thousands of people became dependent on food charity from 2012 onwards, as the new benefit sanctions-system took hold. The way disabled people have been mistreated during the last term in office was something else – and all of this is set to grow significantly worse.

Unfortunately, none of this is new – nor has it been solely the responsibility of the Conservatives/Liberal Democrats, either. It’s one sequence on the trajectory of government across the last 36 years. I don’t think anyone on the left is really unaware of the challenges and obstacles in the way of people who want Britain to be a fairer, better country to live in. For instance, the public believe that ‘Labour’s overspending caused the financial crisis of 2008’, and not the collapse of the banks; that immigrants and benefit claimants are somehow responsible for the poverty which those who work – and still struggle to make ends meet – continue to endure. These kind of divisive beliefs and attitudes have been deliberately encouraged by the government, and the worst elements of the media. We have a Prime Minister who refers to people in this country as “shirkers” and “welfare scroungers”; and who has purposely misled the public on more than one occasion. So has his Chancellor, who supposedly ushered in an era of low taxes and high wages, when in reality, he has overseen an unprecedented reduction of people’s earnings; while increasing taxation for the poor, and decreasing it for the wealthy.

I’m certainly not optimistic about the immediate future – I think that people are fundamentally better than they’re generally given credit for; but it doesn’t mean that they’re immune to being misled, and having their anger and resentments directed at the wrong targets. It seems likely that things will have to grow much worse before there is sufficient popular desire for an end to the harmful and damaging policies of recent years; and it’s not difficult to foresee who will get hurt in the process.

But I don’t see what anybody hopes to achieve in the short-term by giving in to defeatism; let alone in the long-term, by supporting the same policies which have caused so much misery to so many people in the first place. It’s telling that those who deride Corbyn and bemoan his supporters have had little, if anything, to say about the problems which other people have to contend with, in significant number. Personally, I’m glad that Corbyn is leading the Labour party – because it’s overdue that we had somebody speaking out on the national stage, on behalf of those who desperately need it.