Corbyn’s Policy Documents

I do not claim that the whole political establishment and economic status quo would change under Jeremy Corbyn, but I do agree completely that he is the best chance we have (under the current electoral system) of moving towards a better, fairer, and freer future in the United Kingdom (or any time soon, at least).

Below are the titles of the key policy documents he has released, which can be seen in full here:

  • Tackling the housing crisis
  • Jeremy for Public Railways
  • Investment, growth and tax justice
  • Better Business [i.e. support for small businesses and co-operatives]
  • Winning with a greener future
  • National Education Service
  • The case for investing in the North
  • A better future for young people
  • Working With Women
  • Peace & defence diversification
  • Mental Health

For more on Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership, see [1], [2], [3], & [4]

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The Independent’s 16 Reasons Why Corbyn Can Win

  1. “Thirty-five economists have backed his policies as “sensible””
  2. “The majority of people agree with his policy of renationalising the railways”
  3. He’s a “staunch believer in democracy”
  4. [Blairites] “don’t want him to be leader”
  5. “He’s admirable”
  6. He’s “against personal attacks”
  7. “His progressive tax policies chime with the public”
  8. “The two biggest unions in Britain support him”
  9. “He wants to crack down on tax evasion”
  10. “He tackled Margaret Thatcher over homelessness”
  11. “He opposes nuclear weapons and so do the public”
  12. “He was the lowest expenses-claiming MP”
  13. “His success could lead to a more balanced parliament”
  14. “His policy on tuition fees”
  15. “He didn’t study PPE at Oxford”
  16. “He wants everyone in Britain to have a garden”[1]

There are many others, too. For more, see [2], [3], & [4]

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Corbyn’s Summer Shake-Up (Part One)

The last few weeks have arguably been the most interesting that the Labour Party (and British politics in general) has seen for at least a couple of decades.[1] And, although the profound change which British workers need may still seem a long way off, there is clearly a chance under Jeremy Corbyn for them to take a step forward – towards a fairer, more democratic future.

1) Corbyn’s Alternative to ‘Austerity-Lite’ Politics

In the interest of summarising a large amount of positive ideas down into a few key points, the most notable policies Corbyn has called for are:

  • A crackdown on tax avoidance, an end to corporate subsidies, and a “more progressive” tax system;
  • State-led investment to create a genuinely strong economy that can decrease the deficit in the long term;
  • For Britain to use its role in the EU to fight for the rights of all workers, protect the environment, and crack down on tax havens;
  • The scrapping of tuition fees and restoration of maintenance grants.
  • Greater support for councils to encourage the building of affordable, eco-friendly social housing;
  • An end to the lie that immigration is “a drain on the economy”;
  • The scrapping of Trident, and the UK’s withdrawal from NATO;
  • For “50% of Labour MPs to be female” and a “50:50 shadow cabinet”;
  • For essential public services to be run “co-operatively”;
  • And for people to be given the power to improve their own lives in a truly democratic manner with regards to transport, education, and business in general.[2]

2) The Non-Corbyn Candidates

In spite of the fact that “neither Burnham, Cooper nor Kendall has shown any evidence that they can command confidence outside the Labour Party”, it would seem rude not to mention some of the contributions of the non-Corbyn candidates in the leadership race.

Andy Burnham, for example, has:

  • Sought to “win votes from everyone” with his “soft populism”, while proving to blow “a little too easily with the wind”;
  • Accepted that figures trying to dismiss and insult Jeremy Corbyn had seriously “misread the mood of the party”;
  • And claimed he is “the only candidate who can win” against Corbyn despite an apparent lack of inspiration, policies, and passion.

Yvette Cooper, meanwhile, has:

  • Been seen by the general public as a capable, but boring and uninspiring, politician, having chosen effectively to “say and do nothing”;
  • Claimed that her ‘radically centrist’ ideas (which are actually on the right) are the only ones that can ensure “party unity”;
  • Spoken with a form of coded language which would not be out of place in a “middle management presentation”;
  • And received the support of the spineless Guardian, which spent most of its endorsement talking about Jeremy Corbyn rather than the unexciting and unappealing

Finally, the Blairite candidate Liz Kendall has:

  • Received money from lobbyists who work forarms manufacturers, autocratic regimes and multinational corporations”;
  • Demonstrated a clear lack of popularity among Labour voters;
  • Advocated austerity whilst trying her best to impersonate Tony Blair;
  • Patronised her way right to the bottom of the polls by talking to her electorate like “dim schoolchildren” while repeating “empty slogans” about being the only “electable” candidate;
  • And focussed on “petty personal attacks” and plots against Corbyn rather than actually proposing anything different from the status quo.

In summary, then, the three non-Corbyn candidates have essentially been competing to “say the most words with the least content”, having had “all the meaning and personality stripped out” of their campaigns “by a crack team of lawyers and PRs”. These “tiny ideas”, then, “expressed without inspiration”, never had any chance of gaining the same kind of popularity as the sensible, progressive, and realistic alternatives proposed by Corbyn.[3]

3) Creasy and the Deputy Leader Candidates

Although “none of the candidates” for deputy leader voted against the Labour whip over the Tory welfare reforms and the union favourites Tom Watson and Angela Eagle did little to show truly left-wing credentials, there wasn’t cause for complete indifference regarding the contest for Labour’s second in command. Stella Creasy, for example, said a number of seemingly positive things about democratisation and “people power”. As a “fearless feminist with a “vision for a less factional party”, the Labour Co-Op MP seemed like a candidate who would both stick up for women’s rights and try to find “common ground” among the different sections of the party.

Referred to as a “decent, principled, and passionate” candidate, Creasy regularly expressed a “genuine commitment to making Labour a democratic movement again” through cooperating with, and promoting the importance of, grassroots movements. Unlike what she referred to as the current establishment “machine” in the Labour Party, which had “far too shallow and one-sided a relationship with its activists, councillors, voters and supporters”, Creasy called for politicians to organise “out in the field on the front line” in order to inspire citizens and harness “the energy, enthusiasm and experience of every man and woman who wants to speak up for a different kind of Britain”.

