Durham County Council: Get it sorted.


If Durham County Council (DCC) don’t sort out this utter mess with the Durham Teaching Assistants (TAs), their Labour councillors are risking electoral catastrophe in May 2017. It’s that bad for the Labour Party, not just because of the votes of 2700 Teaching Assistants and their families, but because of the reputational damage the party are suffering in what should be their heartlands. It’s quite poignant thinking of the mess that Labour councillors have created just a few months after the death of Davey Hopper, the Durham Miners’ leader. The Durham Miners’ Association have always understood the meaning of “looking after your own”. They did it for years, with their lodges and what we now call “community organising”, but they just saw as second nature.

Recently, I’ve spotted exactly the same determination and rootedness amongst the TAs and it reminded me of what we’ve lost as a party. To say it can’t be combined with the modern Labour Party is rubbish. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been holding social media workshops in the People’s Bookshop. The enthusiasm and teamwork of the TAs social media team (the ‘Twitterati’ as we’re calling them) is something to behold. These are people who will give up every night of the week for this campaign, on top of their exhausting work and family responsibilities. But it would be nothing if they weren’t so concerned to represent their fellow TAs and their communities. This is old school organising, brought right up to date.

DCC just don’t get it. I’ve been told that the backlash from the TAs caught them on the hop. It shouldn’t have done. Imagine taking a 23% pay cut when you’re already on some of the lowest wages for Teaching Assistants anywhere in the country. If you corner an animal, it will fight back. And these women, as Aditya Chakrabortty has so eloquently explained, are lions. Durham’s Labour councillors have continually shown themselves to be incapable of learning the lessons. Yesterday, they added fuel to the fire of this dispute by sending out a deceitful letter to Heads which implied that 2 out of 3 unions had accepted the deal. In fact, one of those unions, Unite, has one member as a TA and the other, more or less 200 if local union officials are to be believed. Out of the other, the GMB, only 67 of those balloted voted to accept the compensation package. In contrast, over 1,300 Unison and ATL members voted to reject. If DCC want to portray this as a mandate to carry on with this ‘fire and rehire’ policy, then more fool them, but I have to warn them that if they carry on in this self-destructive mode, the consequences for the party locally will be dire.


At a Durham City CLP campaign meeting in June I had the audacity to suggest that Durham County Councillors were out of touch with their communities. There was an audible gasp. Some of the councillors gathered at the meeting even formally objected that they had been “offended” by such words. I say that if those councillors had been in touch with their communities, they would never have approved these savage cuts to pay in the first place. I say that if they had been in touch with the roots of the community, and actually spoken to some of the TAs, they would have found a solution despite the legal obstacles. I say that if they really care about the long term welfare of the Labour Party, like I do, they will get on the phone to Simon Henig, the leader of the council and start objecting to this fait accompli, this ticking time bomb. Like the TA campaigners, they could show some independence and bravery – and challenge the technocrats who are making these disastrous decisions for them.

Ultimately, if councillors really want to continue to bury their heads in the sand and destroy the last few links we have with local communities up here in Durham, that’s up to them, but they won’t do it in my name. I have worked closely with these Teaching Assistants over the last 6 months and I can tell you they are exactly the sort of women who should be at the heart of the Labour Party. They are brilliant campaigners, they represent their communities superbly and they are fearless. I’d even venture as far as to say that they would make very good councillors themselves. There’s possibly even an MP in there, somewhere. You heard it here first.


The Information Gap: learning to work together in the Corbynite movement


We’ve been sent this piece by a fellow Labour Party activist in the North East. She didn’t want to be identified, which is pretty much a sad indictment of where we’re at in the party at this point:

“When Jeremy won the leadership election last year, Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) up and down the country were filled with new or returning members. Members identified as:

  • Never been involved in politics before, ever;
  • Coming back into the LP, having left in the 1990s, by choice or via a purge of sorts;
  • Coming back into political activity, having been an inactive member for many, many years;
  • Coming back into political activity, having been involved but unconvinced for many a long, long year.

