On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the leader of the British Labour Party, following Ed Miliband’s resignation after the party’s disastrous performance in May’s General Election. Corbyn won nearly 60% and 300,000 of the votes for the contest, barely hearing the scurrying footsteps of those behind him— neither Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, or Liz Kendall breached a fifth of the vote.
May’s defeat was brutal for Labour; polls were encouraging, #milifandom took the internet by storm, and a “hell yes, I’m tough enough” performance gave the indication that the Conservative-Liberal Democrats coalition was seriously in danger of losing their majority of the previous five years. In the end, the Tories defied the polls and exit polls to storm to a clear majority. Miliband quit, Scotland was yellow (SNP), and the Lib Dems received fewer votes than the far right, xenophobic United Kingdom Independence Party.
Labour had to look in the mirror. The party lost 24 seats in Parliament after five years under the Tories, who stripped communities of resources, unions of rights, and, almost, the United Kingdom of Scotland.
The answer was never supposed to be Jeremy Corbyn, a 66 year old, vegetarian socialist who has never held a cabinet position. The answer seemed to be Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall— all of whom had links to Tony Blair (and his electoral success), Gordon Brown, and Ed Miliband. Blair, the father of New Labour, and Brown, one of Blair’s most trusted confidants, both expressed their dismay at Corbyn’s success during his campaign. This is not unexpected– Corbyn is not New Labour, not by any means.
Corbyn is as classically left as it comes in 2015— ridding the UK of nuclear deterrents, renationalizing certain industries, upping union rights, scrapping tuition fees, expanding the NHS and the welfare state, and opening doors to refugees. However, he is a huge proponent of investing in the UK’s broadband capacity, green energy, and research and development within business. He is anti-Austerity and has received the backing of the 40 economists, including David Blanchflower, who signed a letter dismissing criticism of Corbyn’s economic plans, saying they are “not extreme.” His shadow cabinet contains a variety of different MP’s and is a majority female, and his Prime Minister Question time contains questions the public has sent to him. Additionally, he wants parliament to rotate from London to Scotland and Wales.
Corbyn has received opposition from centrist Labour MP’s and Blairites who fundamentally reject his policies, preferring a “Third Way” approach— what they fail to understand is that Labour will not win with these Tory-lite policies. Labour must provide a genuine alternative to the Tories rather than trying to create a valence of responsibility through center-left ambiguity. The Scottish National Party did that in May, and Labour lost one of the party’s former heartlands. Only 37% of the electorate voted for the Conservatives in May; Corbyn can win back large portions of the 63% who thought Miliband’s campaign did not offer the same relief from austerity as the SNP did in Scotland.
Late in 2002, Margaret Thatcher went to Hampshire to speak at a dinner. Taking her round at the reception one of the guests asked her what was her greatest achievement. She replied, “Tony Blair and New Labour.”
Labour has found its fresh start away from Tony Blair.
Alongside his charm, softness, authenticity, passion for youth, and strong belief in re-galvanizing the third of the population which didn’t vote, Corbyn offers the platform the party was founded on: Investing in people to assure secure futures, education, and healthcare as a right. Individuals do not vote for the iron fist, but they will cast a ballot for the helping hand— Corbyn, a truly decent man, is lending his to the poor, disillusioned, and disenfranchised across all of British society. If that isn’t a reason enough to cheer for Jeremy Corbyn’s election, the Labour Party, the party of Tony Benn, Billy Bragg, and Clement Attlee, has a lot to answer for.