Some of Creasy’s supporters may not have taken her impartial stance on the leadership elections and the right-wing abuse directed at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, but Creasy herself maintained that “politics is for everyone to participate in” – a view which seemed very much in line with what Corbyn was trying to get across. Therefore, her stated aims seemed to be a very good compliment to the principles and policies being put forward by the leadership frontrunner.[4]

[1] To see why, look at Labour’s sharp turn to the right: https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/new-labour-is-right-wing-but-corbyn-could-change-that/

[2] For more, see: https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/corbyns-alternative-to-austerity-lite-politics/

[3] For more, see: https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/the-non-corbyn-candidates/

[4] For more, see: https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/creasy-the-deputy-leader-candidates/

Posted in Corbyn4Leader, JezWeCan, Labour Party, UK, UK Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creasy & the Deputy Leader Candidates

There isn’t too much to say regarding the candidates for deputy leader. Prospect Magazine, for example, made it very clear that “none of the candidates were among the left-wing rebels who defied the Labour whip to vote against Tory welfare reforms”. In other words, Jeremy Corbyn was the only candidate of all the leadership and deputy leadership candidates to stand up against the reactionary whip.

Considering that the debate between the deputy candidates was focussed on “practical party management”, there were no big ideological arguments in the contest.[1] Nonetheless, unions generally backed Angela Eagle and Tom Watson, even though the latter seemed to back the right-wing leadership candidate Liz Kendall (saying she was “courageous”).[2] According to Labour List, Eagle was “reliable and highly capable”, whilst being a “vocal defender of LGBT rights”. Watson, meanwhile, was “known for his campaigning” and, like Eagle, considered to be “on the left of the party”.

Although some right-wing MPs decided to back Stella Creasy (a Labour Co-Op MP), she is the one that stood out the most for me as a candidate for change in the structure of the Labour Party – with a focus on “community-centred politics” and grassroots campaigning.[3] As “a popular member of the 2010 intake”, she was not steeped in the factionalism dominant during New Labour’s time in government, and focussed much more on “party unity” and engaging with community activists.[4] For Thomas G. Clark at Another Angry Voice, Watson and Creasy were the “outstanding candidates” of the race, while the latter was the “the only one of them with really good leadership potential”.

Caroline Flint and Ben Bradshaw, meanwhile, who were generally considered to be the right-wing candidates in the contest, were “gaffe-prone disasters”, according to Clark.[5] Nonetheless, a number of Labour right-wingers rallied around Flint (the “leading Blairite in the deputy leadership contest”) when the popularity of Corbyn was becoming an inescapable fact. By doing so, they hoped to “prevent a left-wing takeover” of the party by strengthening what they considered to be a “centrist counterweight to Mr Corbyn”.[6] Flint, though, was not as hostile to the left as other right-wingers, saying “let’s not lose sight of where the real battle lies” (i.e. in the fight against the Tories).[7]

Is Creasy the Best Bet?

Helen Lewis at the New Statesman speaks about how Creasy “rages against the political machine”, arguing that Labour “needs to connect more with single-issue campaigns… and other political movements”. Her “uncompromisingapproach to feminism, meanwhile, showed she was “fearless” and had “a streak of iron running through her”, according to Lewis. Furthermore, she is “not interested in smoothing off her edges in order to get on”, and refuses “to rely on networks of patronage in the party”. And this anti-tribal outlook was represented in her “vision for a less factional party”, and suggested she had the “ability to bring disparate groups together for a common cause”. In short, Creasy criticises the Westminster establishment and believes in “people power” (calling for Labour politicians to be “out in the field on the front line with people”), being prepared to work “on progressive campaigns with anyone who will muck in”.[8]

By August 7, Creasy had overtaken Watson in the polls, though by a small margin.[9] The support of Neil Kinnock may have been a slight dampener on her progressive credentials, but her insistence that she took her lessons “from the trade unions” and wanted Labour “to organise” were promising assertions. “When we stand for what we believe in, and we fight together, we can and we will win”, she stressed, hoping Labour would “become a movement again”. For her, the “fire and the faith that Labour can and does make a difference” needed to be regained, and that required the involvement of all members and sympathisers.[10]

Regarding the new election system in the Labour Party, Creasy said a ‘trick had been missed’, suggesting the organisation ought to have learnt from the primary system in the USA, “where you register as a supporter so that you can vote in one selection but not in another”.[11] She did not, however, call for the vote to be stopped or talk about ‘infiltration’. Instead, in her new capacity as frontrunner, she insisted “I’m not tribal, I’m ideological”. Stressing that “it’s fine to disagree and debate”, she regretted that “most of my adult life in the Labour party has been defined by people being in tribes and therefore cut out – ‘you’re Blairite, you’re Brownite, you’re a Trot’”. That, she said, was not acceptable, and needed to change. “Jeremy Corbyn is tapping into that feeling that people want more than a leaflet round – they want it to mean something”, she asserted. And, following that line of thought, she highlighted that she was committed to working towards forging a party that was “not just an opposition” but “an alternative”.[12]

In fact, her commitment to grassroots organisation and involvement got a number of people considering the benefits of a Corbyn-Creasy leadership team. The ‘Bemolution Will Not Be Televised’ blog, for example, asserted that Creasy “tries to find common ground with anyone in Labour, and doesn’t think about inter-party left and right very much”. Arguing that she is “decent, principled, and passionate, with a genuine commitment to making Labour a democratic movement again”, the blog nonetheless expressed concern at “the stridently anti-Corbyn sentiments among a lot of the people involved” in the Creasy campaign (a “comedian and senior Creasy aide”, for example, was allegedly seen “ranting about ‘Trots’ and ‘commies’” in a very tribal manner).