We all arrived with a wide range of experiences and memories of the Labour Party and were in different places on a continuum of expectations and enthusiasm.

Some of us came to the movement, invigorated by Corbyn’s socialism, coupled with his insistence on an inclusive ‘big tent’ philosophy. This was naively interpreted by some as a new politics, where the right of the Labour Party, accepting the legitimate mandate, would knuckle down and get behind the Party.

Others came with tempered hope, tempered with the experience of years in a political wilderness, brought about by experience of 1980s-late 1990s, where they witnessed purges and democracy overruled by an NEC, who imposed their selections on local CLPs and the growth of ‘the PM makes all the decisions now’.

Others were somewhere on the continuum between the extremes of enthusiastic newbies and cynically hopeful, more experienced members.

Ironically, this continuum caused friction amongst this new Corbyn Left. Some were all for including the Blairites in this new change of direction, believing that they would happily come along for the ride.

The returners? They remembered some of those same Blairites, in the CLPs, standing by, allowing purges and attacks on the Left 20-25 years ago and didn’t want to wait for the same to happen again. They were impatient to get on with the job. They were impatient to ensure that they protected this emerging movement from those who wished it harm. Those Lefties, who were immediately ‘on the defensive’, were regarded with some disdain by the optimistic new arrivals to the Labour Movement.

Now we know. Now we all understand that the mandate was under threat from the first moment. The right of the Party, who retained control of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the majority of the execs in the CLPs, were not about to respect any mandate from the members.

This top down change, brought about by a grass roots movement, had had little impact on the structures within the Party. Many CLPs were filled with officers who were loyal to Blairism. The NEC was a reflection, with some exceptions, of neoliberal ideology; the PLP was (and still is) dominated by Progress, a very well-funded organisation devoted to reviving New Labour.

Those behind these structures had no interest in socialism and as we have seen have actively tried to damage socialism within the Labour Party. However, at the time of Jeremy’s election, talk of potential coups and purges within the Left in CLPs, were ‘poo pooed’ by the new or inexperienced members, who had no, or little, experience of this having happened. The dangers predicted by more experienced comrades were thought to be over reactions and quite frankly, ridiculous. This information gap between different groups of Corbyn supporters led to many cautious new members, distancing themselves from others on the Left and aligning themselves to the existing structures, as a show of solidarity against those extreme Left types, who would suggest that right wing LP members could be involved in such awful things.

Similarly, more experienced members became quickly frustrated with the less experienced, for not knowing what they didn’t know. Tempers often frayed as those, who’d experienced the worse under New Labour, could see the imminent dangers and couldn’t see why everyone else couldn’t see the same.

Truth is, everyone had to experience this to believe it. There is no way someone arriving enthusiastically into the Labour Party at that moment in time could have understood that any of these attacks were possible. There is no way that anyone arriving as Corbyn supporters, who felt connected to this change in politics could have understood implicitly, for instance, the inter-relatedness of interests of neo liberals in the LP and the millionaires, who own the media: how could they? The media don’t advertise this. No, we had to experience this: the name calling, the demonisation, the ridiculing, the lies, the fabricated evidence against comrades, the airbrushing out of the truth and the contempt of the PLP for the members of the Party and socialism. This had to be experienced to be understood.

Ironically, once experienced, the actions of the right wing, in the LP and elsewhere, have fast tracked politicisation amongst the Left.

And so here we are, a year on. What can the Corbyn supporting membership do now?

Firstly, we need to ‘get over’ any differences that created a wedge between us at the beginning of this journey. We need to recognise our different starting points for what they were – different points on a journey.

Next, we need to understand the importance of changing the structures in the Party. This needs to be a democratic restructuring, through our involvement, initially in CLPs and branches. Corbyn needs this political change in the movement to be bottom up, not just top down, if we truly want to transform the LP and eventually society.

