Britain: Thousands of protesters, unions defend Corbyn as right-wing MPs attack


Rally supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament Square on June 27.

Ten thousand people rallied in support of Labour's left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn — elected leader last year in a landslide vote that marked a rejection of pro-austerity politics — outside of Westminster on June 27, as right-wing Labour Party MPs took advantage of the fallout from the Brexit vote to move against the party leader.

The demonstration came as 44 ministers resigned from Corbyn's Cabinet -- being replaced with a more left-wing Cabinet with more women and people of colour.

The day after the demonstration, a motion of no confidence in Corbyn was passed by 172 Labour MPs voting in favour and 40 against, with 13 abstentions and four spoilt ballots.

It came despite polls showing that Corbyn would easily be re-elected in a new Labour Party membership-wide vote. The dispute shows the disconnect between Labour's ranks and supporters, and many MPs.

Momentum, the grassroots group that seeks to organise support for Corbyn's left-wing policies, said there were other pro-Corbyn mobilisations across Britain and pointed out that almost a quarter of a million people had signed a petition supporting Corbyn as Labour's leader.

On June 28, demonstrators from Young Labour also descended on parliament to support Corbyn, Morning Star Online said the next day. Organisers of the demonstration said the attempt to remove Mr Corbyn showed a “complete disregard for the membership, without whom the Labour Party could not function”.

Some of Britain's biggest trade unions, such as Unite and Unison that organise millions of workers, have also rallied behind Corbyn. The leaders of 12 big unions put out a statement the day after the Brexit vote in support of Corbyn, insisting the task was to "focus on speaking up for jobs and workers' rights under threat".

The right-wing MPs who have moved against Corbyn have never been happy about the veteran socialist's policies, which include reversing austerity, nationalising key industries, promoting the democratising of British society, opposing British imperialist wars and welcoming refugees.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who initiated the referendum on Britain leaving the European Union and headed the "Remain" campaign, immediately resigned after the "leave" side won. Corbyn had called for a critical "remain" vote -- pointing to severe problems on the EU and campaigning alongside Another Europe Is Possible, which argued to stay in and join with others across Europe in transforming the undemocratic body. Corbyn, in particular, has argued strongly against the racist anti-immigrant views pushed by much of the "leave" campaign -- standing up for refugees and immigrant rights.

But while the Brexit vote was the catalyst, many Labour MPs, backed by a hostile media and political and economic establishment, many Labour MPs have been hostile, or luke-warm, to Corbyn from the start. In December, 66 MPs defied Corbyn to vote in favour of British air strikes on Syria.

Morning Star Online said on June 29: "Jeremy Corbyn came out fighting yesterday against the vote of no confidence in his leadership of the Labour Party, saying it had 'no legitimacy' and vowing not to resign.

"The leader hit back moments after the results of the secret ballot on the motion of no confidence were revealed [saying] “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today's vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.
“We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution.

“Our people need Labour Party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country.”

The article explained that the non-binding poll was part of a two-pronged strategy to destabilise Corbyn that also saw soft-left figures take part in co-ordinated resignations from the shadow cabinet: "The Blairites behind the coup hoped that would force Mr Corbyn, who retains 60 per cent support among party members, to voluntarily stand down."

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack described the moves against Corbyn as a “secret, well planned, orchestrated coup. What we've had is people playing political games in Westminster, I think summing up everything that is wrong with British politics.”

In a further sign of the determination of many to defend Corbyn, Labour List reported: "More than 1700 Corbyn supporters have joined Momentum in just over a 24 hour period. A spokesperson for the group confirmed that before yesterday's #KeepCorbyn rally that 1000 people had joined the organisation, followed by an additional 700 afterwards, with the last update provided mid-morning.

"This is a 27% increase, taking their current membership to around 8,000 members."

Morning Star said: “Mr Corbyn has dug in by appointing a new more left-wing front bench and has vowed to stand for re-election just nine months after becoming leader. His allies expressed confidence yesterday that he will win [any new] leadership election — and go on to lead Labour to victory at any snap general election called by the Tories.”