For ‘The Bemolution’, Creasy was probably “the closest candidate to Corbyn” even though her moderate language made her “far more amenable to the neoliberal mainstream”. The reason for this assertion was that both essentially saw Labour as “an organ of popular democracy that ordinary people can and should use”. Furthermore, as “the only prospective deputy really saying anything”, she had “an actual critique”, believing the party had “become a machine – bureaucratic, over-centralised, and with far too shallow and one-sided a relationship with its activists, councillors, voters and supporters”. The blog stresses, meanwhile, that there was “nothing from either [Watson or Eagle] to suggest they’re the obvious left-wing choice”. Therefore, Creasy was left as the only candidate inspiring any sort of hope for change in the party, as the “most likely to do something about the big (non-ideological) failing of the modern Labour Party – that Labour members and councillors are treated like leaflet-distributing drones, denied any meaningful say on policy… [and] often treated with unveiled disdain by party elites”.[13]

‘Political Sift’, meanwhile, insisted that, while “on their own there are no ‘ideal’ candidates for deputy leader”, the “best person to compliment Jeremy Corbyn” would be Stella Creasy. The reason for this stance was that her “genuine desire to cooperate with, and promote the importance of, grassroots movements” showed that, like Corbyn, she believed it was “through the people, not Westminster, that we can bring about change”. Furthermore, although “she is to the left” in the grand scheme of things, “she doesn’t seem keen to label herself as either ‘left’, ‘right’ or ‘centre’”. Instead, her focus is on the “involvement of society” and on “inspiring movements rather than about her own personal views – which is what a politician should do”. Being “open minded and flexible” about how to enact principles, Political Sift asserts, is a very important thing in politics. And her membership of a number of different groups (on both the right and left) suggests that, while “there are things within all of them that she agrees/disagrees with”, she fundamentally “feels it is important not to exclude any opinion or argument”.

For Creasy, insists Political Sift, “politics is for everyone to participate in”, and together with Corbyn she would be likely to foment “a huge rise in the political engagement of society”. In addition to “the principles and integrity of Jeremy Corbyn”, the blog says, “the passion, proactive-ness and belief in public engagement and debate of Stella Creasy” would be the perfect compliment.

In her own words, “too many people now see politics as an elite sport”, meaning that politicians “miss out on their ideas and actions as they get put off taking part”. To remedy that situation, she insists, and thus “harness their passion for social justice”, politicians “have to offer them more than a leaflet round or a three hour procedures committee”. To make the Labour Party “a movement and not a machine”, then, she says that “the energy, enthusiasm and experience of every man and woman who wants to speak up for a different kind of Britain” must be channelled democratically and effectively.[14]

Summary

Even though we may be right to doubt the politics of some of the people who have got behind Creasy, it is difficult to disagree with many of the things that she herself has said. Therefore, in the interests of judging a person by their own words and actions rather than by some of the company they keep, I still believe Creasy is, at the very least, the most progressive of the deputy candidates on offer.

[1] http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/prospector-blog/whats-happening-in-the-labour-deputy-leadership-race

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/20/tom-watson-labour-must-understand-why-supporters-voted-ukip

[3] http://labourlist.org/2015/06/what-do-we-know-about-the-deputy-leadership-candidates/

[4] http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/prospector-blog/whats-happening-in-the-labour-deputy-leadership-race

[5] http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.mx/2015/08/labour-deputy-leadership-candidates-2015.html

[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-rallies-behind-flint-as-deputy-leader-to-offset-a-corbyn-win-10432889.html

[7] http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/prospector-blog/whats-happening-in-the-labour-deputy-leadership-race

[8] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/08/stella-creasy-rages-against-political-machine-can-she-break-it

[9] http://labourlist.org/2015/08/stella-creasy-takes-the-lead-in-the-deputy-leadership-race-according-to-latest-labourlist-survey/

[10] http://labourlist.org/2015/08/i-dont-just-want-your-vote-i-want-your-voice-stella-creasy-published-new-campaign-video/

[11] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-33833433

[12] http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2015/08/08/watch-labour-deputy-leader-candidate-stella-creasy-hopes-to-leave-rivals-battered/

[13] http://thebemolutionwillnotbetelevised.com/2015/08/01/give-creas-a-chance-coming-out-as-a-corbyn-creasy/

[14] https://politicalsift.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/the-corbyn-creasy-effect-why-these-two-make-for-the-ideal-labour-leadership-combination/

Posted in Deputy Leader, Labour Party, Stella Creasy, Stella4Deputy, UK, UK Elections 2015, UK Politics | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Non-Corbyn Candidates

According to Rachael Ward at the Independent, “neither Burnham, Cooper nor Kendall has shown any evidence that they can command confidence outside the Labour Party”.[1] In a rather spineless way, Larry Elliott says in the Guardian, “Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall… have decided the line to take is that while Labour did not do anything wrong” economically (according to the neoliberal consensus) during its time in power, “political reality means they need to apologise anyway”.[2] And that capitalisation to Tory rhetoric is precisely why the campaigns of these three candidates struggled to attract mass support from the public. And, when it became clear they were unpopular with most voters in the leadership election, all three “sent a joint letter [to Labour HQ] alleging that unfair processing of affiliated supporters” was bringing “the integrity of the election into doubt”.[3]

In spite of the poor campaigns of the non-Corbyn candidates, however, Media Lens[4] spoke[5] of how “no journalist in the Guardian has sought to identify the right ‘truncheon’ to ‘neutralise’ Burnham, Cooper or Kendall” (words the paper had used to talk about Corbyn) – insisting that Corbyn had been treated horrifically even in the ‘liberal’ mainstream media.[6] Let’s have a look, then, at the actual contributions of the three robotically uninspiring candidates, just to even things out.

Andy Burnham

Whilst trying to portray himself as a ‘more electable’ version of Corbyn, he focussed primarily on criticising his main opponent’s supporters, rather than defending him against the childish and libellous comments of his detractors. When the Communication Workers Union (CWU) called Corbyn the ‘antidote’ to the Blairite ‘virus’ in the Labour Party, for example, Burnham said that Corbyn supporters’ “provocative language” risked splitting the party (whilst failing to criticise the horrifically patronising comments by Tony Blair which had sparked the CWU’s comments).[7] Invoking the idea of ‘unity’ after harsh right-wing attacks on Corbyn (rather than condemning them), Burnham insisted that “there are some echoes of the early 80s” in the party, and that he was the best candidate to keep the right-wing of Labour from abandoning ship.[8]

Mark Steel has joked that Burnham would “make Labour electable again by supporting all the different policies” so that the party could “win votes from everyone”.[9] In fact, says Matthew d’Ancona at the Telegraph, even Conservatives saw Burnham and Cooper as just different ‘shades of grey’.[10]

For Ash Burt at the Independent, Burnham represented “soft populism”, positioning himself primarily as a “more normal Ed Miliband”. His hopes of getting progressive votes, however, “quickly unravelled with the welfare bill”, when he abstained in line with the party whip and opened himself to criticisms of “blowing a little too easily with the wind”.[11]