AGMs will be beginning to take place post LP Conference. Corbyn supporters need, as an imperative, to take a lead in the execs and general committees in their CLPs and branches. They need to establish socialism as the default position locally. They need to get over the discomfort they feel at challenging existing officers: this is a democracy and it’s politically healthy to have more than one person standing for a position, (incidentally, have any of those officers, who are anti Corbyn, complained about the lack of democracy and the attacks on the Left? Usually, no. At best, they’ve sat quietly, waiting to get “their party back”).

If you’re really a serious Corbynite – then, get cracking comrades! Get organised!”


The politics of ‘doing each other over’

ronnie draper

Recent days have seen a ratcheting up of the row over exclusions and suspensions from the Labour Party during the leadership election. This is almost a seamless continuation from the so-called #LabourPurge of last summer, with the difference that there is even less hope of it actually altering the result of the election, which Jeremy Corbyn seems set to win with another landslide. 

I don’t want to discuss the underlying reasons or strategy behind the continuing purge, except to say that, without the prospect of it altering the result, it’s self-evident that this is about demoralising new members and the majority Corbyn supporters amongst them, in order to derail the project. In the meantime, however, I’m left wondering what this is doing to our party – and that is the issue that I want to address here.

In particular, the cases of Ronnie Draper and John Dunn have highlighted the blunt tools being used to pursue this purge of members. In many cases that have been highlighted over the last few days, the reason cited has been unspecified tweets, stretching back to as long as three years ago. To carry out this sort of operation, it’s clear that software has been used to dig up the dirt. Apart from being an enormous waste of resources, the problem with using ‘trawling’ software to exclude, suspend or expel members from the Labour Party is that context is everything. Trawling software goes through people’s Twitter and Facebook accounts looking for ‘keywords’. There are varying degrees of sophistication, but it looks like Labour Party HQ is resourcing it heavily in this leadership election, as opposed to last year’s fairly amateurish efforts.

This trawling is undoubtedly being used to flag up so-called abusive terms by members of the Labour Party which break rules imposed by the NEC and being enforced by the compliance unit. Various reports have suggested that the terms being searched include “traitor”, “scab”, “bastard” and (most unbelievably) “Blairite”. We’re not quite sure whether it’s a particular combination of these terms or use of them that creates a disciplinary issue, because the process is completely opaque. There even seems to be a wider net being cast, based on generalised ‘bad language’. You would think that this would only apply in specific cases where it is directed at a particular person within the party and in a particular context, but one case has already become notorious, where a party member appears to have been excluded for her over-enthusiastic support of the Foo Fighters.

Ok, so that will be found to have been a silly mistake, but here’s the more serious problem. These aren’t black and white terms, nor is the use of them straightforward. To take an example, is the use of the word ‘traitor’ always unjustified? It’s an opinion, fundamentally. One that certainly can be used as a term of abuse, but what if it’s used against an unnamed collective of people who dragged the party into the Iraq War, for instance? Some people (myself included) might not find that a very useful critique. For me, Blair’s Iraq adventure was about something deeper than merely betrayal, but I don’t think it’s an illegitimate point of view. Is it automatically abusive? I wonder how many times poor old Ramsay MacDonald was called a traitor? Would anyone seriously suggest that it was an illegitimate term for him? Why should Blair, or anyone else in the party, be exempt?

As for some of the other terms being floated as possible reasons for suspension, they range from the flimsy to the downright absurd. ‘Bastard’ and ‘Scab’ might not be the friendliest terms to use about our fellow citizens, but in the real world, they are used in every home and in every pub, about every faction in the party and most likely about every MP. There will always be an unjustified use of these terms, and probably a fair few times when they can be backed up. Some people have an inbuilt sense to avoid using these terms, probably borne out of political experience, but many others speak the same way on social media that they do at home or in the pub. To expect everyone to act as if they are a public representative is pretty naïve, and at its worst makes us seem like a party only suitable for those already formed, perfect political specimens who never get angry and certainly never express it. Real life isn’t like that and I’m not sure we’d want it to be.

