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Issue #1781      June 14, 2017

May dead in the water

Theresa May warned voters during the election campaign that, if things went badly, Britain could face a “coalition of chaos.” How right she was. The idea that “strong and stable leadership in the national interest” could spring from an alliance with the Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and endure a full five-year term invites speculation over May’s grip on reality.

Corbyn was a revelation to the overwhelming majorityof voters who witnessed on TV, radio, in mass rallies and on walkabout a man who bore no resemblance to the feeble-minded, incompetent extremist caricature sketched by the media and many disloyal Labour MPs.

What inducements will she reveal as the price for bringing the DUP on board?

DUP priorities seem to be flying the union flag on public buildings more often in Northern Ireland than in Britain, rejecting equal marriage and lobbing significant cash sums to community organisations run by “former” unionist paramilitaries.

But it represents some of the poorest communities in the UK, which might present difficulties for the DUP if it signs up to Tory welfare cuts. May’s justification for calling her election – to win a bigger parliamentary majority to strengthen her hand in EU haggling – was never the real reason.

If it had been, having fewer seats would mean that her government will negotiate with Brussels now from an even weaker position. Her main motivation, after swallowing her advisers’ assessment that a landslide was there for the taking, was to seek a huge parliamentary majority to drive through unpopular public spending cuts.

May’s failure stems from a shambolic election campaign in which she was hidden from contact with the voters and chickened out of face-to-face debate with Jeremy Corbyn.

However, Corbyn was a revelation to the overwhelming majority of voters who witnessed on TV, radio, in mass rallies and on walkabout a man who bore no resemblance to the feeble-minded, incompetent extremist caricature sketched by the media and many disloyal Labour MPs.

He refused to adopt the neo-liberal consensus that making big business and the rich elite pay more tax is unthinkable while squeezing low-paid workers, single parents, the disabled, the self-employed, students, young unemployed and state pensioners is just the way things are.

Many of his most trenchant inner-party critics have had to acknowledge his role in enthusing Labour supporters and bringing particularly young voters into political activity.

Above all, Corbyn has tossed into the dustbin of history the reactionary assertion that Labour cannot prosper with distinctive progressive policies.

The Morning Star was alone in the media in sharing from the start the Labour leader’s confidence that offering class-based policies and making clear arguments in their favour could alter the course of a campaign in which May appeared to hold all the cards.

Whatever dodgy deals the Prime Minister does with the DUP, she is dead in the water. She should step down now. It is only a matter of time before her time runs out, which could precipitate an early election but need not do so.

Corbyn’s readiness to answer the challenge of leading a minority government, advocating policies capable of being supported by other parliamentary forces as well as widely outside Westminster, merits a positive response.

His commitment to guarantee on his first day in office the residence rights of EU nationals living and working in Britain would get negotiations with Brussels off to a more positive start than can be expected from a Tory lame duck.

But at least as important is how well people will live after leaving the EU, so Labour’s agenda of investment for jobs, housing, public ownership, education and the NHS must be given its opportunity when the Tory Party runs out of road.

New Labour over

Backing public ownership, abolition of tuition fees, supporting trade union rights, building council houses and rejecting private-sector penetration of the NHS had all been put forward inside Labour but were spurned by New Labour as being unaffordable or unacceptable to the Tory media.

The new leadership showed that they were all affordable and welcomed by former, current and potential Labour voters, irrespective of what the fistful of tax-dodging Tory newspaper barons thought.

Who inside Labour now argues openly against these policies?

The fact that Corbyn’s 2016 leadership challenger stressed his acceptance of this agenda while projecting himself preposterously as enjoying leadership qualities the likes of which the incumbent could only dream of spoke volumes for the political change working its way through Labour. It signifies that, whatever the inner thoughts of Corbyn’s most virulent back-bench critics, the New Labour project is dead, over and unlamented.

While political change was vividly apparent in the party manifesto, inner-party organisational reform has run up against barriers of bureaucracy, where members of the old guard have fought a rearguard action.

Blocking thousands of membership applicants, expelling many on pretexts that would never be applied to disruptive Blairites and excluding leadership supporters from candidate selections have all been deployed to minimise the extent of change.

Corbyn remains central to the process of modernising the party apparatus to match the political advances already made.

Tony Blair forecast before Corbyn was elected leader that a left-led Labour Party could never win a general election, stressing that, even were it possible, he wouldn’t want to see it. His view, shared by other parliamentary members of Labour’s City boardroom faction, illustrates both how far Corbyn-led Labour has come and how much further there is to go.

The rich and powerful will do everything they can to scotch Labour’s manifesto policies, but that approach remains essential to modernise Britain and create a more just society.

Consensus around a capitalist cuts agenda must give way to acceptance of progressive change.

Morning Star

Next article – Oil spill lawyer appointed

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