In Multipolarity, Sept 24, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn in Liverpool on Sept 24, 2016 welcomes his victory in the Labour Party leadership review (Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Jeremy Corbyn in Liverpool on Sept 24, 2016 welcomes his victory in the Labour Party leadership review (Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as leader of the Labour Party, winning a massive 61.8 percent of the vote, an even larger margin than his original election win in 2015. Corbyn saw off opponent Owen Smith on Saturday with 313,209 votes to 193,229.

Speaking after the announcement, Corbyn thanked his supporters for giving him “the second mandate in a year to lead our party.”

“We have much more in common than that which divides us,” the 67-year-old told his party’s gathering in Liverpool. “As far I am concerned, let’s wipe that slate clean, from today, and get on with the work we have got to do as a party together.”

Corbyn also thanked Smith for “an interesting summer of debates,” adding that such discussions should continue as they are part of the “same Labour family and that’s how it’s always going to be.”

Smith tweeted his congratulations to Corbyn “on being elected decisively” as Labour leader. “Now is time for all of us to work to take Labour back to power,” Smith tweeted.

Saturday’s win for Corbyn sees him taking a slightly larger slice of the vote than when first elected Labour leader in September 2015. In that election, Corbyn won 59.5 percent of the vote, beating three other candidates to the job.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Corbyn since then, however, particularly after the Brexit vote. He was criticised for his apparent lack of leadership in the EU Remain campaign. His critics accused him of abandoning his “natural and historic” position over Europe by committing the Labour party to campaigning to stay in the EU.

Corbyn’s pro-EU supporters and colleagues accused him of failing to campaign as much as they would have liked.

Numerous members of his shadow cabinet stood down in the weeks that followed the June referendum. He also lost a party vote of confidence 172 votes to 40, but Corbyn refused to step down.

With many of his fellow MPS finding his views too left-wing for the party, his critics have said that with Corbyn at the helm, the Labour party will never be returned to power, with voters instead backing their main opposition, the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party reacted to Corbyn’s stunning comeback by saying that his re-election won’t be the end of the “bitter power struggle” within the Labour party. “172 Labour MPs don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can lead the Labour Party – so how can he lead the country?” said Tory chairman Patrick McLoughlin.

McLoughlin’s thoughts have been echoed by some in the Labour camp, too, with John McTernan, a senior adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, telling AP that Corbyn’s election won’t be the end of leadership debate within the party. “He is nothing other than a complete and utter disaster for the Labour Party,” McTernan said. “The battle just moves on.”

Corbyn’s key allies and grassroots supporters were quick to dismiss the criticism, with fellow Labour party MP and Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott describing the result as “a resounding victory… in the face of a nastier and more bitter campaign than last time.”

Corbyn is hugely popular on the ground with membership growing from around 200,000 in May 2015 to over 500,000, making Labour Europe’s biggest political party.

“Politics is changing,” said Labour supporter Emma Hamblett. “It’s becoming more people-powered [rather] than just the elite at the top. We’re having a voice. It’s generating a lot of excitement, especially among the young.”

Labour Party leadership: Jeremy Corbyn wins convincing victory in Labour Party leadership review

By Heather Stewart, Political editor, and Rowena Mason, The Guardian, Sept 24, 2016

Party leader increases mandate after beating challenger Owen Smith, leaving rebel MPs to decide whether to return to the frontline

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to “wipe the slate clean” after winning a convincing victory in Labour’s bitter leadership battle, securing 62% of the vote.

Speaking after the result was declared in Liverpool, Corbyn thanked his rival, Owen Smith, and urged the “Labour family” to unite after the summer-long contest. “We have much more in common than that which divides us,” he said. “Let’s wipe that slate clean from today and get on with the work we’ve got to do as a party together.”

Corbyn secured 61.8% of the vote to Smith’s 38.2%. The victory strengthens his hold on a party that has expanded dramatically since the 2015 general election and now has more than 500,000 members. In last year’s contest for party leader, he won 59.5% of the vote.

Corbyn won a majority over Smith in every category – members (59%), registered supporters (70%) and trades union affiliates (60%). The winner pointed out that he had secured his second mandate in a year and urged his colleagues to accept what had been a democratic decision.

Smith congratulated Corbyn for mobilising so many supporters in the party, and said he would reflect on how he could help Labour to win the next election. He said: “I entered this race because I didn’t think Jeremy was providing the leadership we needed, and because I felt we must renew our party to win back the voters’ trust and respect. However, I fully accept and respect the result and I will reflect carefully on it and on what role I might play in future to help Labour win again for the British people.”

That is likely to be read as a hint that the former shadow work and pensions secretary might be willing to accept a frontbench role, something that he repeatedly insisted during the campaign he would not do.

Smith, the MP for Pontypridd, emerged as a challenger after scores of shadow cabinet ministers resigned in the wake of the EU referendum, and Labour MPs overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in their leader.