The more pernicious side of this policing is that it is actively encouraging a politics of ‘doing each other over’ or what we might call the ‘Guido-fication’ of the Labour Party. Guido Fawkes is a Twitter-based project which seeks to ‘out’ politicians and political activists, who – according to their Thatcherite moral universe – have transgressed the norms of political discourse. Their most recent speciality is finding long-forgotten tweets by Corbyn supporters (especially prominent ones) which can then be used against them – for instance, issuing solidarity to students in the midst of the demonstrations which turned violent in 2010. It’s a world where no one should have a political past, there should be no development of ideas, strategies or tactics – only a static, political ideology which can then be used to “haunt” you in future years. 

To Guido, all activists must behave, and always have behaved, in a manner suitable for high office (because that’s the only reason to be involved in politics, right?). What this subtly does is create an anti-activist culture, which sees politics as an establishment activity. If you are brave enough to challenge that ‘common sense’, prepare for an almighty shit storm. This culture, of course, has been replicated in the Blairite Labour students section of the party, and in NUS, which it dominated for so many years: it was and is a culture of spying, reporting and more recently screen-shots. A culture where suspicion and threats held sway and delivered for the right and the careers they were building.

On the absurd end of the spectrum, the term Blairite is being redefined as “abuse”. In some ways, this merely goes to show that New Labour is dead and buried. A few years ago, those on the right of the party were proudly calling themselves Blairites. Now they want to redefine it as a term of abuse. Whether this is actually a term they are trawling for, I very much doubt, but certainly many New Labourites have been complaining about the use of the term for some time. But Blair was the leader of the party, the Prime Minister and the main architect of New Labour. Blairite is no more a term of abuse than Wilsonite or Gaitskellite was. It’s an academic term for those who adhere to Blair’s politics. Whether it’s misused to refer to anyone to the right of the Corbynite project is an altogether different issue. That may be a question of political education, but it doesn’t make it abuse as such.

Now, obviously, there comes a point when any pejorative term can stray into abuse. If someone continually harasses an MP, for example, with the term traitor, if it’s aggressive, personalised and vindictive – then I for one would not defend them. But it’s all about context. Through a trawl on Twitter, the compliance unit can undoubtedly pull out the required quotes to ‘nail’ someone, but they can’t possibly know the background, what happened before and after – in other words, the context. Natural justice requires that we understand the context of any crime or transgression of the rules, which is why we have courts and tribunals. A system which excludes people from voting in the leadership election, pending appeal, would seem to fly in the face of natural justice. A retrospective appeal won’t restore someone’s voting rights, nor compensate for the distress caused while suspended – not to mention the reputational damage. For registered supporters, they don’t even get the right of appeal. That simply can’t be right.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we need to look again at how we do ‘compliance’ in the Labour Party. I always think cultural change is more important and effective than imposing rules, especially ones as bureaucratic as this. Of course, we need to get to the point where we can debate across different sections of the party in a way which is comradely and productive. For that to happen, bureaucratic solutions must become an absolute last resort and we must foreground efforts to stimulate debate, something which the ban on CLPs meeting over the summer has hardly helped. Also, we need to ask whether the current set up is even appropriate for a party which has doubled in size and which is evolving both organisationally and politically, at a startling speed. 

Of course we need rules, guidelines and standards for the way we treat each other in the party and the movement. But those rules must be interpreted in a way that understands today’s world, how social media works and crucially, the context of what is said in those platforms. Overall, Party HQ must act in a transparent and open way. The machinery of the party, and compliance in particular, should never be (mis)used as a political weapon of one faction of the party. Once neutrality is compromised, all trust is drained out of party staff and the machinery of the party. It then becomes a perpetual fight between the party apparatus and the membership. If there’s a quicker way for the Labour Party to descend into civil war, I’m yet to spot it.


