Jeremy Corbyn responded to Boris Johnson’s election as Tory Party leader by saying that Labour is “absolutely” ready for a general election.
He said Labour is preparing a “summer campaign” of canvassing, and launched a new “pledge card” highlighting some of his party’s policies.
An email sent to Labour MPs last Friday said, “It is impossible to ignore, this summer could be the start of a long campaign towards an Autumn general election.”
An article on the New Statesman website claimed the summer campaign would focus on “local issues,” attacking Johnson’s and Tories’ record, highlighting Labour’s policies and growing party membership.
Corbyn told a television interview on Sunday that the campaign would be about “reducing inequality in Britain and about investing in good quality sustainable jobs for the future.”
And he told a rally of activists in Parliament Square, central London, last Thursday to campaign to “mobilise the strength and excitement, optimism and vitality of our people”.
Yet right wing MPs want Labour’s campaign to focus on stopping Brexit and campaigning to stay in the racist, neoliberal European Union.
Labour’s pledge card promises to oppose a “bad Tory deal”. And Labour leaflets reportedly promise to oppose Johnson’s “disastrous Brexit.”
It reflects a recent shift by Corbyn to support a referendum on any Brexit deal, and campaign to Remain against a Tory one.
But many right wing MPs want him to go further and say Labour will oppose Brexit altogether.
A growing number of left wing commentators have fallen in behind this—and some even say it should be the focus of Corbyn’s rallies.
This would be disastrous.
Not only could it lose Labour votes, but it would leave working class Brexit supporters to be gathered up by the Tories or the racist Brexit Party.
Corbyn’s 2017 rallies were successful because they had a mood of anti-establishment insurgency. They weren’t about Remain—they were against austerity, racism and war.
Anti-Johnson rallies held last week show it should be possible to do that again.
One of the biggest and liveliest, in central London on Wednesday of last week, was called under the slogan “Fuck the government and Fuck Boris.”
The right tried to downplay the size of Labour’s rally on Thursday—falsely claiming there were only 500 there. The true figure was more than double that.
Yet it is true that the size of the rally was smaller than rallies for Corbyn in the past.
This doesn’t mean that Corbyn is finished.
But it does reflect that Labour’s leadership is more cautious about calling rallies.
Corbyn supporters have been demobilised. Attacks from the right have demoralised them.
But they’ve also given little direction from a Labour leadership that is cautious about promoting rallies, and has been paralysed by attacks from the right and Brexit arguments.
Breaking out of that with marches, rallies and strikes over austerity, racism and climate change can build the kind of movement needed to beat Johnson.