In June, virtually every (paid) political commentator said Jeremy would come last – and some green pundits and arm-chair socialists were even more dismissive.
I was more upbeat and, below, reproduce what I wrote when he got on the ballot paper. I am even more confident that Labour could win in 2020, if Jeremy is elected as its leader – provided that a coalition of socialist and green and other progressive forces work together.
(my blog from 15th June)
“Jeremy and Leanne – striking similarities”
My initial reaction in 2012, when I learnt that Leanne was to contest for leader of Plaid Cymru, was that she had no chance – but that it was great that she was having a go. I was wrong on the first count.
Within days, hundreds were joining Plaid Cymru to vote for a committed green socialist and, despite setbacks, Leanne is today deservedly their very popular leader. My fear in 2012 of her glorious defeat proved unfounded.
I had similar thoughts on hearing that Jeremy hoped to become leader of the Labour Party. However, on reflection, I believe that he also could win.
On a personal level, the similarities are striking. I have known both for decades (Leanne for two and Jeremy for three) as committed green socialists and as supporters of CND. Both were active in the Stop the War campaign against the Iraq invasion (in Cardiff and London). Both, when appropriate, have put causes first whilst remaining loyal to their party and both conduct their politics with both courtesy and firmness.
The auguries are good. Straw polls put Jeremy in the lead and a social media campaign in his support is growing rapidly. Moreover, unlike previous leadership elections, this is a “one member/supporter, one vote election” and not weighted in favour of MPs and Trade Unions.
It’s an exciting prospect as, if Jeremy is elected, he will challenge Tory policies in a manner not seen for decades. Even if he fails, the others will be obliged to respond to his anti-austerity and anti-Trident message – which, in itself, will be good. Win or lose, it’s great that he is contesting and that these policies will get an airing.
My worry is over what others may do if he is elected. The most recent precedent was when Michael Foot became leader on a progressive programme that included nuclear disarmament. Although hugely popular with Labour voters and supporters when Michael spoke to dozens of packed enthusiastic meeting (including, I recall vividly, in Blaenavon), his disgruntled opponents sat out the campaign and some even briefed the media against Labour Party policy.
If Jeremy is elected, the media will go into overdrive attacking him and his anti-austerity and anti-Trident policies. Whilst I am sure that these policies are vote-winners (see “The Red Ed Myth” and “Rewriting Labour History”), the possibility of a right-wing opt out or split does concern me.
We need to be realistic about the Parliamentary Labour Party – it contains few MPs from the ‘shop floor’ or with experience of the sort of campaigns that has made Jeremy such a popular figure. In their view, genuine anti-Tory policies will render Labour unelectable – in reality, disloyalty by career politicians is a bigger danger.
Just as Leanne found herself dependent on AMs overwhelmingly opposed to her election, Jeremy will be faced with a hostile PLP. That’s the downside.
The upside is that many thousands of members who left during the Blair/Brown years would be tempted to rejoin. They, and active new and younger members, would support Jeremy as leader and help transform British politics.