Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is moving on – it’s time Peter Mandelson did too
31 Dec 2015Reading Peter Mandelson’s ludicrously red-baiting article about the new leader of the Labour party, the first question that comes to mind is: what part of “Jeremy Corbyn won” does he not understand?”
Nobody reading the Mandelson diatribe would know that Jeremy Corbyn has won a bigger personal mandate than any other leader of the Labour party. And nobody would guess either that the Labour party membership has doubled since Jeremy actually became leader. And this in the face of the most concerted campaign of denigration any Labour leader has ever endured in such a short space of time.
Mandelson has suggested elsewhere that Labour is losing members in numbers equal to the new joiners. There is not a scintilla of evidence for this. Certainly, no local party that I have any knowledge of is seeing anything but a surge of new members.
Nor is it true to imply, as Mandelson does, that Jeremy won only because of new members or registered supporters. Jeremy won decisively in every section of the leadership electorate: new members, old members, registered supporters and affiliated members.
Mandelson’s characterisation of Jeremy as an “intentionally divisive figure” “pursuing his own far-left agenda”, “surrounded by far-left fellow travellers” and determined to “crush rebellion” is ludicrous. On the contrary, the thousands of ordinary people who have rejoined Labour under Jeremy would argue that he stands in the mainstream of traditional Labour party thinking in a way that New Labour never did.
Mandelson calls for appreciation of the Labour party’s history. But if he really appreciated our party’s history he would know that Jeremy’s essential programme of peace abroad and social justice at home is far truer to Labour party tradition than being “intensely relaxed” about people becoming filthy rich.
No Labour leader in my time has allowed a free vote on a matter of peace or war. But Jeremy did on bombing Syria.
Far from being divisive, Jeremy has sought, in constructing his shadow cabinet, to encompass every known strand of Labour party opinion. There are Blairites such as Lord Falconer, Gordon Brown acolytes including Michael Dugher MP, supporters of Ed Miliband like Lucy Powell MP, and others of no known ideological bent.
The truth is, Jeremy has bent over backwards to accommodate all these people, even as it has become clear that some of them do not have his best interests at heart (to put it mildly).No Labour leader in my time has allowed a free vote on a matter of peace or war. But Jeremy allowed a free vote on bombing Syria. This is scarcely the action of someone bent on crushing rebellion.
There has been a lot of hysterical talk by Jeremy’s opponents of a “revenge reshuffle” But other Labour leaders have been allowed to reshuffle their team in their own way and in their own time. Why is Jeremy Corbyn the only Labour leader of modern times not allowed a reshuffle?
Mandelson also resorts to smears. He hurls around the term “far left” as a category of abuse and he claims that Jeremy’s office is staffed by Trotskyites.
He also claims that there is something “unconventional” about the much maligned Momentum. Actually Momentum is no more unconventional than the Fabians, Tribune or Progress. For as long as there has been Labour party, people have come together to organise either for specific policy objectives or just for a more progressive direction of travel. Momentum is simply an attempt to capture the energy of those people, young and old, who supported Jeremy’s leadership campaign this summer.
Far from organising against the Labour party, Momentum sent coachloads of supporters to the Oldham byelection and helped to secure the Labour party victory.
Mandelson has failed to reflect on why Tony Blair’s claim that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would bring about the apocalypse served only to strengthen Jeremy’s support this summer.
The truth is that the Labour party as a whole, while respecting the achievements of the Blair/Brown years, now wants to move on.It is also true that the new leader of the Labour party retains the loyal support of party members old and new. Even on the contentious issue of bombing Syria, he was supported by the majority of the parliamentary Labour party and even the majority of the shadow cabinet.
Ordinary party members and the general public are weary of these personal attacks on Jeremy and the repeated insinuation that he has the support only of a small band of Bolsheviks with snow on their boots.
We can only hope that 2016 is the year that people such as Peter Mandelsondecide to respect Jeremy’s personal mandate and join with the rest of us in turning our fire on the Tory party. That would be an agenda we can all unite around.
* This article was originally published here