05/03/2017

The Political Elf - my views on Labour, Corbyn, and Brexit

I've been wanting to write a post for a while on British politics and current affairs, so here it is. I'm a member of Labour Party, ergo, this post is going to address my views on the state of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and the most pressing issue of our time, Brexit. Hope y'all enjoy it and do let me know what you think.


We need to talk about Labour


Yes, I'm a (proud, yet not always satisfied) member of the Labour Party. I joined in 2009 (aged just 15), back in the twilight period of Gordon Brown's premiership and Labour's 13 years in power, took a break from the party in 2012 whilst at university, and rejoined the morning after Labour's 2015 election defeat in a desire to register my discontent with the fact we had a Tory majority government that would hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the hardest.

In my view, Labour must be a party of government, for it is only in government, that we can fight on behalf of the many, not the few and deliver policies that benefit and protect working class and vulnerable communities up and down the country.

I completely believe that Labour needs to be talking about the Tory cuts to our fantastic National Health Service (I wouldn't be alive without it), social care (this is and will be a growing problem in the coming years, as a result of our ageing population), and education systems.

The education system is something I'm extremely passionate about. I was educated at a special school nursery, a Catholic primary school, a comprehensive secondary school on a Merseyside former council estate, and a grammar school sixth form. Thus, I completely understand the need for a diverse education system, as the path to success is most definitely not the same for everybody. Labour's policies on education must focus on ensuring a mix of high-quality schools in every community and devolving local education decisions to communities, as they are the ones that are impacted by them the most.

We need to also be trying to craft a hopeful vision of our future. Such a policy narrative must be engaging, positive, and progressive: for the many, not the few. It should aim to address the concerns of our complex society, particularly for those in post-industrial communities that feel left behind by technological change and globalisation, that don't feel that Labour, in recent years, has been speaking to them and their communities.

It's not about full-throttle socialism, but about offering policies that focus on what works and creating a secure, sustainable future for all.  

On Corbyn, leadership elections, and communication 

In terms of leadership elections, I have a bit of a weird history: I voted Dianne Abbot in 2010, Andy Burnham in 2015, and Owen Smith in 2016. Politically confusing, right?

In 2010, I backed Diane because I wanted Labour to take a break from the New Labour years and decisively create radical policies in opposition to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government (yes, I was also 16 and rather politically naive).

In 2015, I thought long and hard about my decision; I considering backing both Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham, but, in the end, I plumped for Burnham as I felt that he represented our best chance of winning back communities that felt abandoned by the political establishment.
A mugshot from my 2016 photoshoot for an article on the Labour leadership election. Credit: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian.
In 2016, despite the fact that I had got behind Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party in its opening months, I felt that there was something of a disconnect in communication between what Corbyn and his team wanted to express to the country and how they were perceived (Corbyn's national anthem episode springs to mind); the disconnect was such that I felt that we were at risk of losing patriotic, working class voters to reactionary groups like UKIP. 

The problem, for me, wasn't (and still isn't) Corbyn himself or even his policies, but the way that his communications team has allowed him to be portrayed: there's a market for older, grizzled political leaders (José Mujica of Uruguay is someone whose plain oratory and man-of-the-people image I've always thought Corbyn should seek to emulate). 

Immediately after the EU referendum, neither the country nor a lot of the party was feeling much love for Corbyn (his missteps, including speeches where he sounded more sceptical than in favour of remaining in the EU and an infamous appearance on a comedy show where he said he was only 7/10 in favour of remaining in the EU, loomed large), a leadership challenge was called: given my dissatisfaction with Corbyn's leadership, I backed Owen Smith (or Jones, or whoever he was), albeit with the expectation that he would not prevail.

Despite the fact that neither Andy nor Owen won, I wished (and still wish) Jeremy Corbyn well after both of his leadership elections and hope that he can find the golden bullet to get Labour into government. I'm looking forward to doing my bit to help Steve Rotherham and Andy Burnham win their respective Metro Mayor races in Liverpool and Manchester over the coming months. If we can't deliver policies in Westminster, we'll hopefully be able to do it through the new city-regions. 

To those who speak of finding Corbyn's successors, I urge them to unite behind Jeremy and ensure that we can fight against the Tory cuts up and down the country. Although some say Labour can never win with Corbyn as Leader, many said neither Brexit nor Trump as President could ever happen: stranger things than Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister have happened in recent years.

Brexit - reluctantly, it's time to leave
Credit: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian.
I'm one of the biggest fans of the European Union I know, but it's now time to accept the result of the referendum and push for the least painful exit possible. 

The investment that the European Union brought to Liverpool as a result of it being the 2008 European Capital of Culture transformed my home city-region in ways that are often easy to forget. I was at an event the other week when a former Liverpool player reminded us of how far Liverpool has come in the last ten years: the player was talking about how when he moved to Liverpool, there wasn't even a cinema in the city centre: now, we got new shopping centres, cinemas, hotels, bars, and, of course, jobs as a result of European Union investment and the profile this gave the city region.   

Additionally, as a languages graduate, the European Union has allowed me to study abroad: my time in Barcelona has been supported by the EU both directly, as an Erasmus student at the Universitat de Barcelona, and indirectly, as a postgrad at the Pompeu Fabra through the freedom of movement granted to me as an EU citizen. Some of the best periods of my life have come as a result of the freedoms granted by the EU and I'm deeply saddened by the fact that future generations may not have the same freedoms and opportunities as I have had.

That being said, it's now time to accept the result of the referendum and push for the least painful exit possible. The vast majority of British people have accepted that we will, in all likelihood, be leaving the European Union and it is necessary that our political leaders do so too. 

Whilst some might say that Labour has failed to oppose the government over the triggering Article 50, I would posit that it is an electorally clever strategy: not following through on the result of a legitimate referendum would have devasted Labour support in working-class "Leave" areas and allowed the Tories and the far-right UKIP to label us as 'undemocratic'. 

Maybe the tide will turn against our exit and there'll be a referendum on the terms of our exit negotiations... After all, two years is a long time in politics.