UK Election 2017: The rise of Jeremy Corbyn

Dhaka,  Fri,  18 August 2017
Published : 17 Jun 2017, 20:26:31
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UK Election 2017: The rise of Jeremy Corbyn

Muhammad Mahmood
The United Kingdom general election held on June  08, 2017 resulted in what the British call a "hung parliament" indicating that no one single political party commands an absolute majority to  form the government. The Conservative party won 318 seats giving it the status of the single largest party in the newly elected parliament. Therefore,  the Conservatives will have to enter into a coalition with another party or parties to cross the line over to  326 seats  ( the British Parliament is composed of 650 members)  to be able to form the government. 

Prime Minister Theresa May is now trying to stitch up a deal with a Northern Ireland Party called the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This party was founded by Reverend Ian Paisley, a fundamentalist Protestant Christian preacher. The DUP is also a very hardline unionist party set against a united independent Ireland and dedicated to preserving Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. The reason Prime Minister May trying to enter into a coalition with the DUP is that other parties, such as the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) with 35 seats and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with 12 seats have ruled out any possibility of joining the Conservatives in a coalition government. May now has very little option other than to enter into a coalition with the DUP to remain as Prime Minister. The Conservatives are really in a very messy situation and it now appears that they can only survive on a life support machine provided by the DUP - a party openly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights and one MP is a climate change denier and another MP is a creationist. Their leader Arlene Foster is implicated in a corruption scandal.

Prime Minister May did not need to call the election until 2020 but she and her advisers thought that   her principal opponent, the Labour Party  was seriously weakened  by factional fighting and that had seriously compromised the position of its leader Jeremy Corbyn.  Indeed, the right-wing faction of the Labour Party, led  by Tony Blair who is considered as a war criminal by many within the party, has always undermined left-leaning Jeremy Corbyn as the party leader.  The corporate and "liberal'' media and the public broadcaster  BBC did everything possible to undermine Corbyn often describing him as a "looney left'' and as a "70s relic out of touch with British voters''. There were even attempts by the Blairites to unseat him from his position as the  party leader.  Corbyn has long said that Tony Blair should stand trial at The Hague for war crimes.

 Furthermore, Theresa May enjoyed a 20-point lead in the opinion polls at the time the snap election was called. To further bolster the party's position and its right-wing political credentials, May and her close associates adopted many of the  far-right party UKIP's policies causing the wipe out of the UKIP in this election.   But she made a very serious miscalculation; instead the election result was a disaster for her. She is now being described by many prominent members within her party  as a "dead woman walking''. The knives are out for May in the conservative leadership, and that will lead to a bitter fight between the ultra-right and the traditional conservatives. For the time being May is struggling to stay on as Prime Minister.

The Labour Party lost the election with 262 seats; but they are delighted. The party gained seats in every region of the country  adding  32 seats (24 per cent more seats) while the Conservatives lost 23 seats.  Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters conducted a very successful campaign and arrested the electoral slide downward. Once again they have been successful in reigniting the spirit of social democracy after a considerable period of neo-liberal policies pursued by right-wing faction of the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair. They are also delighted because it was catastrophe for Theresa May. Now her future has become very uncertain as many conservative MPs are calling her to step down but the alternative they are canvassing is a clownish political figure like Donald Trump. That man is  Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a man without any moral compass. The Conservatives do not like losers, Theresa May is just clinging to power but not for very long.

The corporate and "liberal'' (usually called the mainstream) media  describe Jeremy Corbyn as a radical, even sometime as a looney lefty completely unelectable. They made dire predictions that  Labour was  about to face the worst electoral defeat in living memory. They also found Corbyn's message of social justice unacceptable to the electorate. The BBC was largely in tune with the mainstream media. Corbyn also faced attacks from the Blairites within the party since he assumed the party leadership in 2015. He survived a party coup to dislodge him from the party leadership. Many of his harshest critics within the party are now changing their tune and embracing Corbyn. 

Labour did not win the election yet mustered 41 per cent of the vote against May's 44 per cent  under the leadership of Corbyn. He prevented Tories gaining an absolute majority. He ran a very successful public campaign  on a platform of social justice resulting in cutting a 20-point Theresa May lead into a near tie. Corbyn has been a lifelong anti-war campaigner. This was the largest come-from-behind increase in Labour's share of seats since 1945. Labour's election manifesto calling for nationalisation of key  utilities, universal access to education, housing and healthcare and redistributive justice with a call "for the many, not the few'' resonated with the electorate.

Twice during the election campaign, the UK was hit by terrorist attack.  Corbyn did not hesitate to point out where the problem did lie: the British foreign policy. He said something no political leader in countries allied with the USA in its relentless wars of aggression for regime change would dare to say, especially in an election campaign. He said, "Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home''. A recent poll conducted by the Independent in the UK found 75 per cent in agreement that "intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have made atrocities on UK soil more likely''. 

Theresa May accused Corbyn of  being allied with terrorists.  It is so ironical that May herself  is now forming a coalition with a political party tied to loyalist paramilitary and terror groups in Northern Ireland.  The DUP is in effect a terrorist outfit dressed up as a political party. How hypocritical, some might say.

The rise of Corbyn is largely due to the Labour Party manifesto aimed at the greater common good not the failed neo-liberal consensus. The manifesto  allowed a large number of voters, in particular young ones, to see that  he stood for things they believe in. Corbyn has proved to be the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in many ways in more than four decades despite very hostile corporate, liberal and public media campaign against him. His honesty, his passion, his commitment to social justice have made him the popular Labour leader who is now in a position to rebuild the Labour party for its electoral success in the  very near future.

The writer is an independent economic and political analyst.

muhammad.mahmood47@gmail.com


 
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