I’m probably not the first to observe the inexorable decline of one of Britain’s proudest political entities, the Labour Party. The prospect of electoral annihilation, in combination with the haemorrhaging of shadow cabinet members, is surely evidence of this. This is exacerbated by the fundamental policy disagreements that exist within the party – more than one fifth of Labour MPs contravened a three-line whip to vote against the triggering of Article 50: a uniquely pitiful situation. This is a party whose core constituency is in the process of abandoning it, and yet fails to adapt its fundamental policy commitments in the wake of this factual entity.
Every day that Jeremy Corbyn continues to occupy the office of Leader of the Opposition, Britain’s Labour Party takes further steps down an irreversible path of decline. This has been caused mainly by Corbyn’s corrosive leadership style. The party of social justice and egalitarianism is ceasing to function as a coherent political unit. Labour, who for more than a century have stood up for the oppressed, the NHS and the minimum wage, has become stagnant and ineffectual.
“ I crave a Bernie Sanders, an Elizabeth Warren or a Justin Trudeau – someone who can command a podium or a doorstep and speak from their heart”
Corbyn’s time has come to return to the backbenches. Labour’s experimentation has been mired in disaster: botched policy roll-outs, weak accountability and ubiquitous parliamentary rebellion. The threats the party faces are grave: UKIP, the wolf cloaked in sheep’s clothing, is stealing Labour’s working-class mandate and transforming it into an ugly, nationalist concoction. The Conservatives are greatly empowered by Labour’s frailty and are potentially poised for a landslide general election victory.
Labour can drag itself away from the cliff-edge of electoral oblivion. This is, however, conditional on the party being able to take example from recent political phenomena – specifically, Bernie Sanders’ movement in the United States. It was – and still is – an epiphany and offers a vision for the future of the Labour Party.
Labour desperately needs new political capital. The senator from Vermont inspired and engaged a political faction that no-one really knew existed prior to 2016. The job is far easier in the UK: Labour has been around for more than a century, it has a progressive history and a considerable voting bloc. Sanders was brilliant in his ability to make social democracy personable and simple. Even more fundamentally, he was honest and passionate, which amalgamates into being very voter-friendly . Critically, Sanders also demonstrated how progressive left-wing values can be revitalised in the fight against the seemingly inexorable rightward shift among liberal democracies. Labour’s failure to capture or replicate any of the energy of the ‘Bernie 2016’ campaign is indicative of a political regime that is outdated and ineffectual.
I can’t help but fantasise how blissful and refreshing it would be to have a prime minister that actually had a semblance of enthusiasm and intensity in their day-to-day persona. I crave a Bernie Sanders, an Elizabeth Warren or a Justin Trudeau – someone who can command a podium or a doorstep and speak from their heart. In contrast to Sanders, Corbyn is enigmatic and subdued. While Sanders kept his message simple and captivating, Corbyn can barely convey a coherent message, let alone an inspiring one. Corbyn’s Labour will struggle to shrug off the absurd image of John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, wielding Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book in Parliament. The Corbyn-McDonnell act is beyond stale.
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, could be the leader that Labour desperately needs. She’s engaging, determined and fearless – Phillips once told Diane Abbott to “fuck off”. The Labour Party is still in the midst of the identity crisis initiated by Blair and New Labour – Corbyn isn’t the answer, so it’s time to move on.
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