Labour, Brexit and the 2019 General Election

“Facts are chiels that winna ding” Robert Burns, 1786.

It is almost impossible to overstate the damage that backing a second referendum inflicted upon the Labour Party at the last general election. First of all, the U-turn guaranteed that Labour had absolutely no chance of winning back Leave-voting seats which (despite an increase in the Labour vote) were narrowly lost in 2017. For instance, Stoke-on-Trent South, which Labour lost to the Tories by just 663 votes, now has a Tory majority of over 11,000. Mansfield, which was lost by 1,000 votes in 2017, now has a Tory majority of 16,000. Similarly, Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland, which was lost by 1,000 votes in 2017 now has a Tory majority of 11,500, and Walsall North, lost by 2,600 votes in 2017 now has a Tory majority of 12,000. North East Derbyshire, which the Tories won by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2017, now has a Tory majority of over 12,000. Secondly, it also put an end to any chance of Labour winning in numerous Leave-voting constituencies which, in the aftermath of the 2017 gains, had become genuine target seats, such as Southampton Itchen, Hastings & Rye, Calder Valley, Thurrock, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Broxtowe, Bolton West and Norwich North.

Thirdly, it resulted in a whole host of Leave-voting Labour held marginals including Dudley North, Bishop Auckland, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Crewe & Nantwich, Barrow & Furness, Keighley, Ashfield, Peterborough, Ipswich, Stockton South, Bury North, Penistone & Stocksbridge, Lincoln, Wrexham, Derby North, Wolverhampton South West, High Peak, Stoke-on-Trent North, Vale of Clwyd, Blackpool South, Warrington South, Great Grimsby, Wakefield and Darlington all being lost to the Tories.

Worse still, the Tories even took relatively safe Leave-voting Labour seats such as Blyth Valley (Labour majority in 2017: 8,000), North West Durham (9k) Redcar (9k), Bolsover (5k), Sedgefield (6k), Rother Valley (4k), Stoke-on-Trent Central (4k), West Bromwich East (7.5k), Wolverhampton NE (4.5k), Leigh (10k), Gedling (4.7k), Bolton North East (3.8k), Birmingham Northfield (4.5k), Bassetlaw (4.8k), Burnley (6.4k), Bury South (6k), Delyn (4.2k), Don Valley (5k), Workington (4k), Hyndburn (5.8k), West Bromwich West (4.4k), Scunthorpe (3.5k), Heywood & Middleton (7.5k), and Dewsbury (3.4k). All in all, the Tories took a total of 54 seats from Labour, 52 of which had voted Leave in 2016. These defeats also weakened the left in the Parliamentary Labour Party, resulting in the loss of rising stars such as Laura Pidcock and Laura Smith as well as the veteran socialist MP Dennis Skinner.

And the results could quite easily have been even more devastating. Had the Brexit Party not stood candidates in Leave-voting North East seats such as Washington & Sunderland West, Houghton & Sunderland South, Wansbeck, and Hartlepool, the Tories would have undoubtedly gained those seats, given that the Labour vote fell dramatically.

Furthermore, it should be recognised that although they were retained, many previously secure Labour seats in Leave-voting areas have now been reduced to vulnerable marginals. These include: Dagenham & Rainham, Alyn & Deeside, Coventry South, Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford, Warrington North, Oldham East & Saddleworth, Stockton North, Hemsworth, Wolverhampton South East, Hull East, Newport West, Newport East, Chesterfield, Wansbeck, Wentworth & Dearne, Doncaster North, Doncaster Central, and Bradford South. All these seats saw a significant fall in the Labour vote in 2019 and now have majorities of under 2,400 votes.

Some have sought to lay the blame for the defeat at Jeremy Corbyn’s door or attribute the result to the party’s left-wing manifesto. Yet, in every single seat lost to the Tories in 2019, Labour’s vote increased under Corbyn’s leadership with a socialist policy platform in 2017. In many Leave-voting seats, the contrast in Labour’s performance between the two elections was astonishing. For example, in Scunthorpe, Labour increased its vote by 10.3% in 2017 only to suffer a 15.3% decrease in 2019. Redcar saw an 11.6% increase in 2017 followed by an 18% decrease in 2019. In Blyth Valley, Labour’s vote increased by 9% in 2017 and then fell by 15% in 2019. In Heywood & Middleton, a 10.2% increase was followed by an 11.6% decrease. Labour’s vote in Birmingham Northfield increased by 11.6% in 2017 and then fell by 10.7% in 2019. In Derby North, an 11.9% increase was followed by a fall of 8.7%. The only substantive change between these two elections was Labour supporting a second referendum on EU membership. Subsequent polling has underscored the centrality of Brexit in Labour’s defeat. YouGov polling found that Labour lost 33% of its 2017 Leave voters to the Tories and 6% to the Brexit Party, with Brexit cited as by far the most important issue for Tory switchers in a poll conducted in January 2020.

