How much can change in a year? A vote to leave the European Union, a new Prime Minister and Donald Trump could be the American President… Yet, the Labour party are once again having a Leadership election with Jeremy Corbyn at the receiving end of a media smear campaign.
Labour are confused. Scotland have turned to the SNP, and Labour heartlands turned to Brexit – neither an appealing option. Corbyn was blamed for a lacklustre campaign to Remain in the European Union. As a result we have watched the Shadow Cabinet disintegrate before our very eyes. Once again, Labour are in disarray without a clear political direction, if one can be achieved.
As a country we are following a strong move to Right so we must not lose sight of who called the Referendum in the first place, the Conservatives. Yet, to their credit, the Right have always managed to “remain” a cohesive unit. In the wake of David Cameron’s resignation and Theresa May’s succession, the lack of governance, democracy and shambles the Tories led the UK into was outshone by Labour. The media once again had their scapegoat, Jeremy Corbyn. Perhaps it is unfair to come to a conclusion of disappointment without an analysis of Corbyn’s competition, Owen Smith.
Within months of his election to Parliament in 2010, Owen Smith was appointed as Shadow Minister of Wales. This fast paced career continued in 2012 with his promotion as Shadow Secretary for State of Wales. It came to abrupt halt this year with Smith resigning, along with many other Shadow Ministers, citing a lack of confidence in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Smith has the advantage of his election to Parliament being so recent. A vote for the Iraq War does not stain his record like so many other Labour MPs. As one should expect of a Labour MP, his votes in Parliament have been consistently Liberal. Smith voted for same sex marriage, gay rights and laws for the promotion of Human Rights. In addition, Smith was a strong Remain supporter, going as far to suggest a second referendum. Smith was quoted as saying, “I don’t think we should accept we’re on a definite path out. I think we need to make sure people are satisfied. We trusted people, rightly, to take the decision. We can trust them again in 18 months’ time to check it’s absolutely what they wanted.” Corbyn’s ambivalence and acceptance of Brexit has been well documented and unjustly criticised. On the other hand, his association with pharmaceutical company Pfizer and votes for greater choice in the NHS have worked against him. The welfare state is a Labour legacy.
Overall, Smith is the type of Labour we should want to vote for, the “soft left” option. Yet I find myself, like so many others, still in support of Corbyn. The problem is not Smith himself, it is the circumstances in which he has risen to prominence. The reason Corbyn has garnered so much respect is his resolution in his convictions and unfaltering dedication to democracy whether that is his election as Labour Party Leader or the vote to leave the European Union. As uncomfortable and perhaps fickle the public vote can be, Corbyn’s campaign rests upon it.
A year ago I wrote, “If leaderships were won by pure force of character and articulation, surely Corbyn would win.” Burnham seemed the most likely candidate. I was proved wrong as was the establishment. The next general election may not see Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, but his re-election as leader would prove the Labour Parliamentary Party are out of touch with their voters. Yet, when votes like Brexit are forcing us inward as a country, Corbyn and Smith are not men who should be working against one another. The rise of the Right should not see the disintegration of the Left.
Whatever the outcome of the next leadership election, and I hope it is a vote for Corbyn, Labour need to continue the fight against austerity, inequality and a failing political establishment.