Support for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign continued to grow as ballot papers for the Labour Party leadership election went out on Monday.
Thousands joined rallies and meetings across Britain throughout last week. Some 3,000 people turned out in Barkers Pool Square on Friday of last week for one of Sheffield’s largest rallies in years.
And a large queue snaked back from the Ruach City Church in Kilburn, north west London, as up to 4,000 people came to hear Corbyn speak on Sunday.
School student Clementine told Socialist Worker, “This is the first time I’ve been involved in anything political, I just heard about it on Twitter. Jeremy Corbyn seems different to traditional politicians.”
His campaign to be re-elected as Labour leader is bringing in new people—on top of the tens of thousands who joined since last summer.
Emrah, a new Labour member, said, “I wasn’t involved last year, but I saw the right was attacking someone who represents the people. He’s a genuine socialist.”
Mass support for Corbyn has pulled the debate inside Labour to the left, forcing his challenger Owen Smith to pose as a socialist. But new members like Harley from Haringey in north London, who joined Labour two weeks ago, aren’t convinced by Smith’s rhetoric.
He asked, “If Owen Smith is really a socialist then why is he challenging Corbyn?”
Successive polls indicate that Corbyn is likely to beat Smith, but his campaign is going all-out to mobilise members. Some 280 people joined a meeting with shadow chancellor John McDonnell in Ilford, east London, on Wednesday of last week to build local support.
Natasha, an activist in Labour left group Momentum in neighbouring Newham, told Socialist Worker, “After Corbyn won I thought, ‘We’ve got out Labour Party back.’ And the left has never been stronger. But we’ve got to keep the momentum going and start fighting.”
After the leadership election Corbyn tried to compromise with the right to reunite the Labour Party. But Natasha said, “We were hopeful of working together, but if one side doesn’t want to work together there’s nothing you can do.”
One argument is whether to deselect the 170 MPs who voted to unseat Corbyn, and replace them with candidates who represent the membership.
“I don’t think Corbyn will call for deselection because it’s seen as divisive,” said Natasha, “but we need to find 170 new comrade MPs.”
It’s essential to take on the Labour right. But beating the establishment that hates Corbyn and everything he stands for will take a battle well beyond the Labour Party.
It will take a mass movement on the streets and in workplaces to challenge the power of the ruling class.
At the Sheffield rally the biggest cheer went to John Dunn from the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign.
“After we re-elect Jeremy we need to go forward and not just campaign for a politicians’ parliament,” he said.
“We’ll get real justice when we abolish this rotten system that looks after a minority and replace it with a socialist society.”
Too democratic for Watson
Ballot papers for the Labour leadership election have been sent to nearly 650,000 people. They include 350,000 Labour members and 168,000 from unions and other affiliated organisations.
Another 129,000 people paid £25 to be registered “supporters”—despite the right’s attempts to cull left wing supporters. Some 130,000 people who recently joined Labour were barred from voting.
The result will be announced at the Labour conference in Liverpool on 24 September.
The Labour right long campaigned for this system to reduce union leaders’ influence. That backfired. Now deputy leader Tom Watson backs a return to the old system.
Owen goal as soft Smith infuriates Blairites
Hard Blairites in Labour are losing patience with Owen Smith. Dan Hodges wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that “Corbyn is shambling along to another victory” thanks to Smith’s “spineless, incoherent, incompetent campaign”.
“Against a strong candidate, running an aggressive, well-focused campaign, Corbyn could have been forced to put up a fight,” he said. “Owen Smith is not that candidate.”
The attacks on Corbyn won’t end with the election.
Mohammed, a new Labour member in west London, told Socialist Worker, “They’re definitely going to try it again.
“They were planning this for months and they won’t be satisfied if Corbyn wins. Some even want David Miliband back.”
Hodges’ rant also shows that the alliance against Corbyn is much broader than the deeply pro-capitalist Blairite hardcore.
Some wings of Labour are more opportunistic. Divides can be bitter between even those like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who agree on most things—let alone those who don’t.
But Labour’s focus on elections means all wings, including the left, feel pressure to unite. A movement outside can push Corbyn not to compromise with those out to destroy him.
Khan and Dugdale look to the right
London mayor Sadiq Khan has come out in support of leadership challenger Owen Smith—despite previously claiming he would remain neutral.
Khan, who won the mayoralty by a landslide on a Labour ticket in May, claims that a Corbyn-led Labour Party cannot win elections.
He angered many Corbyn supporters who campaigned for him in the face of Tory Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign. The 4,000-strong rally in Kilburn booed loudly when Khan was mentioned.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also came out for Smith on Monday. Dugdale, who led her party to third place behind the Scottish National Party and the Tories in May’s Scottish parliament elections, said Corbyn couldn’t appeal to enough voters.
At the most recent hustings Smith argued that Corbyn was wrong for not “reaching out” to Tory voters.
At the Kilburn rally, former Unison union shop steward and Labour member Albert said the Labour right were “hypocrites”.
He told Socialist Worker, “Labour lost over five million votes under Tony Blair and the people attacking Corbyn lost two general elections in 2010 and 2015.
“What we need to do is reach out to working class people, our natural supporters, who’ve been left behind.
“We’ll win by fighting for our class.”