Some argue that this is easy to point out with the benefit of hindsight, but in truth, the warning signs plainly were there for anyone who wished to see them. We knew that 2/3rds of Labour-held seats were in Leave-voting constituencies, and it was clear that the vast majority of the Tories’ top target seats were in Leave-voting Labour areas. Not only that, but most Labour target seats in 2019 were in Leave-voting constituencies. In fact, in England and Wales, 78% of Labour’s target seats voted Leave. It was also abundantly clear that the impressive gains made by Labour in Leave-voting areas in 2017 – which meant that despite the collapse of UKIP, the Tories won just 6 seats from Labour – were predicated upon respecting the result of the referendum. This had allowed us to diffuse the issue to a large extent and move the discussion onto favourable ground like the NHS, renationalisation and a £10 an hour Living Wage. The claim that Labour gains in these seats in 2017 can be attributed to Remainers lending or switching votes is simply not credible. A thorough analysis of the Lib Dem vote in 2015 and 2017 shows that in most of these seats, not only was the vote often negligible, but what little vote share there was did not switch to Labour in significant numbers. For example, in Dewsbury in 2017 the Labour vote rose by 9.2% yet the Lib Dem vote fell only by 1.4%. In Wakefield, the Labour vote increased by 9.4% while the Lib Dem vote decreased by just 1.4%. In Blackpool South, Labour’s vote increased by 8.5%, while the Lib Dem vote fell by 0.5%. This was also true of Scunthorpe (10.3% Labour increase v 0.7% Lib Dem decrease) and Birmingham Northfield (11.6% Labour increase v 1% Lib Dem decrease). And the same phenomenon occurred elsewhere. Therefore, a far more plausible explanation is that Labour was actually continuing to win back some of those 5 million heartland voters lost between 1997-2010, including some ex-UKIP voters.

Indeed, for these reasons amongst others, when the second referendum commitment was first mooted, many people, at all levels of the party sounded the alarm. But unfortunately, those of us who tried to highlight the obvious dangers were dismissed and sometimes even maligned. Meanwhile, Labour MPs in Remain-voting seats with massive majorities such as Brighton Kemptown and Bristol North (which at the time enjoyed a 37,000 majority) were given national newspaper coverage to make the implausible claim that they would lose their seats if a second referendum policy was not adopted.

Perhaps the only sound argument in favour of the second referendum was that it was necessary to retain Remain-voting Labour seats in Scotland. Yet it failed to achieve even this, as Labour lost 6 out of 7 Scottish seats. While losses in Leave-voting constituencies piled up, Labour made just one Remain-voting gain in England: Putney.

Ominously, the new Labour leader Keir Starmer was a prominent advocate, if not the main architect of this calamitous second referendum policy. For Labour to stand any chance of reversing these losses and thus winning any future general election, Starmer and senior figures must acknowledge that Brexit was the decisive factor in the devastating election defeat and ensure that an error of this magnitude is never repeated.


Londonderry Airbrushed

Recently, a photo of the statue of Charles William Stewart or Lord Londonderry (1778–1854), in Durham city’s marketplace was posted in a local Facebook group. Someone commented that he “owned many of the coal mines in County Durham and spent lots of money to make them run better.” Astonishingly, it transpired that this particular piece of misinformation was taken from a website produced by the university for use in local schools. Not wishing to allow this go unchallenged, I responded by making a few factual observations and suggestions.

First of all, Londonderry was brutal even by the standards of his time. On the Tory benches in the House of Lords, he led the opposition to the Mines Act 1842, which among other things, prevented boys under the age of 10 years old from working underground. Thankfully, he failed, although he did manage to get the legislation watered down. Therefore, the often-heard claim that we cannot condemn historical figures because “people didn’t know any better at the time” simply does not apply. It is no exaggeration to describe Londonderry as a tyrant. In 1844, when miners went on strike, he evicted them and their families from their homes. He also issued his infamous ‘Seaham Letter’ which warned that any local traders who provided strikers with credit would be driven out of business. A few years later, he strongly opposed the 1850 Coal Mines Inspection Act which ensured that mines were subject to government safety inspections.

