Corbyn? Blimey, yes!

Francis Gilbert's picture
We need him to move the Labour Party forward.

This piece first appeared on website.

Why is Jeremy Corbyn so popular? Here’s a backbench Labour MP, a serial rebel during the Blair/Brown era proclaiming the same ideas he’s spouted for decades and no one has listened to. Now he’s the favorite to win the Labour Party leadership. Even people, like me, who previously supported Blair and Brown, are signing up to his cause.

Some context is needed here. For people outside the U.K., or people who are not natural Labour supporters, it may be difficult to understand the sense of betrayal that Labour Party supporters feel. I have voted Labour since 1987, the year I was first able to vote. I celebrated Blair’s landslide victory and felt that he would genuinely make Britain a better place. I was one of the mugs who initially supported the Iraq war, gullibly believing that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that it was imperative to remove his corrupt regime, even without a UN mandate. I thought the light touch that Blair and Brown took with the banks was the right policy; I believed that turning schools into academies would improve standards; I assumed the energy companies were better off as private companies. But, like many people, the fallout from the Iraq War and the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch has radically changed my views.

Above all, I feel a sickening sense of treachery about the Iraq war every time I watch the news about the Middle East; in so many ways, we caused the tragedy we are seeing now. If Jeremy Corbyn had been leader we wouldn’t have gone to war. We might now be part of the solution, instead of having to shoulder much of the blame for the terrible, bloody mess.

If we had been more like Norway and regulated the banks properly, we wouldn’t find ourselves in such a perilous economic position. A Corbyn government simply wouldn’t have allowed the banks to be so unregulated; I am utterly persuaded that we would be in a better economic position under the leadership of someone who was not in the bankers’ pockets.

As a teacher, I have seen the consequences of Blair’s academies’ program, which has been massively expanded by the Coalition and Tory governments. Billions have been thrown at persuading schools to become independent of their local authorities. Now we find out that not only does the program not raise academic standards but, as a recent National Audit Office report shows, actually nurtures secrecy, poor financial management and, in an ever growing number of cases, corruption. This current government is proposing to introduce regional commissioners to oversee academies, but Corbyn’s simpler idea to bring academies back under local authority control would be more cost-effective and democratic.

U.K. energy companies, it has become obvious, are a cartel, making a profit at our expense and the environment’s. I agree now with Corbyn’s plan to renationalize the energy sector and use taxpayer money to fund a massive drive for more renewables and green energy supplies.

“If your heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant,” Blair said recently — and it totally backfired with his former supporters. To us, Blair has been the one to virtually destroy the Labour Party, not Corbyn. We have utterly lost our trust in Blair and his acolytes, which include the other contenders in the leadership race: Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. They are all tarred with the brush of the Iraq war, the banking crisis, the academies program, the energy companies’ cartel.

In a witty piece in the Times, Rachel Sylvester compared Corbyn to Bing Bong, the imaginary childhood friend of Riley, the protagonist in Pixar’s animated film “Inside Out.” In the cartoon, 12-year-old Riley’s emotions are depicted as characters who control her mind’s “command module.” At first, Joy is in charge, but a move to San Francisco causes Fear, Disgust and Anger to take over. As a result, Joy gets lost in Imagination Land, where she meets Riley’s imaginary childhood friend Bing Bong, a pink cat-like elephant whose tears are made of sweets. Sylvester’s clever point is that Corbyn — with his anti-Americanism, his ideas about renationalization and printing money to fund public works — is the Bing Bong of the Labour Party. A loved and lost figure resurrected from the past.

This is very true: Corbyn is Bing Bong! This is why we love him. And, to pursue the analogy beyond Sylvester’s piece, who ultimately saves the day in the film but Bing Bong? Like Bing Bong, Corbyn will sacrifice himself to let someone younger take the helm, but he’s the one we need, at this juncture, to give the Labour Party the momentum to move forward.

Most realists don’t expect the Labour Party to win the next election no matter who is in charge; the wipe-out that happened in Scotland, the unfairness of the first-past-the-post system and the conservatism of much of the country make it unlikely that the party has much of a chance for a majority in 2020. But Labour does need to articulate credible arguments against the punitive Tory regime, with its miserable diet of cuts to public services and benefits, xenophobia and tax breaks for the rich. Corbyn is the only person to offer the British public a shift in discourse, where workers’ rights, the necessity for public projects and the environment will take center stage. Hopefully, he can give the Labour Party its heart, soul and, above all, brains back.

Francis Gilbert, a former school teacher, is lecturer in education at the University of London.
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 11/09/2015 - 11:21

Francis - I'm a floating voter and have voted for most of the main political parties at some time or another (yes, even Conservative). I voted Labour in 1997. Blair seemed so fresh.

I was soon disillusioned. I'd been led to believe Labour would stop interfering in education but that wasn't the case. After 12 months even hardened Labour supporters in the staff room were saying the Labour government were Tories in red clothes.

I disliked the academies scheme from the start. I thought there'd be a conflict of interest between the sponsors and their academies either by using the academies to market their products or pressurising academies to buy their products and services (the NAO found this was the case in many sponsored academies in 2010). I also didn't like the idea of certain schools getting preferential treatment - this causes inequitable provision.

I disliked Labour's interference in the curriculum, its imposition of such stuff as literacy hours and the increasing emphasis on results.

Non-educational reasons for disliking the last Labour Gov't - the Iraq war (I supported Stop the War); the proposal to introduce ID cards; increasing outsourcing, allowing light-touch oversight of banks (this would have been exactly the same, however, if Tories had been in), cash for honours....

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 11/09/2015 - 12:32

Well stated Francis.

