Unite Community locally and nationally were among the first to support Jeremy Corbyn and become part of the new Corbynista movement. which aimed to take control and change the Labour party and then the country.
There remains lots of work to be done on both counts of course, but already our work has paid off handsomely. Our members and our communities have suffered terribly under austerity and if there is one thing we have won it is this – THE TORIES HAVE SAID AUSTERITY IS OVER – but we will believe that when we see it. Things are definitely changing for the better and in our direction too, but we continue the campaigns until policy changes and our communities are seeing real improvements everywhere. Foodbanks and clothing banks need to become things of the past.
What led to the Corbyn surge
Most of his MPs expected him to lead Labour to a shattering defeat; in the event, he has inspired an astonishing revival. Theresa May called an early general election in the expectation of achieving the first Conservative landslide majority since 1987. An inept campaign left her humiliated, and her tenuous hold on power dependent on the support of the unpleasant and reactionary Democratic Unionist Party; she looks like a dead woman walking. The Tories were deservedly punished by the electorate for their failures in office and for their joyless, arrogant MAYBOT campaign (May as robot = Maybot).
After seven years of austerity economics, they could not explain how they would improve public services or return hope to the British people. During the election, she abandoned the language of compassionate conservatism and used robotic clichés. Rather than seeking to earn voters’ trust, she assumed that the promise of a “hard” Brexit and antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn and slurring him as an IRA supporter would suffice. Were it not for 12 Conservative gains in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party recklessly promised a second independence referendum, Labour might well be in power. As it is there were many tight marginals, & 2500 votes in key constituencies would have given Labour power.
Yet though they lost 13 seats, the Tories achieved their highest vote share since 1983 (42.4 per cent). It was not a Conservative collapse but a Labour surge that cost Mrs May her majority.
The Conservatives will be wary of calling an early election because they now fear that Labour could defeat them. Much credit for this unlikely turnaround resides with the much maligned Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader delivered on his original promise to revive the party by attracting young voters, non-voters and former SNP, Ukip and Green supporters. He ran an optimistic and even joyful campaign, defined by policy initiatives rather than slogans.
Labour unexpectedly won 32 seats and increased its vote share from 30.4 per cent to 40 per cent – the largest rise since Clement Attlee’s landslide victory in 1945. No one would dare underestimate Corbyn again, certainly not as a campaigner, even if he has a different style as a Commons performer and day-to-day operator –this honesty is part of his appeal however.
Labour’s manifesto proposed popular measures, such as the abolition of student tuition fees, universal free school meals and the renationalisation of the railways. It eschewed the politics of generational warfare in favour of a social-democratic offer to young and old. Respect to the Greens and others who put aside party advantage to ensure that Tories lost ground, Labour should be respectful in future partnerships with Greens where possible. Arrogance is the most unpleasant of character traits.
Mr Corbyn was also pragmatic. By promising to renew Trident and increase police numbers by 10,000, he blunted Tory attacks over national security. Mr Corbyn recognised the positive role of immigration and the importance of public investment to the economy. And Labour’s position on Brexit was sufficiently ambiguous to attract both Remainers and Leavers.
The Summer of Corbyn Love
Under attack from much of the media and his own MPs because of his past associations, and doubted by the New Statesman, Mr Corbyn showed considerable resilience. He enjoys campaigning and it shows. Rather than condemning his party to a decade of opposition, he has improbably created the conditions for victory next time, as Neil Kinnock did by losing narrowly in 1992. In spite of his many shortcomings, Mr Corbyn has earned the right to lead the party into the next election, whenever it falls. He has won the Labour civil war.
Now, it is time for the party to unite behind him. Backbench critics should be prepared to serve in the shadow cabinet or as shadow ministers. For Labour, as its election campaign demonstrated, unity is strength.
The party must also recognise that, while it advanced, it did not win. For the third successive election, Labour finished comfortably behind the Conservatives when it should have won. Labour must do more to convince the many voters who retain doubts about its economic credibility, although these are based on lies spread by the Tory media.
Yet, after seven years of austerity, there is a real desire for transformative change of the kind that only Labour can deliver. We are all weary of the effects of neoliberalism, ultra-globalisation and the underfunding of public services.
On the eve of the Brexit negotiation, Britain faces yet more political instability. Yet, if there is any consolation, the election has demonstrated that there is no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. Nor is there one in the country. A reinvigorated Labour and MPs of all parties should compel the government to prioritise the economy, rather than immigration control, in the negotiations.
Finally, Labour need to win 32 Tory seats for power next time in Labours’ own right. Corbyn is right to say that the Tory administration is weak and wobbly and can collapse at any time. The next election could be as early as the autumn and so Corbyn has put Labour on permanent campaign footing, with visits to many Tory marginals to come. Respect to all our volunteers who helped with leafletting, canvassing and phone canvassing. Durham Unite Community are going to play our part in this future movement, so let’s redouble our efforts and see Corbyn as Prime Minister next time.