BRITISH LABOUR GOES LEFT
The left extends a welcome that is passionate and hearty
To Corbyn who’s elected as the Leader of his party.
But others say that hopes of future victories are idle
Politically his program is completely suicidal.
Enraged at Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing programs, the British Labour Party in 1983 offered an election manifesto including unilateral nuclear disarmament, renationalization of privatized industries, and withdrawal from Europe. Thatcher won easily and a Labour Member of Parliament cracked that the manifesto was “the longest suicide note in history.”
In September 2015 the Labour Party membership, in face of initial bookmaker odds of 100 to 1, elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new Leader. Labour, under a leftish leader, Ed Miliband (see my blog of August 30) had just been crushingly defeated by the Conservatives in a general election. Corbyn is much farther still to the left, an advocate, for example, of unilateral disarmament and renationalization of privatized industries.
Inevitably satirists talked of political suicide notes. A cartoon in the London Times, riffing on the overwhelming rejection in Parliament of an assisted dying bill, showed a Labour Party conference with members looking at a billboard asking “Interested in Assisted Dying?” There was a Daily Telegraph knock-knock joke: “Knock-knock, who’s there? …The Leader of the Opposition…You must be joking!.”
Others jibed at Corbyn’s far-left stance. Cameron asks Putin: “Have you ever met Corbyn?” Putin answers “ I can’t afford to associate with leftists as loony as that.” And as far away as Taiwan a cartoonist depicted Corbyn as a ”love child of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.”
Yet there was plenty of satire mocking Corbyn’s critics. Cartoonists showed Corbyn going up in a balloon and aiming ballast labelled“Trident”, “Austerity”, and “Military Interventions” at his opponents. Another drew Tony Blair and other implacable Corbyn foes as Keystone Cops tearing ferociously down the railroad line while a Corbyn locomotive steams unstoppably behind them.
The critics may well be right about Labour’s political prospects under Corbyn. There is scant evidence that in the foreseeable future the British electorate as a whole is likely to endorse a dramatically left-wing political party. Still, there is clearly a significant segment of that electorate that is alienated by past Labour as well as present Conservative policies. In particular the imprint of Tony Blair on any policy or candidate appears to be fatal. Once he had made Labour eminently electable by moving it to the center. But now he is mocked by a cartoonist showing him warning that a vote for Corbyn could lead to chaos – against a background of the disastrous chaos left by the Iraq war, which Blair had so fervently supported and has never renounced.
Inevitable analogies to the American political context were made explicit when Sanders publicly congratulated Corbyn on his election, which immediately provoked attacks on Sanders by the Hillary camp:
Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, the Left is optimistic,
But I doubt it means a future that is clearly socialistic.
Still, there’ll be no more Iraqs, of that I’m quite emphatic,
And hopefully both countries won’t be quite as plutocratic.