Unsurprisingly, given this record, Londonderry was not well liked by many colliers and their families in County Durham. It was his family who paid to have his imposing statue put up in the market square in 1861. So, like many of our public monuments, it was not put there by popular demand.

We are often told that these monuments are vital in order for us to remember the past. But given that none of this factual information is included on the statue, how can it be considered educational? What is more, why are we still celebrating someone who enriched themselves on the back of exploiting men, women, and children in County Durham? When someone is literally put on a pedestal it is difficult to argue that this represents some kind of neutral act of remembrance.

It would be far better to have a monument to a miner or a miners’ union leader such as Thomas Hepburn, who tried to put a stop to such brutalities. At the very least, some of this information should be included on the statue’s plinth so that the public can make an informed decision as to whether this statue should still take pride of place. Londonderry’s presence in Durham city’s centre demonstrates that in most cases, monuments of the ‘great and the good’ are not about genuinely educating people about history but celebrating our ‘betters’ and whitewashing history in the process.


Why the Durham Miners’ Gala Matters

133rd Durham Miners’ Gala – July 2017

In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell famously described a “startling and overwhelming” realisation upon arriving in Barcelona. As a result of the revolution, the city had been transformed into something he had never experienced before: “It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle”, he wrote.

On the second Saturday of each July, this is what you’ll find in Durham.

Durham City, an island of economic prosperity in a sea of deprivation will be completely transformed by a colourful, joyful procession of some 200,000 people marching with their miners’ and trades union banners. These ornate miners’ banners, which celebrate working-class history, achievements, heroes and values – as well as expressing future aspirations – are accompanied by some of the finest brass bands in the country, playing a mix of traditional and contemporary music.

When the second Durham Miners’ Gala or “Big Meeting” was held in 1872 – the first to march through the city – it sparked fears from the city’s well-to-do inhabitants, who were so troubled about this “invasion” of “their” city that the authorities moved to line the streets with militia men and police. Of course, these fears – borne out of class prejudice – were completely unfounded. Some 60,000 miners and their families marched through the city centre before gathering to hear speeches which emphasised the importance of trade unionism. Within a few years the Gala had grown exponentially, and a Miners’ Service in the Norman Cathedral was incorporated into the ritual of the Gala day. It quickly became the pre-eminent annual event in the labour movement’s calendar, a role which was sustained for almost the entirety of the 20th century.

In the 1980s and 1990s, attendance declined and there was talk in certain quarters that the Gala might not continue. Perhaps, as a result of the of the brutal 1984/5 strike and the devastating pit closure programme, the trauma and pain had left many in the local mining communities unable to celebrate “Durham day”. Politically, it was shunned by the ascendant “New Labour”, which treated working-class traditions with contempt and the Gala became a bastion of an increasingly marginalised “Old Labour.”

But it continued because ultimately, despite the destruction of their industry, the mining communities were not broken. In many of the pit villages, banner groups sprung up which raised funds to restore or replace their community’s miners’ banner. And the Gala evolved, as the procession was opened up to allow various trade unions and community and campaign groups to take part. Now, we are witnessing the unlikely fact that more than 20 years after the closure of the last pit in the County Durham, the Gala attracts crowds not seen since the 1960s – and there is the distinct possibility in the near future the Gala will be addressed by a Labour Prime Minister.

There is no definitive interpretation of what the Gala means to those who attend. Some go to meet up with friends and family. Some to honour the memory of loved ones. Others express their pride in their own community by marching with their colliery banner. Many socialists and trade unionists travel from all over the country to get fired up or feel rejuvenated. No doubt for some, it will be a combination of all these things.

Inevitably, because of what it represents, there have been attempts to dismiss this extraordinary festival as merely an excuse for a booze-up or a futile exercise in nostalgia. But no-one who has attended could come away with such a misguided impression.

So, if you’ve never been before, put the Durham Miners’ Gala on your bucket list. Soak it up for just a few hours. Listen to the brass bands, whether they are playing “Walking on Sunshine” or “Gresford”. Go to the Miners’ Festival Service and witness the banners being blessed in the Cathedral. Watch working-class communities collectively and individually express total pride in who and what they are – and get a little glimpse of what our society could one day become.

In the words of the hymn “These Things Shall Be”, which inspired previous generations in the mining communities: “Every life shall be a song/ When all the earth is paradise.”


