HAVING A SOCIALIST LEADERSHIP of the Labour Party – let alone winning and then maintaining a socialist government – was always going to attract intense hostility from across the political and economic establishment, and all of us on the party’s left will have to continually face intense and new challenges.
Ever since 2015 part of this has been media hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and a permanent misrepresentation of his positions, alongside trying to downplay the possibility of Labour being able to actually form a government. So after the recent local elections, with the Tories losing over 1,000 seats and 40 councils in their worst performance for a quarter of a century, the media widely covered this as somehow comparable with Labour’s net loss of 82 seats. Little mentioned was the fact these were mainly elections in Tory heartlands that were never Labour areas. Almost 1,000 of the Tory losses were in shire districts and 70% of Lib Dem gains were in these areas.
One important point totally absent from ‘mainstream’ media coverage was that, based on the local election vote, Labour would be the most likely party to form a government at a General Election. Based on the shares of the vote calculated by both the Rallings and Thrasher’s National Equivalent Vote and the BBC’s Projected National Share, the Tories would have added further losses to their MP count and Labour would make further gains.
This is relevant for a number of reasons. First, Labour would almost certainly perform better than these projections in an actual General Election. This is due to a number of factors, such as fairer broadcast media coverage during the campaign due to election rules.
Another is that a higher General Election turnout would be likely to benefit Labour. And, as the last General Election showed, a national campaign, where we are able to focus on our popular transformative alternative to austerity, would be more likely to lead to Labour picking up support than a local (or European) campaign. Recent national polls that have Labour ahead confirm this.
Secondly, the very real possibility of a socialist-led Labour government being elected means that the attacks on Jeremy’s leadership and misrepresentations of the positions of the party are going to be unrelenting. This has clearly been the case with the Brexit crisis, where sometimes media coverage in papers such as George Osborne’s Evening Standard seems to blame Jeremy Corbyn and key allies for this ongoing crisis, rather than the Tory government that is unable to get support for its proposals from its own party.
Jeremy’s consistent position of respecting the result of the referendum and proposing an alternative plan to protect and advance the living standards and rights of the majority is either ignored or ridiculed and mispresented by hostile political forces.
Yet despite this – and the fact that so much of the ‘Westminster bubble’ and the media seem to only want to talk about Brexit and give scant attention to the deepening human catastrophe that is austerity – Labour is still ahead in the polls, while many of our sister parties in Europe (with a few notable exceptions) are at a historic low point.
It is vital for party members on the left – and those publications, groups and organisations seeking to organise them – that we both stand up to these media misrepresentations (not only on Brexit but across the board) and that we do not fall into the trap of only discussing politics on the ground set by our enemies.
We must positively develop and communicate Labour’s socialist alternative to Tory austerity. Through our ‘#StandWithCorbyn - Unite to End Tory austerity’ statement and speaking tour, and the Arise festival, we in the Labour Assembly Against Austerity are committed to doing this and working with all others who wish to do the same.
The chance to win a Corbyn-led government remains the opportunity of a lifetime. Let’s stay strong against the establishment attacks and make it happen.
Matt Willgress is the National Organiser of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.
You can sign the ‘StandWithCorbyn - Unite to End Tory austerity’ statement at bit.ly/standwithcorbynstatement
Arise - a Festival of Labour’s left Ideas takes place with John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and many more in central London on 21st and 22nd June. More information at www.arise-festival.com
Hornsey and Wood Green CLP