Rebel MPs must now decide whether to return to the frontline. Many are awaiting the results of a Saturday night meeting of the party’s national executive committee, which will discuss the rules for choosing a future shadow cabinet.

Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, has called for a system of elections that would allow MPs to have a say in who serves on Corbyn’s frontbench, and could tempt back some who resigned over the summer.

Any agreed rule changes could be ratified by conference, but Corbyn’s team believes it can beef up the shadow cabinet without the need for elections and would like to see the question discussed alongside other issues, including how to give the membership more of a say in policymaking.

Party sources said talks involving the chief whip, Rosie Winterton, had taken place and would continue later in the day to try to reach a consensus on shadow cabinet elections.

John McDonnell, Corbyn’s campaign director, said the leader’s team hoped to work with MPs from across the party, but would be happy if those critical of his leadership wanted to campaign on issues from the backbenches, citing Yvette Cooper’s role in fighting for support for refugees.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite union and a key Corbyn backer, said MPs must fall into line. “We urge Labour MPs to heed the signal sent by the members, twice now in one year, about the direction they want for the party. This includes respecting and supporting the elected leader and his team; no more sniping, plotting and corridor coups,” he said.

Jon Ashworth, the Leicester South MP and shadow cabinet member who sits on the NEC, said: “We have got to unite, but we have also got to recognise that substantial numbers of people didn’t vote for Jeremy.”

He said a deal on shadow cabinet elections would help Corbyn to beef up his frontbench team. “If we want a fully functioning frontbench, we need a way of bringing colleagues back. Various shadow teams have not got their full complement. This seems to me to be a way of doing that.”

In Corbyn’s acceptance speech he promised that attacking Theresa May’s plan to bring back grammar schools would be at the heart of his effort to reunite Labour. “This time next week we will hit the streets united as a party. I am calling on Labour party members to join us in a national campaign for inclusive education for all next Saturday,” he said.

Addressing the party’s annual women’s conference late on Saturday afternoon, Corbyn called for Labour to unite in the name of Jo Cox, the MP who was killed during the EU referendum campaign. The Labour leader said that Cox’s death was a “murder of democracy”, adding: “She was adamant that there was much more that united than divides us and there is no better way to honour her memory than ensuring we reunite and we are resolute in making the world a better place.”

Cox nominated Corbyn for the leadership in 2015 but later wrote of her regret, claiming that he was a weak leader with poor judgement.

Corbyn also offered his backing to the MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, who has been embroiled in a public row with her former husband in recent days.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, launched a multimedia campaign highlighting the divisions in the Labour party with the slogan: “We have a winner, but it isn’t Britain.”

Tory chairman Patrick McLoughlin said: “Labour are too divided, distracted and incompetent to build a country that works for everyone. Instead of learning lessons from the past, they have engaged in a bitter power struggle that will continue even after they’ve picked a leader.”

Momentum rally celebrates

The room erupted in screams, cheers and dancing as Corbyn was re-elected leader of the Labour Party by a larger margin than last year.

This was not the scene of the formal announcement, but about 15 minutes’ walk down the road, where 750 of the leader’s staunch supporters gathered in a community space called Black-E. They were at the World Transformed festival, set up by Momentum, the grassroots group that has been closely involved in Corbyn’s campaign.

Dozens were kitted out in Team Corbyn or Momentum T-shirts. Others also wore their politics on their chests with slogans urging an end to the siege in Gaza and justice for the families of those who have died in police custody.

For the most part, however, those who had turned up to watch Corbyn’s victory were not diehard or longstanding activists. Roisin Vere, 27, and Tom Logan, 29, both live in the city and were planning to go to watch a football match rather than hang around at a political conference.

“It’s the first time in our lives that we’ve had someone in politics who represents our beliefs,” said Vere, who was a Labour and sometimes Green voter before joining as a member. Logan likened it to watching politics come out of the dark ages.

Lucy Page, 50, was another relatively new member. Also from Liverpool, she said she had always admired Corbyn since seeing him on television opposing the war in Iraq during Tony Blair’s leadership.

“I joined the Labour party last year to support him. I’m impressed by the membership numbers and the way he has stood up to the Tories, getting them to stop so many things. I think he can win, but I think the media and the MPs are doing a great disservice to him and the country,” she said.

As the crowd warmed up for Corbyn’s expected victory, a choir from Liverpool Socialist Singers sang a song about being part of Momentum.

Stalls sold Corbyn-related merchandise and books about socialism. Later there would be sessions about “brandalism”, challenging the corporate takeover of communal space, and a panel discussing public ownership.

The atmosphere became electrified when the BBC news channel appeared on a big screen showing videos of the candidates, attracting boos at a mention of Smith’s career in big pharma and cheers for the leader. Chants of “Jeremy, Jeremy” and “Corbyn, Corbyn” broke out in different parts of the room.

Silence descended as Paddy Lillis, the chair of the NEC, read out the result. At the confirmation Corbyn had won, there was a burst of jubilation. A group of middle-aged men in suits in the front row jumped around, while two women waving Momentum T-shirts danced as the cameras snapped.