I became a Labour Party member in the 1970s. I resigned in 2003 when Blair took our country to war in Iraq through arguments based on lies and misinformation. In 2005 I was inspired by Charles Kennedy and joined the Lib Dems. In 2010 I resigned from the Lib Dems following the successful coup led by NIck Clegg. I rejoined the Labour Party as soon as Ed Miliband was elected leader only to be disappointed by the hopeless performances of Tristram Hunt as shadow education secretary and Andy Burnham as shadow heath secretary. It was a good job I rejoined the party when I did otherwise I would have been denied a vote in the Leadership election, like thousands of others, for the impossible to define, let alone prove, crime of 'not sharing Labour's values'.

If Jeremy Corbyn is not elected leader it will be a result of the most disgraceful act of vote rigging that I have ever witnessed in a post war western democracy.

Like you, I was appalled at New Labour's vanguard Academies Bill, whose foundations were leapt upon with so much energy and malice by the Conservatives supported by the toady Cleggsters.

However since 2012 I have also been an elected public governor of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust. I see clear parallels between Blair's Academies Bill and the Foundation Trust Bill. Both have introduced damaging perverse incentives that have had serious negative consequences to the English education system and to the NHS - the latter with tragic consequences in Mid-Staffordshire and South Cumbria.

Of the Labour leadership candidates, only Jeremy Corbyn has a consistent record of opposing these betrayals of Labour's true values and therefore providing hope for future change.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 11/09/2015 - 15:50

Roger - the NAO has just published a report about managing conflicts of interest in NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. It says there are circumstances where commissioners 'may put, or be perceived to put, personal interests ahead of patients’ interests.'

Who would have thought it?

Paul Reeve's picture
Fri, 11/09/2015 - 13:47

"Corbyn is the only person to offer the British public a shift in discourse, where workers’ rights, the necessity for public projects and the environment will take center stage. Hopefully, he can give the Labour Party its heart, soul and, above all, brains back."

Hear! Hear! Well said.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 11/09/2015 - 17:17

Yes, Andrew Lansley's botched later 'reforms' made a bad structure even worse. However, there are perverse incentives for Foundation Trust Boards to sacrifice an open and honest culture in the face of the need to protect institutional reputation and meet financial and other targets. Now where else have we seen that?

Nigel Ford's picture
Sat, 12/09/2015 - 07:25

I was never deluded by Blair, with his socially liberal values not being compatible with his supposed Chritianity, nor did I ever believe the Iraq war had any authenticity. I voted Conservative with more conviction than ever in 1997, although they no longer get my vote.

But what really nailed my antipathy for Blair, was his decision to choose a grant maintained "comprehensive" school for his son, miles away from his Islington home, when he and his party opposed these opted out schools, and on coming to power put them back into local authority. Talk about double standards. And this was at the time Labour were bleating on about community values. So much for the community value of supporting your local school! At least David Blunkett, Shadow Education Secretary, patronized his local comp in Sheffield, Yewlands, without creaming off a school at the top of the league tables outside his local area.

Good luck to Corbyn, and I hope he puts the fight of the status of schools at the top of his agenda, and exposes the lies of the Conservatives about free schools and sponsored academies.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/09/2015 - 09:25

Nigel - Blair (along with many Blairites - indeed, many politicians) sacrificed principles for power. It was a betrayal of those who shared those principles.

David Barry's picture
Sat, 12/09/2015 - 17:44

There is some more stuff about Jeremy Corbyn's views on education here:

FJM's picture
Sun, 13/09/2015 - 14:16

He as almost no chance of winning in 2020, and that's that, unless the Conservatives won because people were actually yearning for a very left-wing government lead by someone who poses with the IRA, Hamas, Hizbollah, Argentina and various anti-semites and Holocaust deniers. If you believe otherwise, you are deluded. The most he can do is influence what gets discussed, but very little else. Prepare for at least another 10 years of Conservative rule.

agov's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 11:24

As there has already been 36 years it doesn't really make much difference. Not that I agree with all, or even most, of what Corbyn has to say, but if the price of winning is Blair and his accomplices then it's better just to influence.

FJM's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 16:53

This is the view that all those people who worked hard to get a Labour government elected were not really Labour at all. This is the very sectarian and arrogant attitude which is likely to keep Labour out of power for many years. Shame!

Patrick Hadley's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 11:35

FJM, I put Corbyn as my third choice and share some of your fears, but on the topic of education:
It was Tony Blair who started the privatising of our schools with the academy programme.
It was Tony Blair who introduced university tuition fees in 1997.
It was Tony Blair who scrapped university grants.
It was Tony Blair who allowed universities to charge "top-up" fees in 2003, despite promising in the 2001 election manifesto that he would not.

If you have a "Labour" government introducing policies in education that were more right wing than anything seen the previous 18 years of Tory government, it is difficult to enthusiastic about returning it to power.

agov's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 12:36

"very sectarian and arrogant attitude"

Actually, one that was widely shared by right-wing posters on right-wing political sites during the Blair years. You should get out more.

agov's picture
Wed, 16/09/2015 - 09:32

Don't let the views of informed people in any way hinder your analysis of NuLab's Tory Tendency.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 13:40

What do we know about Lucy Powell MP?

David Barry's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 14:03

FJM's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 16:57

She masterminded (!) Miliband's somewhat unsuccessful campaign in 2015. She also read chemistry at Oxford, like a certain other lady who became Education Secretary, though I doubt if she will make it to the minister's desk very soon.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 15:47

Lucy Powell says that bringing academies and free schools to be under the control of schools back to local, democratically elected officials would be at the “heart” of future Labour policy.

Sounds good to me, apart from giving elected mayors control of schools.

FJM's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 21:16

The left and right share many vices, and I don't really think that visiting 'right wing political sites' would be regarded as 'getting out more' by any normal person, i.e, someone not obsessed with politics.

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