Nonetheless, Burnham managed to stay in a distant second place in the polls, beating the two female candidates to his right (though not by much). While Kendall was doomed to failure from the start for advocating (essentially) a return to Blairism, Burnham and Cooper (who were “not Blairites”), simply “fought unforgivably empty campaigns”, according to the New Statesman.[12]

Perhaps Burnham’s saving grace in the campaign, though, was his refusal to ignore the significance of Corbyn’s popularity. For example, he warned in mid-August “against Labour figures dismissing the frontrunner”, saying they had seriously “misread the mood of the party” – whose members and potential members were “crying out” for “something different”. His assertion that the right’s “dire predictions” about a Corbyn victory were “not helpful” showed, at the very least, that Burnham was beginning to distance himself from attacks on Corbyn.[13] In fact, he even admitted that it “was “possible” for Corbyn to win the 2020 election”.[14]

On August 15, however, Burnham repeated (once again) his argument about the need to avoid a repeat of the 1980s split, and sources close to him even suggested he could eventually defeat Corbyn “after picking up most of Ms Cooper’s second preferences”.[15] And, while Corbyn seemed to win the majority of popularity polls, a Survation poll released on the same day appeared to suggest that 25% of the general public thought Burnham would “make the best prime minister” (compared to Corbyn’s 24%) and (together with Corbyn) was the “most likely to win the next general election” (with both on 26%).[16] A day later, it was revealed that Liz Kendall had unsuccessfully “urged Yvette Cooper to stand down because Andy Burnham [was] the only candidate who [could] win” against Corbyn[17]. Her “own phone-bank data” had apparently shown that only Burnham “had any realistic chance of stopping Corbyn”.[18] When this plan failed, however, both Kendall and Cooper “urged their supporters to use their second and third preference votes to back any candidate other than Mr Corbyn” (something that Burnham chose not to do).[19]

As Ian Dunt wrote at Politics.co.uk, though, Burnham simply seemed to have “no ideas about how he would change the party beyond those of the last person he spoke to”.[20] And it would be that lack of inspiration or passion that would stay with the ‘Corbyn-lite’ leadership hopeful until the end of the campaign.

Yvette Cooper

When the Guardian asked its readers in late July “which candidate they [intended] to vote for in the Labour leadership election”, readers generally focussed on Cooper as someone who “could steer the tiller for a few years until a more promising leader came along” rather than as a truly inspirational candidate.[21] However, the Guardian stressed, a “generation of senior Conservatives” believed in the importance of ‘listening to civil servants’ (who generally rated Cooper as a politician), and were therefore “ever so slightly frightened of the personable Ms Cooper”.[22]

For Ash Burt, Cooper’s campaign strategy was “the most mysterious of them all”, as she chose “to say and do nothing”, thus copying Ed Miliband’s approach of ‘talking about fairness’, not saying “anything particularly offensive”, and hoping “that the electorate [would] eventually be scared off by the clear villainy of Conservative politicians”. In short, she would seek to portray herself as the candidate of “party unity” rather than proposing anything that would genuinely change the political path that had seen Labour lose two consecutive elections.[23] Her “boast of presenting the “radical centre””, for example, summed up everything she represented.[24]

Far from the “easy-to-grasp language” used by Corbyn, Ian Dunt asserts, Cooper’s language needs decoding” if we hope to truly understand it. Furthermore, he insists, “she plays the factually and morally inaccurate game of pretending one can conduct politics with no losers, by saying “employees, business and industry” all need the same thing”. In short, he says, her language “is that of a middle management presentation”.[25]

According to Alan Johnson, Cooper was the “most qualified candidate” who “happens to be a woman”. In other words, the reason why people were expected to vote for her was purely on the basis that she had experience in government and did not have male genitalia – both very inspiring credentials according to Johnson.[26] And Dunt agrees that being a female human was one of her main proposals, saying “the only political ideas Cooper is willing to discuss are the fact she is a woman and that Sure Start should be expanded”.[27] Polly Toynbee, meanwhile, spoke of how Corbyn offered “virtue” but how Cooper offered “an infinitely better hope of success” – without of course using any evidence to back up her empty assertion. At the same time, Media Lens accused the Guardian’s interview with Cooper of being “deferential to the point of [becoming] cringe-making idolatry”.[28]

Trying to delegitimise Corbyn’s campaign, Cooper herself claimed the leading candidate was offering “old solutions to old problems” (whilst neither explaining what these were nor outlining what an alternative would look like).[29] As an ‘economist’, she argued that people’s quantitative easing would “never be credible” (without explaining why). Essentially, she was giving up on the challenge of convincing people the policy was credible and instead following the policies of the country’s powerful neoliberal cheerleaders in the hope they would notice her.

With the help of Toynbee, meanwhile, for whom Corbyn’s foreign policies were to be seen as a sort of “anti-internationalism”, Cooper argued that the frontrunner’s desire to leave NATO and make demands of the EU were trashing Labour’s “reputation as an internationalist party”.[30] Somehow, then, the two were describing imperialism (in the form of New Labour’s oversees military interventions and propping up of ‘friendly’ dictators) as internationalism, whilst calling real internationalism (the fight for universal workers’ rights and military de-escalation) anti-internationalism. It would perhaps be funny if it weren’t so tragically depressing!

Then, if the above wasn’t enough, the Guardian officially backed Cooper for leader. In spite of saying that her, Burnham, and Kendall had all “failed to inspire” (representing “a triple-headed embodiment of the well-dressed, smooth-talking Westminster class”), the supposedly progressive paper insisted that Cooper was somehow “more steadfast” in her economic criticisms of George Osborne than Corbyn (even though her own economic ‘solutions’ varied very little from those of the chancellor).

Her “down-to-earth feminism”, the Guardian stressed (without explaining which elements of her uninspiring policies were meant to be feminist), would in some way help her to “harness young people’s passion” (which lay overwhelmingly with Corbyn and his progressive principles) by appealing “to the middle ground as well as the left”.[31] And in that rather lazy manner, avoiding the fact that Cooper’s policies had failed to attract any real interest from either youngsters or the left, the Guardian concluded its spineless endorsement of an unexciting and unappealing candidate.

