by Rick Evans
Morning Star | April 03, 2020
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn watches the parade from the balcony of the Royal County Hotel during the Durham Miners’ Gala in Durham, in July 2017
I WANTED to write a thank you to Jeremy Corbyn, the most maligned person in British politics.
When the books in the future are written on this period in British history, I believe they will be very kind to Corbyn, unlike so many during the last five years.
He certainly was an unlikely leader and I think it’s fair to say nobody expected it — probably least of all himself.
But the fact that he became leader against all the odds and energised and re-engaged so many in politics is a testimony to him and his vision of a fairer more equal society.
The fact that so many in our own party never understood him or his vision says more about them than him.
It’s been said before but Jeremy is a different kind of politician entirely to the norm and I think that’s what attracted so many to him.
He has never been in politics for himself or for a glittering career but to actually help people and assist them in the struggles we all go through.
Of course he’s not the only one, but so often — in my lifetime at least — it seems so many politicians aren’t in it for the right reasons and over the years many people have become understandably cynical about them.
This is one reason I believe some of his colleagues were never happy with him as leader as he was never part of the cosy House of Commons club.
Corbyn grew up in a different political time in the 1960s and ’70s and was always firmly on the left.
He cut his teeth as a NUPE union official and as a councillor in Haringey when he was elected in 1974.
At the time the Labour left was on the rise and in 1983 he was elected Labour MP for Islington North, where he is still the MP.
But as we know through the rest of the ’80s and ’90s the Labour Party lost elections.
While other leftwingers shifted their positions on many things as the tide turned rightwards in a desperate attempt to get elected, Corbyn stayed firm and was always true to his beliefs.
He carried on with all the causes he was involved with, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Palestinian rights and later the Stop the War Coalition.
Corbyn has consistently supported strikes and workers’ struggles throughout his political life — one of the few Labour MPs to do so.
But by the time of the Blair years he was looked on as a “dinosaur” by some and was an irritation to the Labour government.
He defied the whip 428 times while Labour was in power, which has always been thrown back in his face and as used an excuse to criticise him.
The difference, through, is that when Corbyn criticised the New Labour government, it was out of principle. When so many criticised him, it was to try to create an opportunity to get rid of him as leader — that’s the blatant truth of it.
Never has been someone been so bullied, betrayed, ridiculed and undermined, yet he has always kept his dignity throughout — unlike his opponents.
It’s important to remember what had happened before Corbyn became leader because it’s the events of the previous years that led to the tide of hope that got him elected.
To many, including myself, the New Labour governments of 1997-2010 had been a massive letdown and missed opportunity.
Yes, they did some good things like bring in the national minimum wage, for example, but especially post-Iraq many became cynical towards Blair and didn’t trust him any more.
Economically, New Labour pretty much kept to the neoliberal consensus of the Thatcher/Major years. This, coupled with the fact that our vote seemed to be taken for granted, did New Labour no favours whatsoever.
This laid the groundwork for the eventual surge of Corbyn and the rise of the new left.
This is why when Corbyn spoke of hope and the end of austerity, he caught the mood of the young and socialists who had all but given up.
It’s often been said when Corbyn first stood for the leadership in 2015 that he was one of the nicest people in politics, but that narrative changed very quickly when it became obvious he was going to do well.
So it was during the first leadership election that the knives started coming out for him — and the attacks continued for the full course of his leadership, only increasing in intensity.
While it’s true that the majority of the press have always been pro-Conservative and anti-Labour, the attacks against Corbyn were on another level.
The Establishment was terrified of what he represented which is why the relentless smears carried on and on.
Although I’ve always been happy to call myself a Corbynista, I prefer the term democratic socialist. To me this was never about one man but a movement that was built around a modern socialism.
Corbyn was the spark but so many things were happening with a left that had already been building up during the previous years but not in a conventional party political way.
That’s why so many were surprised at the turn of events in the summer of 2015. But there had been clues in the previous few years, with the rise of anti-austerity groups like UK Uncut.
So what happened when Corbyn announced he was standing for leader was that he not only galvanised the traditional Labour left but the young and others involved in other campaigning.
The coming together of these different groups and the Corbyn surge was the most exciting thing politically I’ve ever felt a part of.
To know, after years of being told that my views were “out of date” and “from the past,” that so many had similar views was a brilliant, uplifting experience that’s hard to put into words.
So I want to thank Jeremy Corbyn for everything he has done for the party and movement.
You helped so many believe that a different, fairer type of society was actually possible after so many years of so many of us feeling hopeless for the future.
He really is a unique politician. What he and his family have had to go through has been disgusting and I would have understood if he had quit as leader four years ago.
But he didn’t because he’s made of stern stuff and he knew we were all behind him, backing him.
He helped bring a movement together and our challenge now is to keep that going.
I’m glad he’s staying as an MP and would like him to carry on doing that as long as he can. All the best, Jeremy, for the future and thank you. You brought hope back into politics and life itself and that will be your legacy.