What is absolutely clear from the general election results is that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has received a resounding stamp of approval from the electorate. Despite the vocal opposition of the majority of his own Labour MPs — and nearly all the mainstream media — Corbyn’s firm rejection of the futile politics of austerity has been proven to be exactly what the Labour movement needed.
Corbyn has reversed the Labour Party’s previous commitment to placing the needs of big business before the needs of ordinary people, and in doing so nearly succeeded in defeating Theresa May at the polls.
So what is now abundantly apparent to everyone is that Labour’s gains were made on the back of Corbyn’s principled leadership and a manifesto for change that demanded a break, not a settlement with, further austerity and cuts.
Labour MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz, understands this progressive dynamic, and as a political opportunist par excellence he is now willing to belatedly acknowledge his success as coming on the back of Corbyn’s fighting manifesto.
Vaz increased his 2015 vote from 29,386 to 35,116 (increasing his share of the total vote from 61.1% to 67%), and during his acceptance speech he explained:
“Finally, I want to say how proud I am of the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, because he fought a magnificent campaign against huge criticism in the media and beyond. He stuck to his principles and he delivered what looks like being a terrific result, so he deserves our thanks for what he has done.”
Labour MP for Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth, of course benefited disproportionately from his close association with Corbyn as a leading member of the Shadow Cabinet. Ashworth’s vote in 2015 was 27,493 (59.8% of the votes) while this year he attained a whopping 37,157 (73.6% of votes).
Likewise Labour MP for Leicester West, arch-Blairite Liz Kendall, also witnessed a massive increase in her share of votes, a rise from 16,051 in 2015 to 22,823 this time round – a tremendous surge from 46.5% of the total votes casts in 2015 to 60.8% in 2017.
Kendall, as one might have expected, however has made it clear to all who would listen that her victory had nothing to do with Corbyn’s socialist leadership. Therefore, in her press statement that was published in the Leicester Mercury (June 10), rather than talk about the differences between the 2015 and 2017 campaigns Kendall stated: “I ran my campaign on the same issues I did two years ago.” Surely she did not mean that she campaigned in support of austerity-lite (as Labour did in 2015) not against it?
So ironically while Kendall’s electoral campaign apparently did its best to ignore the leader of her own party — a man of course who she has repeatedly tried to depose — her Conservative Party opponent, Jack Hickey, in a vain attempt to discredit Labour focused his campaign “on branding Kendall as ‘Corbyn’s candidate’” (Mercury, June 10). This false branding on the part of Hickey of course backfired on the out-of-touch Tories as it would have only served to increase Kendall’s popularity with an electorate keen to reject Blairism and support socialism.
Corbyn has put the socialist politics of hope back on the agenda, and time will only tell what our local Labour MPs will do to support him in practice! But in the meantime we need to make sure that Corbyn makes it clear to all Labour MPs that from now on they will have to be held accountable to their local Labour members who should have the right to replace them with alternative candidates if they see fit.