Samuel Hooper summarises the Guardian’s behaviour on his blog by saying it made “perfect sense”. Like other false progressives, he stresses, the paper’s writers like to “make themselves feel better by railing against the inhumanity of the Evil Tories while actively supporting policies which are detrimental to the working class”. In other words, while “drumming up sympathy for the poor and the dispossessed”, they then turn around to use “the resulting political capital to further the interests of the new middle class” in charge of the Labour Party. Cooper, he says, is the type of person who “can say all of the right things about how nasty the Evil Tories are being, while reassuring the liberal elite that she will do nothing to rock the boat unduly”.[32]

Cooper, meanwhile, claimed (like Burnham) that, according to “internal polling”, she was “clearly on course to beat Jeremy in the final round” of voting.[33] However, she was clearly having problems reaching out to voters supportive of Corbyn, with a 29-year-old grilling her “on her decision not to oppose the Government’s Work and Welfare Reform Bill, her defence of tuition fees and Corbyn’s ability to identify with young voters alienated by career politicians like Cooper”.[34]

Liz Kendall

Kendall, who has been “funded by lobbyists… that work to influence parliament on behalf of arms manufacturers, autocratic regimes and multinational corporations”, was the candidate that Labour should really be concerned about, according to Charles B. Anthony at Counterfire.[35] Fortunately, however, her clear lack of popularity among Labour voters meant that “the Blairite faction” in the party “effectively left [her] stranded behind enemy lines”.[36] Essentially, Ash Burt argues, “Liz’s Tony Blair impersonation act failed to mimic the master’s success”, even though her candidacy was supposedly “based on her brilliance at winning elections”. In fact, he suggests, the failure of each non-Corbyn candidate was due to their retention of different aspects of Ed “Miliband’s contradictions”. While Burnham was the ‘soft populist’ and Cooper the ‘great unifier’, Kendall was the ‘advocate of austerity’.[37] Kendall was not completely out of touch, however, and even admitted “party members are desperate for an alternative” (although she didn’t appear to recognise that she did not offer such an alternative).[38]

With complaints from Labour’s right-wing about “people from the Green party and hard-left groups” supposedly trying to “hijack the contest to ensure Labour elects a socialist leader”, the question of democracy began to shine through.[39] Surely, if the followers of Blair and his New Labour ideology were so widespread in the country, they would easily be able to ensure a victory for Kendall in spite of some left-wingers trying to vote for Corbyn. That would be the democratic choice of Labour supporters. The reality, however, is that Corbyn’s views were simply much more popular than Kendall’s, and the only way the latter could ever hope to beat the former in a free, democratic contest would have been through the suppression of democracy. And, sure enough, having long argued that the left-wing of Labour had to respect the will of pro-Blair voters even if they didn’t agree with them, the Blairites were now calling Corbyn’s supporters idiots and telling them they had to grow up and vote for Kendall. The simple fact is, though, that this kind of harsh, authoritarian rhetoric doomed Kendall to failure from the outset. Neglecting the need to “talk to her electorate as equals rather than as dim schoolchildren”, Kendall (and her supporters) “said almost nothing except that, “Our way is the electable way””.[40] Rather than playing to people’s feelings like a good politician, she very effectively patronised her way right to the bottom of the polls. In fact, in a poll of 1,411 Labour voters and supporters, “just four per cent” of women said they would vote for her.[41]

For Helen Coffey at the Telegraph, “Liz Kendall seemed to be ever competing with Yvette Cooper and “safe choice” Andy Burnham for who could say the most words with the least content”. In fact, she argues, both Kendall and Cooper “chanted their empty slogans like a DVD stuck on repeat”, with Kendall’s “A fresh start” clearly trying to hide her desire to “exactly replicate Tony Blair’s now 20 year old path to power”. Originally hopeful about the chance to vote for a female candidate, Coffey notes that she “kept waiting and desperately hoping for Kendall or Cooper to say something exciting about women’s issues… but the day never came”. The shouts of both women for voters to choose “anyone but Corbyn!” were the icing on the flavourless cake, she says, showing how “unbelievably negative and patronising” the candidates were. Having hoped for “boldness and strength”, they instead came out with “petty personal attacks”. If they wanted her vote, she stresses, they should have given her a “positive reason” to do so.[42] But Kendall clearly had no such reason in mind, instead hoping to “do whatever the Tories are doing until Labour wins over the press”.[43]

Summary

Overall, says Ian Dunt, the three non-Corbyn candidates for leader consistently revealed “tiny ideas, expressed without inspiration”, and their main promise was essentially to undertake the “administration of pre-existing economic relations” rather than any kind of meaningful process of change.[44] At the same time, insists Ash Burt, Corbyn’s opponents each looked “like a reject from the cast of Thunderbirds”, with their polished images and emotionless words.[45]

For Helen Coffey (and no doubt thousands more voters), Jeremy Corbyn was simply the only candidate “with answers to questions that did not feel like they’d had all the meaning and personality stripped out by a crack team of lawyers and PRs, before being delivered by an automaton disguised as a human”.[46] And, essentially, that’s all we need to know about the non-Corbyn candidates.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-is-the-only-candidate-the-public-actually-likes–labour-or-otherwise-10407998.html

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/aug/09/jeremy-corbyn-labour-overspending-did-not-cause-financial-crisis?CMP=share_btn_fb

[3] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/08/burnham-cooper-and-kendall-issue-letter-labour-hq-raising-concerns-over-ballot

[4] http://www.medialens.org/

[5] In response to comments made by Zoe Williams in the Guardian

[6] http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/798-the-guardian-readers-editor-responds-on-jeremy-corbyn.html

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-33745731

[8] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/01/jeremy-corbyn-call-party-unity-after-warning-rival-andy-burnham?CMP=twt_politics*gdnukpolitics

[9] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-last-thing-labour-needs-is-a-leader-like-jeremy-corbyn-who-people-want-to-vote-for-10411466.html

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/26/smart-tories-labour-jeremy-corbyn-mania-david-cameron

[11] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-wouldnt-be-so-far-ahead-in-the-labour-leadership-race-if-his-rivals-werent-so-awful-10425050.html

[12] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/08/blairites-have-forgotten-how-win

[13] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-tony-blair-warning-responds-i-dont-do-personal-i-dont-do-abuse?CMP=share_btn_fb

[14] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/15/jeremy-corbyn-pledge-pro-business-back-entrepreneurs

[15] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/andy-burnham-only-can-stop-6259204

