The birth of New Labour and demise of the Blairites

Two years ago, the Conservatives won by a majority.

A year later, early 2016 and Tony Blair is beside himself. Baffled at the thought of Jeremy Corbyn. His confusion is to be expected, he had warned Labour that “if you’re heart is with Jeremy, get a transplant.”

But since Blair left office, the world has been changing, one regime at a time, and he is no longer at ease. Bush has gone, Aznar has gone, Murbarak has gone and Qadhafi has gone.

But the Blairites burial was executed by an anti-war socialist named Jeremy Corbyn, who won with a landslide 59.5 per cent of the vote in the first round.

Corbyn always had a keen interest in politics. At a young age he was a Voluntary Service Overseas worker in Jamaica, he was radicalised by the ‘imperialist attitudes, social division, and economic exploitation’ he found there. As a trade union organiser, he tirelessly attended meetings, protests and picket lines and his career as a constituency MP for Islington North, which he has represented since 1983. Even his most sceptical biographer, the Telegraph journalist Rosa Prince, acknowledges that he ‘is known as a good constituency MP’ meaning he takes great pains over helping those who need him, and he is universally considered to do an exemplary job.

Even during the expenses scandal that befell British parliamentarians in 2009, it was found that Jeremy had claimed the smallest sum of expenses of any MP – £8.95 for a printer cartridge.

Corbyn’s campaign to become Labour leader was a social movement; it used the techniques of movement building in a way that conveyed what Corbyn wanted for the Labour party. This way of doing politics, greatly underestimated by the media and political classes, was critical to Corbyn’s success. The exhausting sequence of packed public meetings in towns and cities across the county were a typical part of Corbyn’s calendar. This political style had been largely forgotten in the era of focus groups, marketised politics and the obsessive shaping of news cycles. He was elected as a man of the movements, not the markets.

As Phil Burton-Cartledge, a Labour Party member in Stoke, astutely observed, ‘Corbyn seems to have personified something that people of various political hues feel is missing from politics. Whether you’re a Green, self-described Old Labour, a recovering Trotskyist, or some other permutation. There is something attractive about Jeremy’s politics.’

This is what has taken the party establishment and its sympathisers in the media most by surprise. His ideas with which Corbyn won are ones that have largely been ignored, suppressed, or regarded with amused condescension since the Blairites took control. It was not just that Corbyn was prepared to oppose the government’s austerity programmes and support higher public spending, nationalisation and redistribution. Corbyn also defied what is supposed to be the common sense view on immigration, refusing to give an inch to the resentful UKIP-style nationalism that had permeated both of the dominant parties.

This suggests that Corbyn is prepared to challenge more than the establishment, he aims to run against popular prejudice, and win. He promises to address the housing crisis through extensive home building, to fully nationalise railways, and to bring all academies back under local democratic control. These objectives are to be funded, not so much by squeezing the rich like a sponge to water the garden of the poor, as by closing tax loopholes, stimulating growth, and spending less on controversial programmes such as Trident.

Corbyn, despite the weakness of his position and extraordinary belligerence of his back benchers, has succeeded in exploiting divisions to force policy retreats on a series of issues, from tax credits, to the Saudi prisons contract, to disability benefits cuts.

The story of Corbyn’s victory is one in which parliamentary democracy, and the traditionally dominant parties have been slowly sliding into a crisis of legitimacy for some time – and that crisis suddenly became acute with the onset of economic stagnation and austerity.

You see, the representative link, between the people and the government, has been breaking down for decades. Cue Jeremy Corbyn, the man of the people and for the many not the few.

One year later, it is the eve of the 2017 General Election and Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May battle it out once again.

But this election isn’t just an election and I predict the turnout will be higher than many previously.

This vote isn’t just about policies, it’s about hope and this vote represents an election in which the country stands on the brink of change.

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