Corbyn’s run in Islington North is a stand for socialism – and democracy itself

May 24, 2024

Jeramy Cornyn’s long-awaited announcement that he will run for re-election in Islington North, which he has represented since 1983, puts heart into socialists everywhere.

It is an important stand for democracy, worthy of support even from those who are usually sceptical of the value of standing left-of-Labour candidates, and a chance to show that the electorate that knows him best rejects both his character assassination by ruling-class media and his excommunication from the party he has served most of his life.

The decision to block the last Labour leader from standing again on a Labour ticket was an arrogant exercise of unaccountable power by the clique around Sir Keir Starmer, whose Labour credentials are thin by comparison.

Starmer likes to talk of “my Labour Party,” but was first elected as a Labour MP in 2015, when Corbyn had already been one for 32 years. In fact rules were tweaked to enable his selection as a Labour candidate that year, because he had not been a member of the party long enough to qualify.

His decision to join, therefore, was not because of any connection to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary Labour people — the activists, canvassers, councillors who work so hard for the party — but because on leaving the Crown Prosecution Office he fancied a political career.

Multiple times since he has indicated his contempt for those ordinary Labour people. And the ban on Corbyn standing again reeks of that contempt.

It is contemptuous of the residents of Islington North, who have repeatedly elected him, most recently with a thumping majority of 26,188.

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It is contemptuous of the constituency Labour Party, which has expressed unanimous support for Corbyn’s right to stand as their candidate again and have been cut out of the selection process entirely, and of the wider Labour membership, whose rights even to discuss Corbyn’s exclusion from the parliamentary party have been suppressed.

And it is contemptuous of the labour movement, with a big majority of affiliated unions expressing their strong opposition to the decision to block him, and several involved in negotiations aimed at restoring the Labour whip, which foundered on Starmer’s dishonesty.

That last point is crucial, because pressure will now be brought to bear by Labour to park any reservations about its conduct and offer blanket support in the name of sweeping away the Conservatives.

Unions whose concerns have been brusquely dismissed need not feel any obligation to campaign for the official Labour candidate against Corbyn.

Two once-affiliated unions, the transport sector’s RMT and the food sector’s BFAWU, have voiced support for Corbyn already.

Those which remain affiliated are understandably unlikely to do so, but that does not mean they have to lift a finger to back anyone against him.

There is no risk of letting the Tories in in Islington North. This will be a Corbyn versus token-Labour contest. Given the Labour Party nationally echoes Tory policies on public spending, crackdowns on protest rights and effective support for Israel’s brutal war in Gaza, the value of having a voice for peace and socialism who has never been afraid to challenge ministers, Tory or Labour, on their actions in Parliament is obvious.

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It matters that we send the bullies and political fixers who dominate Westminster politics a message that they will not always get away with it.

It matters too that re-electing Corbyn, a nationally recognised figure, sends a national message that the socialist resurgence his 2015-20 Labour leadership represented has not been snuffed out.

Majorities consistently tell the pollsters they want higher taxes on the rich, more public spending, rail, mail, water and energy back in public hands.

A deeply undemocratic political system and a deeply dishonest and manipulative media are adept at obscuring that reality. Re-electing Jeremy Corbyn will make it that bit harder for them to do so.

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