JEREMY CORBYN’S Corby speech is a bold reassertion of the new hope his Labour leadership first brought to politics.
Coming a day after the Tory-dominated Centre for Social Justice’s proposal that we should not be allowed to retire till we’re 75, it is a reminder of our need to challenge the stereotype that politicians are “all the same.”
A vote for Corbyn’s Labour is not a vote for the country’s managed decline, as voting for the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats (or indeed Labour before 2015) was.
For the former coalfields to become the “new centres of green energy generation,” “the towns that used to make locomotives [to build] the next generation of high-speed electric trains” is a vision for a revitalised country addressing global challenges like climate change head on.
Unlike George Osborne’s mythical “march of the makers” — a piece of empty rhetoric that did nothing to arrest the decline in manufacturing — Labour is not afraid to put flesh on the bones of its industrial strategy.
It has freed itself from the delusion that “the market” will find solutions to whatever problems society faces. No major British party for decades has dared envisage such sweeping changes to the way our economy is run.
Nor has any other developed such detailed policy across the board, policies that reflect the interconnection between the social and ecological crises that threaten us all.
Corbyn is right to point out that the rise in knife crime is not simply a consequence of Tory police cuts: the young person risking prison by carrying or attacking someone with a knife is a person brutalised by an system that offers nothing, no security, no prospect of a decent job, no sense of responsibility to others — because decades of market-driven politics have smashed communities, removed permanent jobs and broken up families.
The same process has created epidemic levels of loneliness and depression, particularly among older people.
Publicly owned, publicly run services from health to education to transport to energy to water and more are good for people and the only rational way to act against climate breakdown while improving quality of life for the many.
To those who worry that Labour has lost its confidence as a result of setbacks over Brexit and media furore over alleged anti-semitism, the Corby speech will give new heart.
It also provides a positive narrative for an election campaign that could easily, if called on a pledge to stop a “no-deal” Brexit, descend into defeatism and then defeat.
It cannot entirely hide, however, the fact that the EU remains the party’s Achilles heel.
Corbyn’s insistence that a second referendum on EU membership held by Labour would have “credible options for both sides” is a welcome acknowledgement that those who voted Leave in 2016 feel just as angry and let down by the developments of the last three years as those who voted Remain.
It does not address a problem highlighted at last year’s TUC by Unite’s Steve Turner, speaking for the TUC general council — that a second referendum would entrench and embitter the two sides of the debate even further.
If Remain won, why would Leave voters feel they have to respect the outcome if implementing the 2016 decision was delayed and then reversed?
If Leave won again, is there any reason to expect Remain lobbyists to respect the result when they have not done so so far?
Corbyn has previously remarked that British politics seems “stuck in a loop” on Brexit. A second referendum is a recipe for playing that record on repeat. Labour has a programme that could turn this country’s fortunes around and deliver a better, fairer future. A shame to put it at risk by tying it to support for an EU that will do everything to frustrate it — and that will alienate audiences the party really needs to win.
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