7 Ways Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership has Changed Labour for the Better

Britain Refugee March

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at a Solidarity with Refugees demonstration September 12, 2015. (AP Photo)

A curious notion that is seemingly gaining traction is that under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour still essentially stands for the same polices as we did under Ed Miliband. So here’s my attempt to set out some clear differences, which I believe represent substantial improvements in several key policy areas

  1. Austerity: For the previous leadership, committing to an anti-austerity economic approach would jeopardise our “economic credibility”. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls announced that a Labour government would stick to Tory spending plans, which would involve making severe cuts. Labour now unambiguously rejects austerity as a means of economic recovery and new Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s “fiscal rule” does not commit Labour to any cuts.
  2. Welfare: On numerous occasions under Miliband, Labour failed to oppose government attacks on welfare. On the Bedroom Tax, the Labour leadership prevaricated, as Shadow DWP Minister Liam Byrne refused to commit to abolishing the Bedroom Tax, and it wasn’t until September 2013 that Miliband actually pledged to scrap it. Worse was the abstention on the government’s illegal use of workfare in March 2013. A year later, Labour MPs were whipped to vote for the welfare cap. Under Corbyn’s leadership, every single attack on social security from the Welfare Bill (in October 2015), Tax Credits cuts and cuts to PIP and ESA has been opposed outright.
  3. Trade unions: When public sector workers took strike action in June 2011, Miliband gave an interview in which he repeatedly said “these strikes are wrong”, and later went along with the fabrications about Unite’s role in the Falkirk selection. Contrast this to Corbyn and John McDonnell, who have stood in solidarity on picket lines and rallies with the junior doctors. Furthermore, Corbyn has committed Labour to significantly strengthening trade union rights in Britain, such as a return to collective bargaining.
  4. Railways: Previous Labour policy was to legislate to allow a public sector operator to be able to bid for franchises alongside private operators. Corbyn by contrast has pledged to return railways back into public ownership as the franchises expire.
  5. Education: Miliband backed the idea of tuition fees, arguing that fees should be reduced from £9k to £6k a year. Corbyn has repeatedly argued for the total abolition of tuition fees.
  6. Foreign policy: To his credit, during his tenure Miliband did whip the PLP against bombing Syria and for recognising the state of Palestine. And on the Iraq war, Miliband stated that Labour was “wrong”, although Corbyn went considerably further by making a full apology. But Corbyn represents a very clear break, given that Miliband backed the bombing of Libya in 2011 and Iraq in 2014 and supported Trident renewal.
  7. Immigration: Ahead of last year’s general election Miliband indulged in a crass attempt to pander to anti-immigrant sentiment with a ‘controls on immigration’ pledge, which was infamously carved into stone and printed on mugs. There was also a pledge to ban new EU migrants from receiving any kind of social security for at least two years. Contrast this to Corbyn, who has repeatedly praised the contribution of migrants to society and the economy; pointed out during the EU referendum campaign that Britain could not have access to the single market but reject freedom of movement and whose first act as Labour leader was to address a demonstration in solidarity with refugees.

Davey Hopper: A working class hero


Hearing of the death of Davey Hopper on Saturday evening was incredibly sad and came as a terrible shock. Just a few days earlier I’d shared a lovely lunch with Dave and his wife Maritza. Dave was in great spirits after the Gala, which had seen a record number of people on the racecourse and was particularly enthused that so many young people had been there. Already, he had his sights set on the campaign to get Jeremy Corbyn re-elected and was looking forward to playing his part.

I have heard many accounts of Davey’s activities in the NUM, including his heroics during the 1984/5 strike and his activism in the Labour Party over many decades, which I hope other tributes do full justice to. But I can only really speak of what I’ve seen first-hand in the past couple of years.

On a personal level he was a very generous man, who always had time for people. He had his firmly held views and was never afraid to express them, but he was not a remotely egotistical person. In fact, he was very self-effacing and was constantly talking up and encouraging others. He also had a great, often mischievous sense of humour and was a brilliant raconteur.

Davey’s commitment to the class and community that he came from was absolute. Were it not for the endeavours of Davey and his colleagues at the DMA, thousands of people in County Durham and beyond would not have received a penny of compensation for terrible, debilitating industrial diseases such as vibration white finger, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Not only that, but many people would have gone without representation and support in employment tribunals and social security claims.

