Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, explains why his union continues to support socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as the veteran left-winger faces fresh calls to resign over his alleged “unelectability”. It is abridged from Red Pepper.
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The recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland have sent the mainstream media and its political allies in Westminster into orbit with their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the current direction of the Labour Party.
It is true that Labour lost Copeland and it is always disappointing to lose a seat in any election, but contrast the media coverage of the loss of a seat with a 2500 majority with the complete lack of hysteria around the ruling Conservatives losing the safe seat of Richmond last year, defending a majority of 23,000.
The media have also been quiet about the Conservatives being pushed into third place in Stoke. I cannot recall any reporter asking Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May if she is going to resign.
The Stoke by-election was quickly disregarded by the media and enemies of Corbyn once Labour held the seat, beating the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the process. That is despite the Stoke constituency voting in favour of Brexit.
To report even the merest whiff of a Corbyn triumph goes against the media narrative.
In reality, there were many factors that led to Labour losing the Copeland by-election. Boundary changes in the area benefitted the Conservatives and it is clear UKIP voters switched back to the Tories to help them win the seat.
Also, Labour’s majority in Copeland had been falling significantly since 1997 and the Labour candidate was not Corbyn’s preferred choice. If that was not enough, right-wing New Labour figures Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair attacked the party and Corbyn during the week leading up to the elections — not helping matters.
Collectively, these factors contributed to the defeat. It is ridiculous to ask Corbyn to take sole responsibility for it.
Independent polling shows the policies offered by Corbyn’s Labour have huge public support. However, when people realise that they are Corbyn’s policies, the reaction is often surprise due to the media’s narrative about what he stands for.
Our union backed Corbyn for Labour leader in both leadership elections (in 2015 and last year) and continues to support his efforts.
This is not because we are a “hard-left” cult that sees Corbyn as a messiah. It is because we know that his intentions towards the people we represent are genuine.
He offers our members a far better, fairer chance both in life and in the workplace with common sense policies pushed by an honest man with a proven track record of being in their corner.
Today’s Labour Party is more in tune with the needs of our communities than ever before. Labour policies include: a living wage of £10 an hour, stopping the privatisation of our National Health Service (NHS), introducing a national investment bank, building affordable homes, re-nationalising railways, ending zero-hours contracts, scrapping the bedroom tax, scrapping the work capability assessment and strengthening workers’ rights.
Corbyn’s vision brings young people into the equation for once, and offers them a future — rather than uncertainty, exploitation and subsequently, lost generations. A Corbyn-led Labour challenges the government’s failure to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share and addresses the grotesque gulf between executive pay and the wages of those at the bottom.
All this can be achieved. The Labour government that so many of Corbyn’s detractors in the party claim to want so much can be realised if everyone unites behind the twice-elected leader.
If you add a supportive Parliamentary Labour Party to a vibrant shadow cabinet, a huge membership, continued trade union support and exciting ideas, it would be more than enough to crush the Conservatives in a general election.
Our decision to support Corbyn was, and is, right. As one of Labour’s longest-affiliated organisations, we have seen many changes and stood firm in the face of those who would take away our rights.
Today’s Labour Party represents us in a way we have not seen for a very long time and make no mistake — we will fight to get it into government.