As a poet performed verse about Corbyn’s treatment by the media, Majid Mehdizadeh, 26, said he was pleased with the result because he admired the leader’s principles and honesty.

“I’ve never see a single interview where he has dodged the question. I joined after Ed Miliband lost last year, but before Jeremy Corbyn … I voted for him then and I voted for him again,” he said.

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are celebrating, not gloating. They want a united party more than ever

‘Corbyn’s a better person than I am,’ a lecturer at the Momentum conference told me. ‘I mean, we could learn from him reaching out. We’re all a family. That’s democracy – you have disagreements and you come together.’

By Kirsty Major, The Independent, Sept 23, 2016

LIVERPOOL – The prevailing mood in the banner-decked hall at Momentum’s fringe conference in Liverpool this weekend was quietly confident. Watching the BBC live stream as the result of the Labour leadership contest was announced, the crowd mischievously heckled over a compilation of Owen Smith interviews. With the finish line in sight, it seemed laughable that the Labour MP for Pontypridd ever hoped to win against Corbyn on a left-wing ticket while dragging a voting record and career history behind him that suggested he was anything but.

Yet, when the votes came in, the inevitability of Corbyn’s win did not dilute the celebration of his renewed 61.8 per cent mandate. The hall shook as the crowd stomped their feet and chanted his name; one woman burst into a little victory dance.

Absent from the celebrations, however, were calls of a permanent revolution or stirring notes from L’Internationale. I had kept a keen eye on the Liverpool Socialist Singers group just in case. Indeed, there was little gloating to be had at all. Instead, members of Momentum – the grassroots campaign that has championed Corbyn’s leadership, but is unfairly dismissed by mainstream Labour MPs as “Trotskyist” – nodded along dutifully, cheering as the re-elected leader stated that he and his opponent Smith were still part of the “same Labour family”.

“Remember that, in our party, we have much more in common than that which divides us. As far as I’m concerned the slate is wiped clean from today,” said the newly-invigorated Labour leader. Corbyn also called for an end to the abuse that “demeaned and corroded the party.”

Those around me said the same. Oliver, a 28-year-old manufacturer who travelled from Oxfordshire to be present for the leadership result, said: “MPs now have to take notice and respect his mandate. Now we can finally put it to bed.”

“Corbyn’s a better person than I am,” said Karen, a 52-year-old lecturer in business at Liverpool university. “I mean, we could learn from him reaching out. We’re all a family. That’s democracy – you have disagreements and you come together.”

Corbyn rightly used his victory speech to shift the conversation away from the navel-gazing that has dogged his party for the past 12 months and onto policy issues that Labour MPs can unite behind. He addressed the need for a functioning NHS; better care for the elderly; reduction in child poverty; the reduction of inequality.

The real rallying call for party unity, however, came in his attack on Theresa May’s grammar schools expansion plan. “I am calling on Labour party members to join us in a national campaign for inclusive education for all next Saturday,” said Corbyn. On this point, even deputy leader Tom Watson, agrees; it’s a lodestar to guide members and parliamentarians on the path back to unity.

The one flat note in the new Labour tune: Corbyn’s stance on migration. He repeated, to the admiration of many, his consistent belief that the UK has a “duty as a country to refugees”. I agree, but many MPs see such a comment as electoral suicide in a country that voted against immigration in a proxy vote on the policy at the EU referendum. How, they will ask, can a pro-migrant party ever hope to win back support in Labour heartlands which voted for Brexit?

But despite his calls for immigration controls in 2015, Ed Miliband still lost to the Conservatives. If Labour can find a united response that addresses both the concerns of Brexiteers and our moral duty to the migration crisis, there may be electoral success to be had yet.

Call me idealistic – Corbyn supporters have heard far worse in recent months – but with the leadership election behind us and the result conclusive, there is now enough time before the 2020 general election is called for an energised, refreshed Labour Party to change the terms of political debate in post-Brexit Britain. If Labour can reclaim its reputation for compassion from Theresa May’s Conservatives, it may be in with a chance.

Jeremy Corbyn has made a start, showing humility and grace to his detractors. Let’s hope it is returned in kind.

Kirsty Major is Commissioning Editor of ‘Independent Voices’. She previously wrote for ‘The Independent on Sunday’. 

Related news:
Labour Party scores three wins in local council elections, The Canary, Sept 23, 2016

Green Party in Britain welcomes welcome Corbyn’s leadership win, call for progressive alliance, published in Green Left Weekly, Sept 23, 2016

Labour should be opposing  Trident nuclear submarines; instead it’s playing politics, commentary by Kate Hudson, in The Guardian, Sept 26, 2016

‘This means Labour will not oppose Trident replacement. All those billions that could be spent on the NHS, on jobs, homes, education, will be spent on building weapons of mass destruction. And Labour will stand by and let it happen…’

(Kate Hudson is general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.)


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