(Leonard Bernstein: from West Side Story)
Something is happening. Something big and important and exciting. Something that has been enthusing ordinary people of all ages, colours, creeds and persuasions all over the country. It feels new, it feels strange but also somehow very familiar. It's rough around the edges and incomplete. It's inspiring, it's reassuring, and perhaps what is best of all, it scares the living bejasus out of the previously complacent Establishment.
I am old enough and cynical enough not to get taken in by fads, cults, fashion, etc.... I have always been highly doubtful of the motives and motivations of the majority of politicians - the spin, the fancy suits and the soundbites have never held any sway with me. That said, I am wise enough to recognise 'the real thing' when I see it.
And contrary to what his detractors want everyone to believe, 'IT' ISN'T Jeremy Corbyn. IT is rather the socialist values, principles and policies that he brings with him that haven't seen the light of day for 30 years, and which many of us thought we would never hear again from a Labour or any other politician. We're not blindly following everything the man says: we know he has his faults, as everyone does, we don't agree with him on everything, but we do believe that he he will do his best to deliver what he promises, if we just give him the opportunity.
It's the sense of community and hope that sees people genuinely excited about what is possible. It isn't the same old 'let's do what the tories do only a bit less nastily', it represents a real change to how politics can work and how the governance, infrastructure and economy can be made to work better for everyone.
Drastic change isn't just desired, it's essentialRecent statistics have shown that poverty is on the rise again in the UK. One in 5 people live below the poverty line. There are 3.7 million children living in poverty, a quarter of all children in the UK. Yet we are one of the richest countries in the world. We are also one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Yet the increasingly heartless tories continue to divide and conquer, claiming no longer to be following a politics of austerity, yet at the same time seeking to re-introduce the socially divisive grammar school system, tearing up the Human Rights bill and hammering the final nails in the coffin of the NHS and welfare system. Tory policies are actually killing people - the poor, the disabled, the vulnerable, and they're getting away with it too.
"Something's due, any day, I will know, right away, soon as it shows"
In any normal universe, this mass movement of the people towards a political party would have been welcomed equally with enthusiasm and hope. Other parties would be snatching people's hands off if they were prepared to stump up £3, let alone £25 just to have a say in who the leader is. Figures show that around 800,000 people should have been eligible to vote in the upcoming Leadership Election: an indication of the phenomenal and growing support out there for this 'new' old type of socialism. Even the glory days of the Blair Government which came after 18 years of tory devastation could only muster half that number. The Labour Party's membership is much greater than all the other UK parties combined and is now the largest socialist democratic party in Europe.
I said that 800,000 members and registered supporters 'should' have been able to vote for the Labour Leader, however as we are all by now well aware, this simply did not suit the Parliamentary Labour Party who knew that the majority of these new members would vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Hence, the NEC have been busily finding new, and more questionable means of 'purging' as many likely Corbyn supporters from the party as possible, denying them their vote and reducing the number of pro-Corbyn delegates at September's conference.
The problem is, these are apparently not the 'right sort' of members for the current Parliamentary Labour Party, which has drifted so far to the centre it forgot when to stop and now occupies a space somewhere to the right of the Lib Dems (depending on which MP, sometimes even heading towards the tories!). This position led to hundreds of thousands of members leaving the party since the Blair Government, and would no doubt have seen off many others had it continued. It is the failed neo-liberal stance that scuppered any chances Labour had in the 2010 and 2015 general elections and lost Labour's Scottish heartlands to the more progressive, anti-austerity SNP. Corbyn's politics in sharp contrast have captured the imaginations of the public, their hearts and minds (I do hate that cliche but it fits here). New members aren't just along for the ride, huge numbers want to or already have become actively involved in campaigning. Sadly their efforts at present are spent making cold calls on behalf of Corbyn or Smith as part of the leadership battle.
The latest phase of suspensions is the most insidious of all: striking at individual members, many of whom have actively supported the Party for 20, 30, 40 years and more, telling them they're no longer wanted in the party because of some random remark they may or may not have made on Twitter in 2015. It is insidious because it is an attempt to demoralise and upset people who have long awaited the chance to feel excited about Labour politics again. It is also extremely obviously to anyone who cares to look that it is entirely unfair and one-sided. The best we have is that Michael Foster has been 'suspended' for comparing Corbyn's supporters to 'nazi stormtroopers'. He made that comment weeks ago in full public glare, yet it has taken NEC until this week to take any action, very publicly, so we can all see it and I expect they think we should all be satisfied with that. It took NEC's compliance unit far less time to trawl through members individual social media accounts looking for key 'forbidden' words, often taken out of context, to find a tenuous excuse for purging them.
Take for example Claudine, who received an email on the evening of 12 September informing her that she had been suspened from the Party for "Racist, abusive and foul language" and cited 27 June as the date of the 'offence'. This is what it refers to - a retweet of a tweet condemning racism and fascism.
If I am minded to be generous, I would say that this tweet had simply triggered some weird
algorithm, but even the most cursory glance at Claudine's timeline and the posts in question would clearly show that she is far from being one to use racist or abusive language. Nobody should be sending out such allegations (racist abuse being a criminal matter) without being in full possession of the facts and providing clear evidence to back it up.
Claudine is rightly extremely upset by this allegation, not only because it denies her democratic right to vote, but also because it is an unfair and unfounded attack on her character. Bad enough the people being denied their vote because they once mentioned that the Green Party might have done something good, at least having some 'green' sensibilities is something most decent people can live with. To be accused of racism when that is the very thing you have been vocal against, without providing any evidence is nothing short of libellous and absolutely wrong.
"Are we nearly there yet?"Thankfully, we are now just 7 days away from the deadline for votes. Although we were told ballots would be sent out by the end of August, two weeks later many have STILL not received their ballots despite countless emails, phone calls and web-forms asking for 're-issues' when they hadn't been issued to begin with. Some are still coming through, some are still being purged. If you receive your vote, please use it - preferably to support Corbyn obviously, but even if you don't - vote anyway in consideration of those who have had the right unfairly taken away from them.
If you have been 'purged' - please fight the decision every way you can: Reply asking for evidence, use the FOI request form, contact Liz Davies for advice via whycantivote.com
If you haven't received your ballot yet, keep chasing it. You have until the 19th to ask for a re-issue. If you have already requested this
(preferably request by email to Leadership2016@labour.org.uk, that way you should receive a reply that should serve as proof that you requested it before the deadline in case of any issues.)
There should be absolutely no question that in a fair vote, Corbyn will walk it. It remains to be seen just how many supporters in total are suspended, and thereby how 'fair' that vote actually is. We've come through a lot this last couple of months but we've held firm and supported eachother. Let's not lose sight of where we're going.