Pelton Fell Lodge Miners’ Banner


“Nowhere Else to Go”: The Truth About New Labour, Corbyn and Labour’s Heartlands


Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miners’ Gala in July 2016 {Photograph ©Tom Eden}

In recent times, various claims have been put forward in defence of the New Labour project. However, the latest by Phil Wilson MP is so fantastical that only a true believer could have the audacity to make such remarks with a straight face. Wilson’s claim is that New Labour was somehow the product of and informed by, working-class demands. According to an account of a recent seminar in The Independent, Wilson told the audience that New Labour was “rooted in making a difference for the working-class communities of the former coalfields of the North-East.”

In reality, the exact opposite was true. New Labour consciously and deliberately shunned working-class communities. One of its fundamental articles of faith was that working-class voters did not matter because as Peter Mandelson put it, they had ‘nowhere else to go’. Instead, it was ‘middle England’ that had to be courted. As for the organised working class – the trade union movement – Blair boasted of having ‘the most restrictive labour laws in the Western world’ and became the first Labour leader to refuse to address the Durham Miners’ Gala – Britain’s most important and historic working-class festival. The New Labour machine repeatedly parachuted in middle-class MPs into working-class constituencies. Think Blair in Sedgefield, David Miliband in South Shields, Peter Mandelson in Hartlepool, Tristram Hunt in Stoke or Douglas Alexander in Renfrewshire. Unsurprisingly, New Labour’s tenure in office saw working-class support collapse, something which Ed Miliband proved incapable of addressing during his time as Labour leader.

Wilson’s prescription for Labour’s dismal election result of 2015 was to revert to Blairism – a view shared by only 4.5% of the party membership. Since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, Wilson has relentlessly been on the attack, showing total disdain for the views of the membership in the process. He was an active player in the ‘coup’, accusing Corbyn of ‘sabotage’ and demanded his immediate resignation after the EU referendum result, as well as backing the ‘no confidence’ motion in the PLP. Still unable to come to terms with the democratic verdict of the party membership, during last year’s general election, he issued an incredibly reckless and self-indulgent leaflet which stated, “I put local people first. If this means standing up to May, I do. If this means opposing Corbyn, I do.” Such was its design and content that, at first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking it was not the literature of a Labour candidate. For good measure, he then told the press: “People don’t like Corbyn; I don’t like Corbyn”.


Wilson’s election leaflet which included an endorsement from an Independent Councillor.

Despite being proven decisively wrong by the general election result, Wilson has not relented. Immediately after the election, he criticised Labour’s immensely popular policy platform, branding our tuition fees policy as “middle class”. Quite how New Labour’s abolition of universal education through the introduction and subsequent trebling of tuition fees helped working-class students is never explained. In fact, evidence points the other way. As Professor Claire Callender recently concluded: ‘Working-class young people are far more likely than students from other social classes to avoid applying to university because of debt fears.’

Last year’s general election result vindicated the much-derided supporters of Corbyn. Despite all the warnings of impending doom and despite the unhelpful antics of the mischief-makers within our own ranks, Labour’s vote increased, including amongst working-class voters.

Wilson has made much of an apparent working-class ‘swing’ towards the Tories, yet the story was not one of working-class Labour voters abandoning Corbyn’s Labour for May’s Tories. It was simply inevitable that with the collapse of UKIP, the working-class Tory vote would increase. The idea that UKIP posed the greater threat to Labour was, to a large extent, a media-driven exaggeration. Its Thatcherite, anti-Europe agenda always appealed most to Tory working-class (as well as middle-class) voters, which in many cases rendered Labour the beneficiary of a split right-wing vote. Last summer, the majority of these voters simply returned to the Tory fold.

At long last, after years of neglect and complacency, the long process of winning back the trust of working-class communities is underway. As the election showed, we are reconnecting with people in our traditional heartlands such as Wales and Scotland. And here in the North East, Labour’s vote went up in every single constituency, including those in the former coalfields. Even in Bishop Auckland, which Wilson points to in support of his thesis, Labour’s vote saw a substantial increase compared with 2015 and 2010. The notion that vote increases in Blaydon, Blyth, Wansbeck and Easington can be attributed to “students and middle class voters” should be treated with the derision it deserves. We are re-connecting in other important ways too. Labour’s association with the trade union movement is now a source of pride and our leadership backs workers in industrial disputes.

