Britain: Corbyn campaign has Blair running scared

Jeremy Corbyn

Running scared. That is the only explanation for the increasingly desperate and angry denunciations from the right wing of Britain's Labour Party, as Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn's campaign looks more and more likely to win party’s leadership election on September 12.

The mass grassroots support for the anti-war and anti-austerity candidate has taken most Labour politicians by surprise. Their horror at this development only indicates their sense of entitlement to their own positions, their undimmed arrogance in the face of political failure, and their paper-thin commitment to any form of real democracy.

War-mongering multi-millionaire Tony Blair published a second article attacking Corbyn on August 13. In The Guardian, Blair warned of “annihilation” for Labour if Corbyn becomes leader, writing: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below.

“This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes ‘disunity’. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.”

His fellow warmonger, former foreign secretary Jack Straw, told Channel 4 News the same day that elections cannot be judged on the basis of the Iraq War.

Alastair Campbell, the spin-doctor who spun the Blair government's false claim that Iraqi dictator had weapons of mass destruction capable of reaching Britain in 45 minutes, said a Corbyn victory would be a “car crash” for Labour.

It takes a supreme level of arrogance and insensitivity for those who were the architects of one of the most disastrous modern wars, whose consequences are still playing out across the Middle East with devastating outcomes, to feel that their pronouncements should be listened to.

Corbyn has the advantage over them in that he always opposed this war, and indeed the whole “war on terror” since 2001, and he has been proved right.

His view is much more in tune with public opinion, on this and many other issues. How many people supporting Corbyn in this election do so because of his position on the Iraq war?

Blair, on the other hand, lost the party 1 million votes in the election of 2005 – widely accepted as a result of the Iraq War - oversaw membership shrinking and was forced out of office in 2007, at least partly due to again partly because of his enthusiastic backing of Israel in its 2006 war on Lebanon war of 2006.

Families of servicemen and women who died in Iraq have launched the threat of legal action against Sir John Chilcot, demanding he set a date for publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war. The inquiry took its final evidence four years ago, but still has been not been released to the public.

Blair, Straw and Campbell are all likely to be highly criticised,at the very least.

Much of the decline in support for Labour can be dated to the war and its aftermath. Of course, there are many other issues that are now persuading Labour members and supporters to back Corbyn: opposition to government austerity; a sense that levels of widening inequality need to be halted and reversed; and opposition to the scapegoating of migrants and Muslims.

The anti-Corbyn candidacy hysteria stems from support for a neoliberal consensus that has led to this inequality.

The potency of Corbyn’s campaign is precisely that it breaks the dominant political consensus and puts forward a real alternative. The Labour right claims the Conservatives will welcome a Corbyn victory, but this is by no means the case among the more intelligent of them.

The neoliberal pro-war consensus needs a supine and weakened Labour leadership, dragged increasingly onto the centre ground in the vain hope that it can implement a slightly more humane set of barbaric policies. A Corbyn-led party will put a range of policies on the agenda that the Conservatives would rather were not given much airing.

There is also the small issue of democracy. Labour’s electoral system was changed expressly to weaken trade union influence, and was accepted at a party conference by all sides. It ended the electoral college system, where MPs got one third of the vote, trade unions another third and individual members the final third.

Perhaps least remarked on but most galling to Blair et al is that the MPs have no more say in the election than anyone else - although they do have the power to

The new system has worked to benefit the left, which was certainly not the intention. That individual members, supporters and union affiliate, have the temerity to vote for a left candidate is something the Blairites thought they had put a stop to. They cannot believe how wrong they were.

Now they are desperately claiming that there are thousands of “entrists”, signing up to vote with their own agenda. They are combing through lists to disqualify anyone they can.

This is a negation of democracy. It is the same negation of democracy that we saw over Iraq. Millions marched against war, but were ignored and treated with contempt by a leadership that relied on the passive support of millions but did not see it as important to listen to their views.

What is happening with Corbyn's campaign is that many people are waking up to the fact that there can be an alternative political manifesto and that the dominant neoliberal agenda can be fought. Perhaps what frightens the Blairites most is that, far from the myth that this will lead to annihilation, such policies can win elections.

The onslaught the Conservatives are planning in this government will meet widespread opposition: there has already been one mass anti-austerity demo since the election, called by the Peoples Assembly, and in October there will be mass protests at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

The Corbyn campaign is one expression of that movement: the fear of mainstream politicians is that it lights a fire of opposition to their policies.

[Reprinted from Middle East Eye. Lindsey German is national coordinator of the Stop the War Coalition.]

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