In addition, along with his friend and comrade the late Dave Guy, he made sure that the Durham Miners’ Gala not only survived after the closure of the pits, but continued to thrive.

He was a proud socialist and a critic of wars and nuclear weapons, believing that instead, those funds should be invested into jobs, housing, health and education for the benefit of ordinary people. He was also a passionate internationalist, who had a real knowledge of workers’ struggles in other countries and always ensured that the Gala’s great internationalist tradition was upheld by inviting international speakers.

Over the past year Davey was as active as ever. He attended countless trade union conferences, urging delegates to stay strong and never give in. He backed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid from day one, and memorably delivered a blistering speech at the North East rally in support of Jeremy which earned him a standing ovation. He was a strong supporter of the local anti-racist and anti-fascist movement, the local Socialist Clothing Bank and was at the forefront of forging links between the DMA and LGBT rights activists. Furthermore, just in the past few months, in the face of a lot of pressure, he stood in total solidarity with local teaching assistants facing a pay cut and of course, continued to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jeremy Corbyn. And just a few days prior to this year’s Gala, he addressed an NUT strike rally in Durham. For Davey, solidarity was not just a word; it was a way of life.

Since Davey’s untimely death, I have frequently cast my mind to the Gala earlier this month. What a moment of triumph and vindication. Davey was one of those who kept the flame alive in some very dark times for our movement: when Thatcherism ripped the heart out of the mining communities and when New Labour shunned working-class communities and the trade union movement. And yet, last Saturday, there he was, side by side with his old friends Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner, being cheered on by a massive and youthful crowd, the like of which has not been seen in recent times. After many years of condescension and derision about being “stuck in the past”, here was irrefutable proof that in fact, it is Davey’s vision for society which represents the future.

A fighter, an organiser, an intellect, an orator – Davey had it all and I miss him greatly already.

“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”

Rest in peace Davey and thank you for everything marra.


I’m in, but let’s learn from this poisonous EU campaign: we must organise 

I will be voting remain today, but mentally speaking, and most of the time, I’ve been completely disengaged from this referendum. It’s one that’s been fought almost entirely on the terrain of the right and their friends in the press. Some people have tried to inject some rational arguments and socialist politics into the campaign, but it’s been drowned by the white noise of anti-immigrant rhetoric – very little of which has any logical basis, and therefore almost impossible to fight, especially without an emotional pull of our own. Not only is this a referendum not of our choosing, but it has been designed not to allow alternative voices: you’re either “taking control” of Britain’s borders or you’re saving Britain for big capital.
It is a sign of our weakness that the left have been drowned out – and we should reflect on that. Since 2004, we’ve left the terrain of immigration to the New Labourites, hoping that it would go away. A New Labour leadership who fought the European Agency Workers Directive, so beholden were they to the interests of big (and small) business and their “right” to exploit migrant workers and undercut local agreements. Yet at no point has the referendum been a serious discussion about exploitation, undercutting and the posting of workers throughout the European Union. Instead of watering down EU legislation on workers, we should be leading the campaign to strengthen them – and be organising across borders in solidarity. 

My view is that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have got the approach right, within some very difficult restraints. Like me and many on the left of the Labour Party, they come from a Eurosceptic position historically. Because of that, they’ve been attacked by some of the left, including many who were engaged by Corbyn’s victory, as lacking in principle. People have been quick to shout “sell out”, the favourite political slogan of our movement when at its most dysfunctional and “little”. But political principles must take into account consequences, otherwise they become shibboleths. And the consequences of a Brexit will be huge, in the immediate term. If we think the atmosphere has been poisonous during this election, imagine an isolated, recession-hit island which has just voted to “take control” under a hard right Tory government. Those aren’t academic arguments, they’re real – and people, whether migrants or not, will suffer the consequences. 

Having said that, Lexiters are not the enemy and it worries me that they too have been painted as petty racists, when many of their arguments are of the type that Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn et al have been using for decades. Some have used the referendum to settle scores and if we are going to build as a left (both inside and outside the Labour Party), we’re going to have to stop delighting in beating each other up and find ways to work together. 