As all Wilson appears capable of offering in support of his claims are anecdotes, I have one of my own. When canvassing in Bishop Auckland during the general election, I spoke to a man who had never voted before but was voting Labour because of our commitment to a £10 an hour minimum wage.

If you want to see where unchecked Blairism leads to, look at Labour’s electoral disaster in Scotland in 2015, where New Labour devotees such as Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and John McTernan led the charge into oblivion. Or look around at the recent dismal electoral performances of the SPD and many of our other European sister parties which have failed to break decisively with the so-called “Third Way”.

The saving grace is of course that thanks to a democratic revolution in the Labour Party, the leading lights in the New Labour clique no longer hold sway. Instead, they now appear reduced merely to unconvincing attempts to rehabilitate their own record and indulging in increasingly incoherent and self-serving criticisms of Labour’s modern mainstream.


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

Britain Refugee March

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a solidarity with refugees demonstration 12th September, 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.


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.


Why Jeremy Corbyn showed just as much respect as anyone else

Jeremy Corbyn is a republican and a non-believer, so it would be totally insincere of him to sing the national anthem: ‘God Save the Queen.’

jez anthemInstead, he chose to stand in respectful silence: remembering those who died, as well as remembering his mum who served as an air raid warden and his dad who served in the Home Guard.

A generation of brave men and women fought fascism so that people could live in a society where they were free to choose to think and to act as their conscience dictates.

Those who want to force their beliefs onto others seem to have forgotten that.


5 reasons why Jeremy Corbyn can win in 2020

  1. Increasing the electorate: The idea of engaging with people who have stopped voting is often dismissed with a remark along the lines of: ‘the trouble with non-voters is that they tend not to vote.’ But this is because many people feel that they haven’t got anything to vote for. Worryingly, between 1997 and 2010, Labour lost 5 million voters, the vast majority of whom didn’t vote for other parties but simply stayed at home. Under Jeremy, all that can change. Even his critics cannot deny that Jeremy is enthusing people who were previously disengaged by politics, as well as crucially, inspiring young people, a group of people who haven’t voted in large numbers in recent elections. 15 million people didn’t vote at the last election. Low turnouts always benefit the Tories and harms Labour’s chances.

    Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Glasgow, 14th August 2015

    Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Glasgow, 14th August 2015

  2. Winning back Scotland: Winning back Scotland in 5 years will be a mammoth, if not impossible task. But we can only begin this process if we recognise the SNP won a landslide in Scotland largely because it was able to position itself as anti-austerity and more committed to traditional Labour values, outflanking Labour to its left on issues like Trident, tuition fees and prescription charges. Jeremy’s stance on all these key issues chimes with the Scottish electorate and can win people back to Labour. (Similarly, only through this approach can we ensure that Plaid Cymru does not continue to erode the Labour vote in Wales for similar very reasons).
  3. Winning back Green voters: Although the Greens polled a just over million votes nationally, it had a devastating impact on Labour. For example, in Morley and Outwood, in which Ed Balls lost to the Tories by just over 400 votes, the Greens got over 1200 votes. In total, there were 10 seats which Labour would have won had they secured the bulk of the Green vote. Jeremy’s policies connect with many Green voters and members, some of whom have already been won back to the Labour fold.
  4. Winning back UKIP voters: It’s perfectly possible for Labour to simultaneously win back voters to the left and the right. That’s because although UKIP was founded by, is led by and funded by ex-Tories, many ex-Labour voters turned to UKIP not because of its Thatcherism but out of protest and frustration with Labour taking them for granted. Jeremy can reconnect with these voters and indeed it was no real surprise that a recent poll showed he was the most popular amongst UKIP voters. Furthermore, instead of pandering to UKIP’s solutions (remember that ‘controls on immigration’ mug?) which unsurprisingly didn’t work as it only reinforced UKIP’s credibility, Labour can win voters back by highlighting the real causes of low pay, the housing crisis and unemployment and putting forward serious solutions which address these concerns.
  5. Shifting the centre ground: A lot can change in 5 years. If we start to set out a clear and coherent alternative now, we can shift the so-called centre ground of British politics away from Thatcherism and back to where it should be. As long as austerity is seen as ‘common sense’ and the only option the Tories will have the upper hand. Jeremy can win support by putting popular policies like taking the railways and utilities into public ownership back onto the agenda which will translate into electoral support in 2020. His proposals are perfectly workable and credible. In fact, there’s not one policy which Jeremy has put forward whether it be a living wage, public ownership of the railways or rent controls which isn’t already working in practice elsewhere in Europe.

