Credit: Ciara McAlinden

New year, new Labour, and the return of Jezza

By Patrick Gaffey

It’s no secret that the Labour Party is in a state of crisis, losing support in almost every area it could once call home. The Keir Starmer leadership seems less interested in tackling the Tories than in forcing out any young, left-wing, or working-class members within their ranks. An estimated 200,000 people have left the party since Starmer became leader, frustrated by the new leadership’s lack of concrete policies and seeming disinterest in taking power. Those who don’t leave of their own volition face expulsion in a never-ending wave of purges. This drop in membership is hitting the party hard: one source told The Times that the reduction in fee-paying members has left the party “on the verge of bankruptcy”.  

When Sky News asked the residents of a former Labour heartland in Nottinghamshire for their thoughts on Starmer, one woman spoke for many when she said: “I have no tolerance for that man whatsoever. They should bring the old Labour leader back. Bring Jeremy back.” It seems like a lifetime ago that Jeremy Corbyn transformed and galvanized Labour, turning it into the largest political party in Western Europe. In some ways, Corbyn was merely returning Labour to the traditional, working-class-oriented policies it held before the Thermidorian Reaction of Tony Blair. But the Corbyn project was also a new experiment: for the first time, Labour had a leadership which opposed imperialism, appealed to the youth, and prioritised the arts.

Corbyn himself was a victim of one of the new leadership’s purges: in late 2020, he lost the right to stand as a Labour MP (although he technically remains a member of the party.) In early January of this year, The Telegraph reported that he did not believe he would be allowed to stand for Labour in the next General Election, and was considering forming a new party instead. Two weeks later, he was proven right, when the Labour leadership voted down a proposal to return his Labour MP status. If Corbyn is genuinely interested in starting a new party, this is the perfect time to begin. 

“If Corbyn is genuinely interested in starting a new party, this is the perfect time to begin.”

This new party could provide a home to the thousands made politically homeless by the current Labour leadership, and a desperately needed voice for progressive politics in the UK. Even if only half of those who left Labour in the last 21 months got involved, it could be the beginning of a very promising project. The party would most likely begin with the goal of allowing Corbyn to hold on to his seat in Islington North, but could flourish into a much larger voice for the working class.

Corbyn’s allies believed that his leadership was stymied by the right wing of the Labour Party, who challenged and sabotaged him every step of the way. They were vindicated in April 2020, when an internal party report on the matter was leaked. It confirmed that the Labour right had done all they could to put the Conservatives in power. They worked closely with the media, blowing any minor complaints out of proportion to create a sense of disarray, and shared valuable information with the candidates standing against Labour. To quote one leader of the Labour right: “I work every single day to bring forward the end of [Corbyn’s] tenure in office.” Without the hindrance of hostile apparatchiks, Corbyn and the left could focus on promoting progressive policies and gaining grassroots support.

It has unfortunately become clear that the Labour Party is no longer a home for working-class politics. With such a major exodus from the party, there would be a huge number of potential supporters and activists for a new left-wing movement. And who would be better to lead it than the man who has become synonymous with left politics in Britain in the last seven years? There is no better time for Corbyn to develop his political project in this exciting new direction. 


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Father Xmas

Socialists Corbyn and Michael Foot led labour to their biggest hammerings at General Elections.