And I have an idea how : starting tomorrow, how about we get on with some real organising, especially in those communities that have been so disenfranchised over the past couple of decades that they have become easy prey for anti-immigrant and (at times) racist sentiments? Just like in the leadership election, how about we do exactly the opposite of the New Labour approach which has done so much to bring us to crisis point: that would be about breaking with the Westminster consensus (the trite gesture politics, the nervous, half-scared, half-disdainful view of our working class base) and it would involve starting from where people are at, in those working class communities, but at the same time believing that change is possible. Realising our failures, and understanding what it will take to re-engage people on a mass scale. But crucially, not running away from the fight, relishing it.


The myth of Jeremy Corbyn’s social media ‘echo chamber’


One of the big misconceptions about doing politics on social media is that it invariably amounts to nothing more than an inward-looking ‘echo chamber’ or ‘bubble’ in which the converted merely preach to the converted in a sealed off parallel universe.

This claim has repeatedly been made in relation to Jeremy Corbyn’s use of social media during his leadership campaign, with MPs such as Tristram Hunt and Caroline Flint as well as publications from the New Statesman to the Spectator all making this assertion. 

But as the following Facebook messages show, far from being an insular ‘echo chamber’, through social media, Jeremy Corbyn was able to reach out well beyond his existing supporters in the Labour Party and successfully engage with lots of people, many of whom felt completely disengaged from politics.

‘Hello I’m a non-voter (or been on the voting register) because I’ve never agreed with any parties!! I’ve been long awaiting a hero like Jeremy … I want him as our nation’s leader!!’ – Gareth

‘Never had I trust of politics before. You are the first politician I have made a donation to. You are the hope of millions.’ – Sohail

‘I have not voted for years due to all the parties standing to the right of middle. But if you are elected Labour leader I will join your party for standing up for the poor/working class and not the corporations who run our country today.’ – Paul

‘Good luck Jeremy!! have everything crossed!! You have given a desperate single mum hope for a better future for myself and my children. Bless you.’ – Rachael

”What an amazing and inspiring few weeks this has been… I joined the Labour Party two weeks ago – aged 47 and the first time I have belonged to a political party. The campaign is incredible.”   – Amanda

‘Jeremy I am excited about politics again for the first time in a long time. I am waiting with bated breath for the announcement due at about 11.30am. I am nervous but pray that you will become the leader of our Labour party. A leader I can trust in to run Britain correctly and ethically.’ – Rosie

‘Congratulations Mr Corbyn. I felt compelled to message you to congratulate you on your successful leadership. I have never voted Labour nor Tory as to be honest I have never really come across anyone in any party that has made me want to vote for them or trust them but having followed you and listened to your views and outlook you are the first person who has really caught my attention as a man who is true to himself and true to his values, I think politics and governments have lacked these qualities for a long time and I have faith that a man like you can really make the difference and be the voice that we are all needing. Keep up the good work and you have my vote I guarantee. Congratulations again.’ – Stuart.

‘Congratulations on winning Labour leadership you are a flash of hope for millions of people like myself who thru Tory policies are struggling to survive you are the bringer of hope.’  – Bernadette

‘Congratulations Jeremy Corbyn very pleased you have spoken up for so many of us who felt no one was listening, keep up the brilliant work. A very happy supporter.’ – Sean

‘Staying true to my word I have left UKIP and come back to the Labour Party, well done Corbyn!!!’ – Sam

‘I’ve never been a member of any political party but I would join and vote if Jeremy was a candidate. I’m sure plenty of others would do the same.’ – Jo

‘Well, I’m in! A politician that seems to have integrity, that’s a bit of an oxymoron these days. I like what you’re saying Jeremy Corbyn, you can count on my vote. Thanks for giving us a voice.’ – Rex

So, social media should not be caricatured. It is by no means a silver bullet, but it does have the potential to engage, to challenge, to convince, to inspire and to empower people. Which may well explain why some are so keen to dismiss it.