Mobilise to put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper, urges Charles Gradnitzer of Labour Party Marxists
With only four days to go until the nominations for Labour leader close on June 15, it is vital that the left does its best to contact Labour Party MPs in order to get Jeremy Corbyn on the leadership ballot.
Anybody who has been following the leadership hustings, from the Fabian Society to the GMB union congress in Dublin, knows that Corbyn represents a real political trend within the Labour Party, enjoying huge support. It is a simple matter of democratic representation that his participation in the leadership debate be secured.
Moreover, we need to mobilise to get Corbyn on the ballot paper because he represents a line of political demarcation within Labour around which a socialist left could potentially coalesce. Corbyn is not simply the ‘most leftwing’ or ‘least worst’ candidate among a selection of Blairites and Brownites: he is an unashamed socialist. When asked at the Fabian Society hustings if socialism is alive, he did not fudge the answer, but noted the difference between statism and socialism, before concluding that we need to “defend the principle of ‘From each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs.’” Sadly this is something of a bold statement, not just in the Labour Party, but in many organisations on the left.
The demand for democratic representation of all political tendencies in the Labour Party in the leadership debate is not just a gimmick for the Labour left or supporters of Corbyn. Staunch Blairite Luke Akehurst has also called for Corbyn to be on the ballot.1 To his credit, Akehurst states that Corbyn represents a real political trend within the party and it would be undemocratic and divisive to exclude him.
Not every rightwing Labour Party journalist has been as confident to debate their ideas. Enter the Daily Telegraph’s Dan Hodges. The man who described the future of the Labour Party as “bleak” because Jim Murphy resigned has the temerity to accuse Corbyn and his “acolytes” of being in denial.2
In his article Hodges mocks Owen Jones for pointing out that Corbyn could turn things around in Scotland, dismissing such claims as being the same as a conspiracy theorist meticulously combing through video footage of 9/11 to find evidence of controlled demolition.
But Corbyn’s main problem in getting on the ballot paper is that many of the MPs who had been most likely to support him, such as Left Platform signatory Katy Clark, were Scottish Labour MPs who were wiped out in the last election. In fact five of the Left Platform signatories and one member of the Socialist Campaign Group lost their seats in Scotland. Combined with other leftwing, anti-austerity MPs, they would have been enough to put Corbyn on the ballot.
Even in Hodges’ own terms of simply winning elections by jettisoning all political principles for the sake of being in power, it does not make sense to elect his favoured candidate, Yvette Cooper, because to do so Labour would need Scotland. It was conceded by all sections of the party during the Scottish referendum that it would be impossible to win a parliamentary majority without the support of Scotland. With Scotland sending 56 Scottish National Party MPs to Westminster on May 7, it might appear to be very difficult to ever form a Labour majority government again. How, exactly, he plans to do this with candidates to the right of Miliband is anybody’s guess.
If Hodges thinks that the seats lost in Scotland can be won back by people who support austerity, Trident and Nato, then he is sorely mistaken. Corbyn is the only candidate who not only opposes these things, but has done so consistently since he was elected in the 1980s, earning him the title of most rebellious Labour MP.
So far 14 MPs have nominated Corbyn: Jon Trickett, Clive Lewis, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Ronnie Campbell, Diane Abbott, Kelvin Hopkins, Richard Burgon, Dennis Skinner, Grahame Morris, Frank Field, Kate Osamor, Cat Smith and Corbyn himself.
There are a further 13 MPs who immediately spring to mind as potential leftwing supporters of Corbyn’s leadership bid. These MPs fall into three camps: the three remaining Socialist Campaign Group MPs, four signatories of the Left Platform, and six of the 10 newly elected MPs who wrote a letter calling for the end to austerity after the election.
The members of the Campaign Group who have not yet nominated Corbyn are: John Cryer, Ian Lavery and Ian Mearns. Both Lavery and Mearns have indicated they will nominate Burnham, but, given their common membership of the SCG with Jeremy Corbyn, they are the most likely of Burnham’s supporters to lend their nominations.
The signatories of the Left Platform who have not nominated Corbyn are Alan Meale, Ann Clwyd, Chris Williamson and Dave Anderson. Two of them, Meale and Anderson, have also indicated they will nominate Burnham, but could be persuaded to switch.
The newly elected anti-austerity MPs are Harry Harpham, Imran Hussain, Jo Stevens, Louise Haigh, Rachael Maskell and Rebecca Long Bailey. All except Hussain have indicated they will nominate Burnham. However, with 50-odd indicative nominations, he is already guaranteed to be on the ballot, and his anti-austerity supporters in the PLP ought to switch their nominations to the genuinely anti- austerity candidate.
If you are a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, or a signatory of the Left Platform or the anti-austerity letter, then it should be inconceivable to support any candidate other than Corbyn. Burnham, who bizarrely enjoys the support of the trade union bureaucracy and is widely regarded as the leftwing candidate, is nothing of the sort. As shadow health secretary he refused to reverse the privatisation that had already occurred under the Health and Social Care Act and refused to end the private finance initiative. More recently he has declined to oppose a benefits cap.
At a meeting of its executive on June 9, Unite agreed to lobby its remaining MPs to get Corbyn on the ballot, but even with their support this only brings Corbyn up to 27 nominations.
So it really is up to the left to convince MPs who have not yet done so to nominate Jeremy Corbyn.
1. http://labourlist.org/2015/06/why-jeremy-corbyn- should-be-on-the-leadership-ballot.
2. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general- election-2015/politics-blog/11654167/Jeremy- Corbyn-and-his-acolytes-are-simply-in-denial.html.