By Owei Lakemfa
THE Labour Party was born in 1900 by trade union and socialist parents and what its leader, Jeremy Corbyn tried to do in this month’s British elections, was to return it to its origins which emphasise a social pact between the state and the people. He tried to return Britain to the path of collective welfare for all, not one of dog eat dog or every man for himself and God for us all.
The 105-page Labour Manifesto was aimed at transforming the country including the renationalization of rail, mail, water and energy, and in this digital age, making access to the internet, part of the right to information and free speech.
The Corbyn-led Labour Party offers included raising £75bn to build 150,000 new council and social homes a year over five years, a living wage of £10 an hour, a five per cent pay raise for public sector workers with follow-up annual raises based on inflation rate. Its programmes included reinstating 3,000 bus routes, reducing all primary school classes to fewer than 30 children and giving EU nationals living in UK the automatic right to stay.
Corbyn whose leadership also worked out funding for the change promised, warned during the campaigns: “Over the next three weeks, the most powerful people in Britain and their supporters are going to tell you that everything in this manifesto is impossible. That it’s too much for you. Because they don’t want real change.
Why would they? The system is working just fine for them. It’s rigged in their favour.” He added “We’re opposed by the vested interests for standing up for a different kind of society. We’ll deliver real change for the many, and not the few.”
Those opposed to change including pro-Tory media, turned on the party, accusing it of wanting to embark on a spending spree, frightening employers, and that the plan of higher tax for the rich, would lead to capital flight.
Conscious of Corbny’s efficacy, there had been long drawn campaigns to paint him as anti-semitic partly for advocating peace in the Middle East based on the right of Palestinians to equality and a homeland. He was also accused of turning the party to: “a welcoming refuge for anti-Semites.”
The fact that he and his parents have a long history of pro-Jewish struggles including his personal efforts of getting Britain to resettle Yemeni Jews and saving the Jewish cemetery in his constituency from being flattened, did not blunt such false accusations. The British military establishment is also known to be wary of Corbyn becoming the Prime Minister as he is a famous peace campaigner who had previously promised to reduce the size of the military, scrap the Trident Nuclear Programme and pull Britain out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO.
In September 2015 a serving British Army General said if Corbyn was elected and carried out such programmes, the military would mutiny. The General threatened: “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardize the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security”.
In many climes, politics is not for the principled and Corbyn who has won the Islington North seat since 1983, is a principled politician. He supported the 1984-85 Miners Strike which was eventually crushed by Margaret Thatcher on her way, in league with President Ronald Reagan, to impose the privatization ideology on the world.
He was a leading anti-apartheid campaigner at a time the British establishment viewed the African liberation movements and fighters like Nelson Mandela as terrorists.
He is known to stoutly oppose the repression and massacre of the Tamils, Kurds, Palestinians and Yemenis, and wants sanctions imposed on Saudi Arabia for the massacres in Yemen and the murder of the journalist, Jamal Kashoggi.
He not only supports continued dialogue with Iran on nuclear weapons control, but also wants the nuclear weapons of Israel, decommissioned. Corbyn also supports the revolutionary movements in Cuba and Venezuela and was a known admirer of Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Internationally, he is opposed to austerity measures and the withdrawal of the state from the economy.
For his principles and politics, the British establishment and many conservative governments across the world lived in mortal fear of a Corbyn government in Britain. In their lean 59-page manifesto, the Tories simply stuck to Brexit, making all other issues peripheral. Despite concerted efforts by Corbyn and the Labour Party to steer the elections towards pro-people gains and broad development agenda, the elections remained a Brexit one.
It was a dilemma for a party with large followers and members who want to remain, and another large group who want to exit; it was no easy choice.
This made Labour looked indecisive. This was unlike the Tory Party which had tried to cleanse its leadership of the ‘Remainers’ and throttled towards the exit road irrespective of road signs, speed limit, bumps, sharp bends and uncharted territory.
Brexit was a mess created by the Tory Party which for three years searched for an exit, but has in this election, gained massively from its incompetence and myopia. Britons may discover that the easier part is ‘getting Brexit done with.” It is likely that the votes in parliament today, Friday, December 20, will see to that.
However, the real challenge is what follows? The reality is that Brexit is an uncharted course with an uncertain future having 0not just economic but political implications especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The seemingly impregnable Johnson administration with a big 78-seat majority, looks every inch like the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic which will break the first icebergs called Brexit and head confidently into others. Johnson is like a gambler, ready to stake all on what seems to him, a sure bet in a pools stake.
He is ready to use his head to break through the European Union, EU, wall to find out what is on the other side. As the saying goes, he is ready to take a leap of fate.
Corbyn on the other hand is much more cautious wanting his country to have a Plan B. To him, the old British caution: “Look before you leap” is more than just an advice, but a necessary strategy.
Britain may realize in future, that in its 2019 elections, Corbyn was its best choice. Corbyn, although will remain a parliamentarian, will be stepping down as leader of the Labour Party.
In the crowd of British politicians like the unstable Boris Johnson and unprincipled Tony Blair, Corbyn will stand out as one of the best British political leaders in contemporary history.