Last year in September, I set out my belief in the Plymouth Herald that Jeremy Corbyn, far from being a threat to UK politics may in fact be its saviour. Having attended his speech at the Guildhall I recognised his passion, his clarity of message and his appeal, particularly to young voters. I remain convinced that he has given a voice to many in the Labour fraternity disenchanted by our uninspiring shift to the centre ground and by politics more broadly, and has triggered the rise of Labour back to the mass movement of its roots.
But, one year on and his opportunity to rise to the challenge of leadership has been squandered and with it has Labour’s ability to maintain its effective opposition to this terribly damaging Tory government. Much has already been said of this, so I will not look back with regret but focus on what is right for the Labour Party and for Britain. We see ever-increasing security risks across the globe and on our shores. We see the rise of extremism everywhere from the US, to Russia and China, on the borders of Europe and inside the fractured EU. But most clearly, we see an unfettered Tory government with its deceitful austerity policy supporting those that have wealth and power, driving up inequality to a post-war high. The life chances of our hard-working families and young people are being systematically reduced through the predominance of minimum wage employment, zero hours contracts, and unaffordable housing. Added to this it is becoming clear just how much we were lied to during the referendum as we face huge compromises in the post-EU options for economic prosperity.
This is the moment that Labour must truly rise from last year’s election defeat, exploiting new found energy in its now vast membership, and yes, we must build on the “momentum” of the past year, adopting the radical socialist policies that we know will make our communities better for all. But our agenda will fail without unity in our ranks, and leadership that can inspire so many more in the disadvantaged communities across our country. It has to be clear that we have a progressive forward looking and powerful opposition, credible as a government in waiting. We simply cannot ignore the views of our elected MPs, all loyal to Labour’s purpose, the majority of whom see clearly how we severely risk failing in our duty to the British people on our current track. Let us not forget that these MPs have succeeded in securing the popular appeal of Labour policies, none more so than Ben Bradshaw in Exeter.
Last year I spelt out how potentially game-changing was Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader. He has startled UK politics, taking Labour unswervingly onto a new course causing many to stand up and take notice. This immensely valuable step was but the start of the journey. The Labour Party need must now seize today’s opportunity to connect much more strongly with communities across our country and bring about the change that Britain so badly needs. That’s why I will be voting for Owen Smith in the Labour leadership election and I urge other members to think very seriously the about our purpose. Jeremy Corbyn has changed British politics – now let’s get serious about changing Britain!