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THIS weekend Labour will announce its new leader to take over from my decades-long friend and comrade Jeremy Corbyn.
We should use this moment not only to express our gratitude to Corbyn for the amazing effort and campaigning work he has put in as leader — and indeed has done on so many important issues for 46 years with Labour and will no doubt continue to do so — but also to assess what kind of party we must be and what principles and policies we must stand for going forward.
In key areas our party and policies have been transformed under Corbyn’s leadership. Not only have these restored our socialist principles, these changes are also essential to maintain and strengthen in terms of forging a path back to power.
The first is that Labour has become a firmly anti-austerity party and one which is fully committed to giving economic and political power to the many not the few, putting people, health and the planet before private profit.
The need to fundamentally change the economic order — so it works for the 99 per cent rather than the billionaires and tax dodgers — couldn’t have been shown more sharply than during the current coronavirus crisis that we and so many other countries currently face.
As Corbyn has said, “the coronavirus crisis is highlighting the extent of our dependence on each other and the many ties of mutual aid that, woven together, make up the fabric of society. We can emerge from this crisis with that fabric strengthened — but it requires a recognition that we can no longer tolerate the inequality and insecurity that has left all of us weaker than we should have been in the face of this pandemic.”
We must remain fully committed to a fundamentally different kind of economic order to the Tories.
A return to “austerity-lite” politics would see us lose further support, as shown by what has happened to our sister parties in Europe that have gone down this road in recent years, including (but not limited to) in Greece and France. In contrast in Portugal, where they have attempted to chart a different way forward to austerity, our sister party has gained stronger electoral support.
A second significant and important change in our party in recent years has been a firm commitment to anti-war internationalism, alongside standing up to racist scapegoating of migrants and others.
Apologising for the Iraq war was not only important to help restore faith in our party to so many people who stopped supporting Labour due to that disaster and the lies that justified it, but also in terms of making it clear that we would think again before committing to more failed US-led military adventures in the future.
With Boris Johnson always keen to curry favour with the increasingly erratic and reactionary Trump Whitehouse, we must ensure that never again will Labour members have to join anti-war marches, saying “not in our name” against the line of our own party leadership.
Finally, under Corbyn’s leadership we have not only seen Labour becoming proportionately one of the biggest political parties of its kind in Europe and the world, but also members again feel more connection and ownership over their party, with great steps forward made in democratising our party since 2015.
To win again, Labour must organise in every community — and on every day of the year — building trust in the idea that we can change Britain for the better, empowering people and communities. We simply can’t do this without both a massive and an empowered, motivated party membership and that means being a members-led party with roots in our communities and workplaces.
Over a number of years polling has shown that relevant, radical policies such as these — including expanding public ownership at home in areas such as rail, water and mail and ending our support for US-led illegal wars abroad — are popular with voters.
And not only are they popular with voters, they are also more necessary than ever in these dangerous and unpredictable times, which also means they can become more popular in the future.
The same can also be said of our proposals for a “Green Industrial Revolution” which addresses in a fundamental manner the climate emergency, which is a major crisis of our time for Britain and the world.
To rebuild Labour and to win the next election we need to remain committed to this transformative agenda, further developing it and popularising it.
When faced with “Trumpism” around the world, progressive forces simply cannot win — or provide solutions to the major issues of the day — with the politics of vacuous centrism and triangulation.
And here in Britain there can be no return to “business as usual” after the extraordinary crisis we are living through due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Furthermore, any suggestion of “shock therapy” hard-line austerity to “reset” the economy must be firmly resisted.
After the amazing efforts and sacrifices we are seeing put in across every community and locality in Britain — and the drastic measures that have been taken in so many areas of our economy and society — people will rightly not accept a return to our NHS and other essential public services being starved of vital resources, soaring levels of poverty and inequality, a homelessness crisis on our streets or a refusal to treat our vital public servants decently when it comes to their pay and conditions.
Corbyn has always insisted a better Britain and a better world is possible. That better future is socialism. Let’s make it happen.
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