Jeremy Corbyn: Leading From The Left: Updated to include 2016 Leadership Election by Nigel Cawthorne

Jeremy Corbyn: Leading From The Left: Updated to include 2016 Leadership Election by Nigel Cawthorne

Author:Nigel Cawthorne [Cawthorne, Nigel]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Published: 2015-08-12T23:00:00+00:00

Chapter Seven – Not New Labour

In the run-up to the election in 1997, New Labour tried to silence its critics. That January 1997, there was a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to discuss the new Standing Orders. The nub of them was that you could be suspended from the Party or have the whip withdrawn “for action likely to bring the Party into disrepute”. Corbyn managed to thwart this with an amendment though.

The following month, Corbyn and Benn attended an international conference against the Maastricht Treaty at Central Hall, Westminster. They had defied the party whips, voting against the bill in the House of Commons. At the conference, people from eighteen nations were represented. They came from all over Europe – France, Germany, Italy – even Brazil.

“It was a marvellous rally and the great thing about it was that it was international,” Benn noted in his diaries. “Nobody could say that this was the British against Europe. This was the European working class against the bankers and the Commissioners. There was an item on the six o’clock news quoting ‘the two MPs’ (Jeremy Corbyn and me) who were totally unrepresentative of the Party.”

Despite his staunch opposition to Tony Blair and New Labour, Corbyn was re-elected in May with 24,834 votes, a majority of 19,955, increasing his lead yet again – this time by 11.9 percent. Analysing the results in the Independent, Polly Toynbee asked: “What’s Jeremy Corbyn doing in the same party as Tony Blair?”

According to Matthew Parris in The Times, Corbyn was “loathed by the leadership of his party”. He said: “The new Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, was seen to be crossing his fingers while taking the Oath (Banks is a republican and vehemently opposed to the monarchy), and most people just laughed it off. That is because we do not choose to make an issue of this with Mr Banks, who is rather popular in London. If Jeremy Corbyn, a less charismatic leftie, … were to have told the news media that he would hold up crossed fingers for the TV cameras while taking the Oath, and if there were to be a fuss about this at Westminster, he might well have been disbarred.”

Of course Corbyn is a republican, but he believed abolition of the monarchy could wait, because his priority was “social justice”.

Following Labour’s election victory in 1997, Corbyn did not stay in waiting for a call from Tony Blair. He was hardly likely to be offered a job in government. He knew he was not popular with his new boss – so to provoke him further, Corbyn, an ardent republican, petitioned Blair to evict the Royal Family from Buckingham Palace and move them into “more modest” accommodation.

When Blair first became party leader in 1994, Corbyn had taken a stronger line.

“A referendum on scrapping the monarchy should be in our next manifesto - it would be very popular,” he said.

Once New Labour were in power, his next target was Peter Mandelson over his fund-raising plans for the Millennium Dome, which stood to make promoter Mark McCormack £9 million.


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