Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s surge in the General Election is greater than becoming prime minister, writes Nasim Ahmed.
Britain underwent the most important general election of this century. For the second time in a row, Conservative leaders scored the most spectacular own goal ever to be seen. Twice within a period of two years, Tory Prime Ministers gambled with the lives of the British people and lost; on both occasions Conservative leaders put their self-interest above the national interest and the electorates punished them for it.
It has now become resoundingly clear that the electorate does not like being taken for granted. Former Prime Minister David Cameron and current Prime Minster Therese May have learnt this the hard way. Cameron paid the highest political price in gambling to hold an EU referendum for no reason other than to please his own backbenchers. May too will most likely pay the same price for her humiliating defeat in calling a snap general election for no reason other than to inflict a crushing defeat on the Labour party.
But it is the Conservatives that have suffered a great defeat, even though they have won the election and are still in power. Hubris and opportunism assured their humiliation. They imagined they would have a landslide victory and increase their control of the Commons. With more Conservative MPs May was confident – to the point of carelessness – in being able to ease through a hard Brexit. She underestimated the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Believing him to be weak and unpopular, a caricature from bygone years, she was certain of attaining absolute power.
That we are now talking about the triumph of Corbyn over May is one of the more remarkable stories in British politics. Rarely has another leader had to take on so many enemies. He wrestled against the Tory war machine while fending off foes within his own party. The vast majority despised everything he represented culminating in172 Labour MPs voting against him in a no confidence motion. Labour MPs at one point were talking about going through an ongoing cycle of leadership contests until they forced him out. With such a desire to sabotage his campaign it would be naïve to assume that some Labour MPs were not secretly collaborating with the Tory party to see his downfall.
While the major parties in Westminster were gunning for him, the mainstream media stooped to levels unseen in British politics. For long periods, the entire mainstream media undermined him, mocked him, ridiculed him and constructed a narrative that would have totally damaged any other candidate. The traditional so called left wing media were nowhere to be seen, in fact they cheered for his public execution. Even his so called friends defected saying “I’d find it hard to vote for Corbyn”.
The inability of the Labour MP’s and the mainstream media to see what was happening was further proof that the entire establishment was really out of touch. They lived in their own little bubble inside an enormous echo chamber, thoroughly convinced of the lies and propaganda they propagated.
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Faced against such challenges the achievement of Jeremy Corbyn in the last two years has been nothing short of remarkable. What this has shown more than anything else is the growing appetite for social justice; even socialism shall we say. He has turned Labour into a socialist party with the largest membership in Europe. Public ownership, and civic and community pride have all been returned to the political agenda. Corbyn has also succeeded where many before him have failed; to empower large sections of the population that were living in self-imposed political alienation. There’s a younger generation who have spoken for the first time and they have turned their back on austerity and having to settle for the crumbs left behind from the Chancellor’s budget.
The triumph of Corbyn is likely to see a push back against decades of unhindered neo-liberal economic policy which has been responsible for unprecedented levels of inequality not just here in the UK but also around the globe. This victory, as many believe, is substantial.
Corbyn has not won the election but his triumph has been to bring back into public ownership, not-for-profit utility companies, and investment in the health service, the police and public services back on the agenda. Privatisation, free market fundamentalism, and bankers’ greed at everyone else’s expense is now blown out of the water.
The Labour leader achieved wide popularity because of his ethical foreign policy. His years in the back benches have been spent defending human rights across the world and fighting against imperialism and political domination of all kind. In his manifesto he promised to block the sale of weapons to repressive regimes and pushed for a more ethical exports policy. The rights of the Palestinian people are very close to his heart. It was, telling that despite the mudslinging against him over his track record in the Middle East he has come through unscathed if not stronger.
No coming election can ignore the issues raised by Corbyn over the past few years. He may not have won the election but the victory he has achieved is more than just the keys to number ten. Equality, social justice and ethical foreign policy are back on the agenda and the mainstream media can go on mulling over them by eating some humble pie.
This article was first published in the Middle East Monitor.