[16] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/14/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-most-popular-candidate-voters-all-parties and http://www.itv.com/news/2015-08-14/labour-voters-and-ukip-voters-both-like-corbyn-best/

[17] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11806498/Lord-Mandelsons-failed-mass-resignation-bid-to-attempt-to-stop-Jeremy-Corbyn-winning-Labour-leadership.html

[18] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11805916/Labour-MPs-are-now-preparing-to-go-underground-to-resist-the-Corbyn-regime.html

[19] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/gordon-brown/11805200/Gordon-Brown-warns-Labour-over-Jeremy-Corbyn.html

[20] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/comment/talking-politics/labour-should-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-112929833.html#ygEypBD and http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/08/18/labour-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-conspiring-against-him

[21] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/24/why-labour-voters-are-turning-towards-jeremy-corbyn?CMP=share_btn_fb

[22] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/26/smart-tories-labour-jeremy-corbyn-mania-david-cameron

[23] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-wouldnt-be-so-far-ahead-in-the-labour-leadership-race-if-his-rivals-werent-so-awful-10425050.html

[24] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11807685/Jeremy-Corbyn-Labour-election-I-was-a-political-slut-until-jezwecan.html

[25] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/comment/talking-politics/labour-should-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-112929833.html#ygEypBD and http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/08/18/labour-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-conspiring-against-him

[26] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/04/labour-yvette-cooper-jeremy-corbyn-alan-johnson

[27] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/comment/talking-politics/labour-should-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-112929833.html#ygEypBD and http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/08/18/labour-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-conspiring-against-him

[28] http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/798-the-guardian-readers-editor-responds-on-jeremy-corbyn.html

[29] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-tony-blair-warning-responds-i-dont-do-personal-i-dont-do-abuse?CMP=share_btn_fb

[30] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/13/corbyn-labour-leader-not-credible

[31] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/13/guardian-view-labour-leadership-choice-yvette-cooper-jeremy-corbyn

[32] http://semipartisansam.com/2015/08/13/guardian-endorsement-yvette-cooper-labour-leadership/

[33] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11806498/Lord-Mandelsons-failed-mass-resignation-bid-to-attempt-to-stop-Jeremy-Corbyn-winning-Labour-leadership.html

[34] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/watch-yvette-cooper-try-and-fail-to-convince-a-jeremy-corbyn-voter-to-change-her-mind-10458760.html

[35] http://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/17930-jeremy-corbyn-can-t-win-say-labour-s-losers

[36] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/26/smart-tories-labour-jeremy-corbyn-mania-david-cameron

[37] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-wouldnt-be-so-far-ahead-in-the-labour-leadership-race-if-his-rivals-werent-so-awful-10425050.html

[38] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/01/jeremy-corbyn-pledges-role-blairites-shadow-cabinet?CMP=share_btn_fb

[39] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-pledges-to-renationalise-the-big-six-energy-firms-10444849.html

[40] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/08/blairites-have-forgotten-how-win

[41] http://www.thenational.scot/politics/women-labour-supporters-lead-corbyn-surge.6244

[42] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11807685/Jeremy-Corbyn-Labour-election-I-was-a-political-slut-until-jezwecan.html

[43] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/comment/talking-politics/labour-should-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-112929833.html#ygEypBD and http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/08/18/labour-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-conspiring-against-him

[44] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/comment/talking-politics/labour-should-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-112929833.html#ygEypBD and http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/08/18/labour-be-learning-from-corbyn-not-conspiring-against-him

[45] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-wouldnt-be-so-far-ahead-in-the-labour-leadership-race-if-his-rivals-werent-so-awful-10425050.html

[46] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11807685/Jeremy-Corbyn-Labour-election-I-was-a-political-slut-until-jezwecan.html

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Corbyn’s Alternative to ‘Austerity-Lite’ Politics

Progressive Taxation, Crackdowns on Corporate Criminals, and Strong Investment

Corbyn has campaigned for a “more progressive” tax system, calling for:

  • Stronger anti-avoidance rules”;
  • “Country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations”;
  • A reform of “small business taxation to tackle avoidance and evasion”;
  • Proper regulation of companies in the UK to “ensure that they pay what they owe””;
  • A reversal of cuts to HMRC staff;[1]
  • And a restoration of “the 50p top rate of income tax”, along with a reversal of “George Osborne’s cuts to corporation tax”.[2]

At the same time, he has stressed the need to “make large reductions in the £93 billion of corporate tax relief and subsidies”. With all of this extra money, Corbyn would hope to set up a “National Investment Bank that would promote infrastructure upgrades and provide support for innovation”, closing the national deficit by “building a strong, growing economy that works for all” and “not by increasing poverty”. In order to do this, he advocates a “publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels”. At the same time, he promised that he would “always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable”, while seeking to make “national housing, transport, digital and energy networks” some of the “best in the world”.[3]

He has also insisted that New Labour has been “too close to big business” and “too close to economic orthodoxy”. This failure to offer “a real alternative”, he has asserted, “was the fundamental problem in the last general election”.[4] In fact, twenty-seven Labour candidates who failed to win seats in May’s election agreed with this assumption, highlighting that Labour lost the election because it “failed to challenge the fundamental economic consensus on austerity”.[5]

Housing

Recognising that the housing situation in the UK is a serious problem, Corbyn has promised:

  • “To get 240,000 homes built every year”;
  • “To get councils to build affordable housing” by “providing low interest loans through a National Investment Bank, extending the amount councils can borrow and reviving regional home building targets”.
  • That the initiation of “desirable energy efficient building projects” would “provide our young people with a good start in life”, allow them to “stop paying exorbitant rents”, and give them “the opportunity of a home they can at least call their own”.
  • Housing provision would no longer be “left purely to market forces”, insisting that the current system had “reached crisis point” and had caused “the social cleansing of our cities”.[6]

Energy

In order to ensure the “socialisation of our energy supply”, Corbyn has promised:

  • The government will “start buying shares” in British Gas, SSE, Eon, RWE, Npower, Scottish Power and EDF with the eventual aim of owning “a controlling stake in each of them”
  • The nationalisation of the National Grid;
  • The public ownership of these energy companies will consist of “a mixture of local, community and national government levels”.
  • The re-nationalisation process will be undertaken “slowly”.[7]

Environment

Corbyn has stressed that his government would focus on:

