Socialist Worker

In the disillusioned Labour marginals, compromise is Corbyn’s worst enemy

by Sadie Robinson in Halifax
Issue No. 2557

Student Mohamed is voting for Corbyn because “he believes in what he says”

Student Mohamed is voting for Corbyn because “he believes in what he says” (Pic: Socialist Worker)


In the marginal seat of Halifax, West Yorkshire, the biggest threat to Labour’s vote is disillusion. And only by offering a break with the past can Jeremy Corbyn overcome it.

Labour has held Halifax for most of the time since the Second World War.

But keeping that up will be a battle. Current MP Holly Lynch got just 40 percent of the vote in the 2015 general election, compared to 39 percent for the Tories.

With just a week to go until the general election, it isn't the main thing on many people's minds. When asked who they were voting for, several said they just weren't interested.

Those backing Labour say they are “voting for Jeremy Corbyn” rather than for Labour or for Lynch.

Several people told Socialist Worker that Corbyn's left wing policies have made Labour seem relevant again.

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Rahat Khan joined Labour because of Corbyn. “In years gone by there wasn't a lot of difference between Labour and the Tories,” he explained. “But Corbyn talks about fairness and social justice.”

Litter picker Robert Balmforth is another Corbyn supporter. “He’s the most genuine of all of them—he tells the truth and he answers questions,” Robert said.

Student Mohamed added, “I’m for Corbyn. His ideas are clear and he believes in what he says.”

Labour's manifesto pledges to renationalise the railways and Royal Mail, scrap university tuition fees and build more homes have struck a chord.

For Noreen Hussain, backing Corbyn “is about the financial difficulties children have when they want to go to university”.

“People are ending up in debt, but Labour says it will change all that,” she said.

Robert added, “Making trains public would be a good idea for me—I travel a lot. And taxing the rich would be good too. We should share the wealth out a bit more.”

Closed

Charity worker Rahat supports vulnerable children who have been excluded from mainstream schools. He said Tory austerity has led to similar organisations being closed down or privatised.

He asked, “If the private sector is so brilliant, why do we have to bail out the banks? All this privatisation hasn't benefited us.”

Rahat is also pleased about Corbyn's international politics.

“He's not a warmonger,” he said. “And he’s said he’s going to recognise Palestine. That’s an issue that’s very close to my heart and no politician has ever said that.”

Litter picker Robert and charity worker Rahat are impressed by Corbyns support for nationalisation and Palestine

Litter picker Robert and charity worker Rahat are impressed by Corbyn's support for nationalisation and Palestine (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Accountant Naeem said he’d voted Labour in the past but was more enthusiastic about doing so now because of Corbyn.

“He's the only guy we can trust,” he said. “He’s straightforward and honest—the rest are slimeballs who are just out for themselves.”

He denounced the Tories for “looking after the rich and powerful, not the ordinary worker”.

But for some in Halifax, this is true of all politicians—whatever they may say.

Paula has health problems that mean she can't work and is stuck on the "roundabout" of trying to claim different benefits.

“I won an appeal over my benefits but it’s getting worse,” she said. “Now the government says they want 80 percent of appeals to be rejected.”

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Paula isn’t a fan of Theresa May and thinks a lot needs to change in Britain. “It’s ridiculous the amounts of money the rich get,” she said. “Some people earn far less than even their expenses.”

Corbyn has pledged to take more money from the rich to help ordinary people. But the track record of politicians failing to stand up for working class people has left a bitter legacy.

“The politicians say they'll help people, but they’re not going to,” said Paula. “They protect themselves and their massive incomes—and that’s it. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

“Corbyn is still one of them.”

It's no wonder there is some disillusion in Halifax, just as there is across the working class. When Labour was in office between 1997 and 2010 it attacked working class people and embraced the free market.

Meanwhile mainstream politicians’ whipping up of racism has meant some oppose Corbyn because they want stronger clampdowns on immigration.

Opposition

Others said it was easy for Corbyn to “promise the earth” when in opposition, but questioned how he would fund his policies.

Yet many of those who back May weren't entirely happy with her.

Janice planned to vote for May because “we need somebody strong, who’s going to sort out the country”. But she added, “There’s not much difference in all of them—they’ve all got their faults.”

Pensioner John was “surprised” that May announced a general election after promising not to.

“I’m disappointed she hasn't come out and told us what the limit will be for social care payments,” he said.

And while he said he didn't like Corbyn he added, “I agree with what he says and I've nothing against helping people. But how's he going to pay for it?”

Others opposed May. “I can’t really believe what she says,” said Victor, a pensioner in his 90s. “She is always dodging the questions. She has no substance.

“I will vote for Corbyn and all my family will because we want change. We want a more positive system for the future.”

Media attacks on Corbyn, disillusion with politics and worries over Brexit will all shape the result in Halifax. But while a Labour win isn't guaranteed, Corbyn has started to revitalise hope.

Linda said, “I always vote Conservative but this time I keep changing my mind. When I heard an interview with Jeremy Corbyn he came across really well.”

And as Rahat put it, “They say he’s a weak leader. But he’s got the media against him, his own party against him and he's still there.

“He’s stood his ground and he’s fighting for what he believes in."


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