Created: Wednesday, 19 October 2016 12:23
Written by Robert Clough
A year ago, in the summer of 2015, the Labour Party was in complete disarray and facing a deep crisis. It had lost two successive general elections in 2010 and 2015. Its defeat in 2015 was especially abject: after five years of punishing austerity for the working class at the hands of the ConDem coalition, Labour failed to prevent a Tory victory, was wiped out in Scotland and lost 24 seats overall. There had to be the semblance of change if the Party was to avoid disintegration. Corbyn’s victories in the subsequent leadership elections have enabled the social democratic left to begin a new project; sowing expectations that the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership can now fight austerity and transform itself into a socialist party capable of winning working class votes. Robert Clough argues that this is an illusion.
Corbyn’s success, announced on 24 September, came with a substantial margin over his challenger, Owen Smith, to the delight of his supporters. Overall, Corbyn won 61.8% of 506,000 votes cast, compared to 59.5% of 422,664 votes cast in 2015. While support from trade union voters increased slightly, from 57.6% in 2015 to 60.2%, votes from Party members increased substantially (49.6% to 59%). Corbyn’s second victory was never in real doubt: his ability to attract thousands to his rallies contrasted with the efforts of Smith, whose meetings sometimes struggled to get into double figures. The Labour Party machine tried its best to exclude Corbyn supporters both by preventing those who had joined the party after February 2016 from voting in the election, and by disqualifying large numbers of registered supporters, those who had paid £25 to vote in the election. Given that Labour Party figures showed that 180,000 supporters had signed up in the two-day period for registration over 19-20 July, and that 121,517 actually voted, claims that 40,000 Corbyn supporters had been prevented from voting seem justified.
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