Contributed by Jim Hayes
What do the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon and the anti-austerity platform mean for the United Kingdom?
The Corbyn rise was made possible because in the first place, because many British and nowhere more so in working class heartlands, have been increasingly resenting the impositions of recent governments, no matter what their stripe. The feeling morphed into the view that these politicians are killing off the future and there is a sense that Britain has been going through a period of decline.
Tony Blair and New Labour are on the nose. The party’s heartland now accepts that this had been a major betrayal and the feeling is that Labour must shift as far away from this as possible. This view is likely to have sharpened after Blair’s public complimentary comments about the Conservative leader and condemnation of Corbyn.
Then there are the Liberal Democrats, who disgraced themselves with their show of such rank opportunism. Their followers deserted them in droves during the last election. The Conservatives clung onto government as a result.
This and the everyday reality that life is getting tougher is a major part of what was behind the rise in support for the openly xenophobic and anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), although it seems to be losing some of its shine now. The circumstances also led to the rise of a new activist’s movement within the trade unions and community that flocked to Corbyn and the promise of change.
The other side of the coin is that the many of the traditional Labour MPs and party apparatchiks do not want Corbyn or to embrace any change and have constantly being undermining Corbyn since he became their leader, based on an easy majority vote among the Labour parliamentarians, the unions and party membership. Corbyn has also suffered a hostile press. These things were to be expected. What is important is how they are dealt with.
The detractors aside, it remains that Jeremy Corbin is the face of the rise of a social movement with a base. This is the critical point and what the detractors are most afraid of. They dare not mention it. If they did so, it would put their own inadequacies in meeting the economic, political and social challenges in the interests of most of the population.
Labour may not win the 8 June election, although this is not impossible. This is a tough ask. But the latest poll from a poll by YouGov shows that Labour under Corbin is catching up fast and the end result is far from certain.
More important in the longer run is that, barring any unforeseen circumstance, the political movement that has struck root in the United Kingdom will remain and grow. A substantial section of this movement has moved into the Labour Party. Whether it succeeds and stays, will depend on how events unfold. There is also a significant part that remains outside focusing on the grass-roots issues.
There is a debate on whether the kind of change being talked about will be able to be brought about by electoral means, or electoral means alone, given the hold that the old guard has on the political system.
This has become a practical question that is now being played out in real life. Experience over the next few years will provide a wealth of lessons. How these are interpreted and what they will lead to, only time will tell. But one question must be asked?