15 times when Jeremy Corbyn was on the right side of history

jezza aparted

1. Apartheid: Jeremy was a staunch opponent of the Apartheid regime and a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the ANC. He was even arrested for protesting outside the South African embassy in 1984.

2. Chile: Jeremy was an opponent of the brutal dictator Pinochet (an ally of the British government under Thatcher) and was a leading campaigner in the quest to bring him to justice. In 1998 Pinochet was arrested in London.

3. LGBT rights: As noted in Pink News, Jeremy was an early champion of LGBT rights. At a time when the Tories decried supporting LGBT rights as ‘loony left’, Jeremy voted against section 28 which sought to demonise same-sex relationships.

4. The Miners’ Strike: Jeremy went against the Labour leadership and fully supported the miners in their effort to prevent the total destruction of their industry and communities. Cabinet papers released last year prove that the NUM were correct to claim that there was a secret hit list of 75 pits which the government were determined to close within 3 years. Ex-mining areas still suffer from the devastating effects of de-industrialisation, particularly high unemployment.

5. Iraq: In the 1970s and 1980s, while the UK and other Western government were selling weapons to their ally Saddam Hussein, Jeremy campaigned and demonstrated against it, as well as protesting against the mass killings of Iraqi Kurds by Saddam’s regime.

6. Birmingham Six and Guildford Four: Jeremy was involved in the campaigns in support of the victims of these appalling miscarriages of justice. The wrongful convictions were eventually quashed.

7. Talking to Sinn Fein: In the 1980s, along with Tony Benn and other Labour MPs, Jeremy drew intense criticism for engaging in dialogue with Sinn Fein and inviting its representatives to the House of Commons. The government claimed it ‘would not talk to terrorists’ but we now know that by 1989, it was secretly engaged in talks. Sinn Fein has been a major party of the Northern Ireland government since 1998 and even the Queen and Prince Charles have now met with its leading figures.

8. Tuition fees: Jeremy opposed New Labour’s introduction of university tuition fees, which explicitly broke Labour’s 1997 election manifesto pledge, as well as all of the subsequent increases. Fees were then trebled under New Labour before being trebled again by the coalition government, leaving the average student in £53k of debt.

9. Private Finance Initiative (PFI): Jeremy argued against this method of funding the building of new schools and hospitals, which was used partly because New Labour had committed itself to Tory spending plans. Instead of financing projects through government borrowing, private finance would build the infrastructure and then lease to the government. PFI deals cost the taxpayer £10bn a year and we will end up paying more than £300bn for assets worth just £54.7bn.

10. Afghanistan: Going against the tide of political and public opinion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Jeremy opposed the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001. By 2009, most polls showed a majority of British people were against the war and Britain eventually withdrew its troops in October 2014.

11. Iraq, again: Jeremy saw through the ‘dodgy dossier’, the claims of weapons of mass destruction and campaigned and voted against the Iraq war in 2003. In doing so, he helped to organise the biggest demonstration in British history and remains a leading figure in the Stop the War Coalition.

12. Palestine: Jeremy has been a long-standing campaigner for the rights of the Palestinian people, beginning his advocacy at a time when Western public opinion was largely hostile to the Palestinian cause. Last year parliament overwhelmingly voted to recognise Palestine.

13. Public ownership of the railways: Jeremy has always advocated public ownership of our railways. The argument that privatisation would result in competition and thus lower fares has been proved to be entirely incorrect. Instead not only have fares rocketed year on year but the British taxpayer now subsidies the railways to the tune of £4bn a year, around four times the cost of  the previous, publicly owned system.

14. Trident: Jeremy has been a long-term campaigner in CND, and has always opposed Britain having nuclear weapons – a difficult argument to make at the height of the Cold War. But now virtually all the polling evidence shows that a majority of people are against spending £100bn on a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons.

15. Austerity: Right from the beginning Jeremy argued and campaigned against austerity. Despite inheriting a situation where the economy was growing, Osborne’s austerity budgets plunged the UK into a double dip recession in April 2012 and by February 2013 Britain lost its AAA credit rating for the first time since the late 1970s. Five years of austerity later and the UK’s debt has actually risen from £1trn in 2010 to around £1.5trn today. The social cost has been shocking, leading to a rise in child poverty, an unprecedented fall in real wages and nearly 1 million people now reliant on food banks to name but a few of the dire consequences.