Caught up in an internal power squabble, most of the Labour Party appears to have completely forgotten what being in Opposition is all about. Somehow convinced that they lost the last election because of what they stood for, the party now seems to be afraid to stand for anything – as illustrated by their abject failure to cohesively oppose Osborne’s swingeing cuts (sorry, “reforms”) to welfare this week. In truth, Labour’s great failing last May was in not giving people something that they could believe in; they were a party with no purpose, no solid idea worth getting behind.
It is no secret and surely no surprise that the British public are utterly disenfranchised with Westminster; in the last few years we have had more than our fill of smoke-and-mirrors government driven by sound-bites and focus groups. What we are looking for now is principles, passion and beliefs – all ideals that the Opposition has the luxury of being able to indulge to their heart’s content.
Right now, it appears that only Jeremy Corbyn can save the party from becoming an irrelevance. Far from leading Labour into the political wilderness (or splitting them asunder, as some commentators would have us believe that he might), Corbyn may be the only candidate with sufficient belief and charisma to draw the party together and lead them back into the fray. His spirit and commitment has stirred a renewed interest in politics from all quarters of the electorate (quite some achievement in this era of apathy and indifference) and will hopefully invigorate political discourse – just look at the column inches devoted to discussing his influence now, even if they do seem to be mostly disparaging voices.
If Labour don’t want to be dismissed as a spent political force – and, despite appearances, we must presume that they don’t – then they need to get on with defending the values and the people that their party was established to represent; only then will they be seen once more as a force to be reckoned with. To achieve this, they need a leader of substance with a voice that is unafraid to speak out for fairness and to possibly offend corporate interests. A more equal society must remain the goal: neither history nor the British public will forgive them if they abandon those who cannot defend themselves. The choice now is clear.