The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is set to shake things up in Westminster;
Jeremy Corbyn is the new Labour leader. The veteran MP for Islington North won with an amazing 59.9% of first preference votes. This is more than Tony Blair won when elected leader in 1994.
Jeremy Corbyn regularly rebelled against Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; voting against the government over 500 times.
Originally seen as an outsider, Corbyn barely managed to secure enough nominations to join the leadership contest. Many of his nominators didn’t want to vote for him; they wanted to ensure a wider debate.
Corbyn wants ordinary people to have a greater say in the political process. Involving the public is a smart move; it was a “grassroots” movement rather than backing from Labour MPs which drove his campaign.
Corbyn has also promised to change the format of Prime Minister’s Questions. The weekly opportunity to quiz the Prime Minister is infamous for being rowdy. Corbyn wants a more serious, respectful debate. Yet when Corbyn asked people to send him questions to put to the Prime Minister the response was… mixed. His first PMQs was a quieter affair, but something he’ll have to push David Cameron harder in future.
Jezza C believes ending cuts to public services; he thinks we should invest in the economy. He would use Quantitative Easing (printing more money) to build more social housing and improve roads, railways and public buildings across the country. This would be paid for partly by clamping down on tax evaders.
Corbyn wants to bring the deficit (gap between what the government spends, and what it collects in tax) down. However, he won’t set a date for when this would be completed. Partly this would be achieved by raising taxes for the rich and by reducing tax cuts for companies.
Corbyn proposes to renationalise the railways and energy companies. This means that consumers, workers and government will collectively own and manage these services, rather than private companies.
For example, British Rail used to be publicly owned, until it was privatised in the 1980s. Similarly the Royal Mail used to be publicly owned. In 2013 the government sold off 70% of the postal service and in 2015, sold a further 15%. The government now owns only 15% of the Royal Mail.
The aim of re-nationalising services like the railways and energy companies is to ensure fairer prices for the consumer, but we need proof that this will actually improve the service we receive?
What does Jeremy Corbyn think about privatisation of the NHS? Err, no. Not ever.
The National Health Service (NHS) was originally created as a publicly owned service. Today it is still mainly publicly owned, but the Health and Social Care Act 2012 allows private companies to bid for some health service contracts.
As campaign group We Own It explains “instead of a publicly funded and publicly owned NHS, the Act created a competitive market for health services in which the government pays for, but does not provide health care.”
Corbyn also wants to create a National Education Service. A bit like an NHS for education, this would be a “lifelong learning service”. Tuition fees for universities would be scrapped (woohoo!) and education grants restored.
This new Labour leader supports nuclear disarmament. He wants to get rid of the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system. He has also proposed leaving the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), stating that a “serious debate” is needed over its power and influence.
Corbyn is against airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. Bombing Syria “won’t help refugees, it will create more”. Corbyn thinks the answer to the problem is to campaign for peace and for disarmament. The primary objective would be “cutting off the arm supplies and money to ISIL, as well as preventing ISIL selling oil and making money from it.” So far it’s not clear how this would be achieved.
Corbyn has promised that 50% of his shadow cabinet will be female, meaning half the top jobs will go to women. He also wants tougher laws on sexual harassment and for companies to publish their pay details in an attempt to close the pay gap between men and women.
Corbyn courted controversy when he said he would consult with women over the idea of “women-only carriages” to help stop sexual harassment on trains. Despite only saying he would consult on this idea Corbyn faced a huge backlash of anger.
Jeremy Corbyn is also under scrutiny as he has failed to appoint any women in the most senior positions of the shadow cabinet. Corbyn has selected 16 women and 15 men to make up the shadow cabinet, but the top five positions are occupied by men.
Political ideas are all well and good, but they mean nothing unless you win a general election and form a government. Many figures within the Labour party itself (including former Prime Minister Tony Blair) say that voting in Jeremy Corbyn would see Labour become a “party of protest” and result in losing the next general election in 2020.
This is the view shared by many media commentators.
Being a party of “protest” doesn’t necessarily mean you have no influence over policy. Commentators have noted how the Conservatives stole several Labour policies after being voted into power. Yet, many Labour supporters want the party to return to power.
The question is: how to do it?
Labour was born out of the trade union movement and is generally seen as a “left-wing” party. Under Tony Blair’s leadership the party re-branded itself as “New Labour”. New Labour moved towards the centre ground of the political spectrum. Blair supporters say that the only way to win an election is to stay in the centre.
Corbyn is expected to pull the party back towards the left. He won the backing of the worker’s unions during the contest and now wants to reinstate Clause IV of Labour’s constitution. This commits the party to public ownership and was removed by Tony Blair.
The party is divided between the more left-wing members, and those who want the party to remain more central. If Corbyn can’t unite the party behind him then Labour could end up splitting up. This would almost definitely mean a Tory victory in 2020.
Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies (nicknamed “Corbynomics”) like Quantitative Easing have been attacked by the Conservatives. Since the economic crisis the Tories and have pushed the idea that Labour can’t be trusted with the economy. However, many economists have backed Corbyn’s ideas.
Corbyn’s newly selected “shadow Cabinet” of advisors and ministers is a mix of Corbyn’s left-wing allies and those who think the party should be more centrist. Will this unite the divided party?
Many people are wondering how long Corbyn will survive as Labour leader. Will Jezza be overthrown? One possibility is that he will be replaced before the 2020 general election.
The Conservatives were initially delighted when Jeremy Corbyn entered the contest. They believed that if he won, it would ensure victory for them in 2020. They encouraged Tory supporters to pay £3 to vote in the Labour leadership and vote for Corbyn. Classic Tory banter.
(It’s worth noting: nearly 50% of fee paying Labour party members voted for Corbyn. It wasn’t just the support of the new £3 voters which won it for him)
Be careful what you wish for – now it would seem the Tories don’t find it as funny;
The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family's security.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2015
Just after Corbyn won the leadership the Conservatives released an email of Corbyn statements portraying him as a threat to the country. A video followed;
Labour are now a serious threat to our national security – please RT this important video: https://t.co/q5Omnl7ciG
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) September 14, 2015
** Update: The Conservatives seem to have taken down their video. Here it is:
Propaganda much? Were these selectively edited quotes, or do we have something to worry about?
The SNP and the Green Party have both stated that they would work with Corbyn fighting the anti-austerity cause. However the Liberal Democrats state that they are the only party to offer a credible opposition to the Conservatives. They currently have only eight MPs and used to be in coalition with the Tories, but we’ll let that pass.
.@SalBrinton The Corbyn style of politics may generate a lot of noise but only one thing keeps Gov in check – credible opposition (1/3)
— Lib Dem Press Office (@LibDemPress) September 12, 2015
Nigel Farage has stated that if Corbyn supports a British exit from the EU, UKIP would be delighted to unite forces.
A united Labour party with the support of the SNP could do some real damage to the Conservatives. However, it’s yet to be seen whether Corbyn will pull it off.
Is the Labour party doomed, or can Jeremy Corbyn win in 2020? Is this just an experiment in “left-wing” politics, or does the party need to split up? Will involving more ordinary people in the political process actually change things?
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