  • “Tackling the cost of living and climate crisis together”;
  • Ending the “era of fossil fuels”;
  • “Creating 1 million new green climate jobs” by forging “a modern, green, resource-efficient economy”;
  • Ensuring everyone has access to a decent home that is low-carbon and affordable to keep warm”;
  • Protecting our ecosystems, wildlife habitats and a compassionate approach to animal welfare”, so that “people and nature thrive together”;
  • Policy ideas that “make sense on the health front, the economic and jobs front and the planet front”.[8]

Foreign Policy

Regarding Europe, Corbyn has emphasised that, “if David Cameron ‘trades away’ workers’ rights, environmental protection and fails to crack down on Brussels-backed tax havens”, he would not rule out support for the campaign to leave the EU. In the meantime, however, he insists that Britain should demand “universal workers’ rights, universal environmental protection”, and an end to the “race to the bottom on corporate taxation”. Such policies help to explain why Corbyn has gained popularity among working-class UKIP voters. At the same time, though, “none of the other candidates said they were prepared to join the ‘No’ campaign”, and such a campaign could risk a split in the pro-EU Labour Party (as happened in the 1980s).[9]

As far as NATO is concerned, Corbyn has underlined the need for “serious discussions about de-escalating the military crisis in central Europe”, stressing that “Nato expansion and Russian expansion – one leads to the other, and one reflects the other”.[10]

Co-Operation

We’ve also heard Corbyn talk about the importance of ‘co-operation’, arguing that:

  • Co-operative principles” should be brought “into the heart of government”, as involving people “as mutual participants in building their own future” helps them to “release their energy and enterprise”;
  • “Passengers, rail workers and government” should run the railways “co-operatively” in order to “ensure they are run in our interests and not for private profit”;
  • “The old Labour model of top-down operation by central diktat” is outdated;
  • Schools should “co-operate, share best practice, and pool their resources” by setting up “an accountable co-ordinating and co-operative structure that involves parents, teachers, and councillors in reformed local education authorities”;
  • A Corbyn-led Labour Party would focus on “improving people’s control over their own lives”, and would be “driven by co-operative principles: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity”.[11]

Education

Regarding education, Corbyn has claimed that:

  • A “National Education System” (NES) should be established;
  • Education is “a collective good that benefits our society and economy” by creating a “more skilled workforce”;
  • Tuition fees should be scrapped and grants restored;
  • “Investment in learning from cradle to grave” should be ensured;
  • The NES would be funded through a 2% increase in corporation tax (“while still leaving UK corporation tax the lowest in the G7”), as “the best employers understand the business case for investing in staff”.[12]

Youth Policy

Corbyn has pledged to:

  • Restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA);
  • Allow housing benefits for under 21s;
  • Introduce “properly paid apprenticeship schemes”;
  • Reduce the voting age to 16;
  • Ban zero-hour contracts.

In fact, the “Better Future For Young People” document was “compiled in discussion with more than 1,000 Young Labour supporters from across Britain”, as Corbyn has insisted that the Labour Party can no longer allow young people to be “so cynically ignored and discriminated against by those in power”.[13]

Workers’ Rights

Corbyn has said he hopes to “set up a Ministry of Labour to take the side of workers and create a “more secure, better trained workforce””. At the same time, “workers’ rights legislation” would be passed in order to “repeal much of what the Conservatives are doing – particularly the latest piece of anti-trade union legislation they’re introducing”.[14]

Party Structure

Unlike the right-wing of the Labour Party, Corbyn vowed to:

  • “Invite “great talents” from all wings of the party… into his shadow cabinet”;
  • Forge “a united party focused on winning the general election and campaigning across the country day in, day out”;
  • Make policymaking more democratic” by “ending what he calls the “top down” approaches developed under Tony Blair and New Labour”;
  • Be ““big enough” to bind all Labour voices and talents into decision and policy”.[15]
  • “End the culture of policymaking in the private surrounds of luxury hotels” and encourage “mass participation in genuine political debate”.[16]
  • Create “a more inclusive, clearer set of objectives” (though “not a reinstatement of the old Clause” IV) which would “include public ownership of some necessary things”.[17] He says “we shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry and public control of the railways”.
  • Undertake a “greater democratisation of our party”, focussing on “bottom-up policy making rather than top-down decision-making“.[18]

The Political Establishment

Corbyn is not a polished PR machine like the other leadership candidates. Instead, he has insisted:

  • He is “just an ordinary person trying to do an ordinary job”;
  • “This is a positive process… We are looking to do things rather than stop others doing things”;
  • “We are not doing celebrity, personality, abusive politics – we are doing ideas. This is about hope”;
  • A thirst for something more communal, more participative” has been “bubbling for a long time”;[19]
  • “We’re the one putting forward ideas, so I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse. Life is too short and it devalues the political process”;
  • He will “work with other parties to get things through”.[20]

Summary

  • Corbyn rejects austerity rhetoric and instead focuses on the need to grow the economy in order to reduce the deficit. The other candidates all accept the right-wing argument in favour of cuts.
  • While all candidates apart from Kendall favour an increase in taxation for the rich, Corbyn goes further by stressing the need to collect lost revenues and reform the tax system.
  • Corbyn is the only candidate to favour the scrapping of tuition fees and restoration of maintenance grants.
  • All candidates speak of building more homes, but Corbyn emphasises the need to curtail the “right to buy” social housing and to “ease curbs on borrowing to help councils build”.
  • Corbyn has stood out as the only candidate to stress that immigration is not a drain on the economy”.
  • Corbyn has been the only candidate to oppose the renewal of Trident, and even calls for the UK to withdraw from NATO”.
  • In a stance that could win back Eurosceptics to Labour, Corbyn has not ruled out leaving the EU, while the other candidates seem to blindly support a pro-EU position.
  • Corbyn is the candidate most committed to public ownership, although Burnham eventually jumped on the bandwagon of supporting the nationalisation of the railways.
  • Corbyn has seemed like the candidate who would do the most for women’s rights, calling for “50% of Labour MPs to be female” and a “50:50 shadow cabinet”.
  • While Burnham has flip-flopped over the Tories’ welfare reforms, Corbyn has consistently taken a strong stance in favour of welfare and against the demonisation of the poor.[21]

[1] http://labourlist.org/2015/07/you-just-cannot-cut-your-way-to-prosperity-jeremy-corbyn-outlines-plans-to-make-large-reductions-in-93bn-of-corporate-subsidies/

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/07/jeremy-corbyn-interview-we-are-not-doing-celebrity-personality-or-abusive-politics

[3] http://labourlist.org/2015/07/you-just-cannot-cut-your-way-to-prosperity-jeremy-corbyn-outlines-plans-to-make-large-reductions-in-93bn-of-corporate-subsidies/

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11763640/Jeremy-Corbyn-Britain-can-learn-from-Karl-Marx.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/26/corbyn-labour-leader-boost?CMP=share_btn_fb

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/05/ken-loach-jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-housing_n_7941312.html

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-pledges-to-renationalise-the-big-six-energy-firms-10444849.html

[8] http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/winning_with_a_greener_future

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/07/25/jeremy-corbyn-refuses-to-_n_7870992.html

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/07/jeremy-corbyn-interview-we-are-not-doing-celebrity-personality-or-abusive-politics

[11] http://www.thenews.coop/96639/news/co-operatives/labour-leader-candidates-debate-co-operation/

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-announces-plans-for-an-national-education-service-because-teaching-is-a-collective-good-10417968.html

[13] http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/a_better_future_for_young_people

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-says-hell-set-up-a-ministry-of-labour-to-fight-on-the-side-of-workers-10450236.html

[15] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/01/jeremy-corbyn-pledges-role-blairites-shadow-cabinet?CMP=share_btn_fb

[16] http://www.redpepper.org.uk/its-corbynmania-thousands-rally-for-jeremy-corbyn/

[17] https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/jeremy-corbyns-clause-four-moment/

[18] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-33839819

[19] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/07/jeremy-corbyn-interview-we-are-not-doing-celebrity-personality-or-abusive-politics

[20] http://www.expressandstar.com/comment-and-opinion/daniel-wainwright/2015/08/08/corbyn-didnt-duck-the-coalition-question-and-thats-why-hes-currently-winning/

[21] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2015/aug/13/labour-leadership-candidates-comparison-burnham-cooper-corbyn-kendall

Posted in Bourgeois Democracy, Corbyn4Leader, Democracy, Jeremy Corbyn, JezWeCan, Labour Leadership Elections, Labour Party, Progressive, UK, UK Elections 2015, UK Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Betrayal of Yezidis in Iraq

Written by University of Zakho professor Ivan Hasan Murad

For decades, the Yezidis have been living alongside Christians and Muslims, with Kurds and Arabs living together peacefully as brothers and sisters. In spite of the religious and ritual differences between them, they would always help and respect each other. On this basis, they would exchange commercial goods with each other. In fact, in order to maintain this state of peaceful coexistence, strengthen their friendship, and avoid potential points of conflict, Yezidis even circumcised their children on the laps of their trusted Arab friends – who were then called Kirfan (brothers) – as both cultures believed that circumcising children in the laps of others helped to strengthen relationships.

Many Yezidis who were not employed by the government had to go to Rabia, a town on the Iraqi-Syrian border to the north-west of Mosul (in Nineveh province), where agricultural products are harvested on big farms in the summer in preparation for the winter season. By working on farms (which mainly produced tomatoes), they could escape the poverty they may have suffered otherwise. And, as they dealt with Arabs and lived alongside them, the relationship between the ethnic groups became stronger. Under President Mam Jalal and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, however, the security situation gradually got worse, leaving Sunni Arabs marginalized and more likely to support groups like ISIS. During this period, the relationship between Yezidis and Arabs quickly deteriorated.

When ISIS extremists finally entered Iraq, they managed to take control of numerous areas (including the city of Mosul) with great ease after the Iraqi army withdrew, leaving an abundance of military vehicles and equipment behind them. As the group attacked other Sunni Arab places in Iraq, many Arab inhabitants joined them in their fight against Shiite, Christian, and Yezidi civilians throughout Nineveh province. In Mosul, there were many Christians, and they were given the choice to pay tribute, convert, or flee (leaving all of their property behind). Yezidis, meanwhile, were given only two options – convert or die.

Then, when ISIS attacked Shingal, the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdish Regional Government began to withdraw from Yezidi villages. Surprised by this sudden decision, civilians began to run away from their villages. Those without cars headed to Mount Shingal, while those with cars travelled to Duhok, one of the provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan. My own brothers were among the thousands who headed to Duhok and, when they reached Rabia, some Arab citizens began to attack them. Fortunately, the YPG crossed over from Syria to rescue them, forcing the attackers to run away.

Many Arabs living near the Yazidi villages located on the border between Iraq and Syria stood alongside the ISIS militants as they entered these places. And many of these were the supposed ‘Kirfan’ of the Yezidis (those who had held Yezidi children on their laps as they were circumcised). Taken in by a mob mentality, they participated in the killing of their old friends and the kidnapping of their women and young girls for mainly sexual purposes. This incident shattered in a matter of moments the trust and respect that the Yezidis had felt for them for many years.

A few days later, some of the same Sunni Arabs from nearby villages came with big trucks and looted Yezidi homes and businesses, taking all they could find. One witness said “there is not a house which these Arabs have left unopened. They have entered all the houses and stolen everything in them. They have even taken the doors and the windows of the houses, and have looted all the stores and the markets”.

This is the way Yezidis were treated by many Arab compatriots after the latter had been highly respected and trusted for so long by the former. Not only were Yezidis killed and kidnapped, but they also had their properties looted. Those who have joined ISIS have not only participated in a huge act of betrayal in Yezidi communities, but have also betrayed citizens throughout the country and region by joining terrorist organizations like ISIS.

[Editor’s note: While it is shocking to think of anyone betraying in such a way those who had previously considered them to be friends, it is also important to consider the context carefully, in which Sunni Arabs lost out heavily following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, suffering both humiliation and marginalization in the years following the US invasion of 2003. At the same time, the efforts of Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to convert Sunni Arabs to a harsh, dogmatic, and extreme interpretation of Islam (while Iran sought to do a similar thing with Iraqi Shias) clearly helped to undermine any hopes of fostering an environment of multi-cultural harmony in Iraq under the existing political system. While ISIS is clearly an immediate physical enemy, therefore, we must remember that the real enemy (which continues to prop up the group’s extremist reign) is a dangerous combination of desperation, quasi-religious indoctrination, and international political power games.]

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