Blogpost: By Scott Nelson
“It’s been a bad year for Labour – but there is hope for 2017”
AS 2016 has drawn to a close, it has given me time to reflect on the world of politics over the past 12 months. Labour has had a very turbulent year and we can thank the Blairite-led leadership coup for that. Jeremy Corbyn has been Labour leader for 15 months, yet throughout that whole time a certain faction of the party has spent the entire time undermining his leadership and plotting and scheming behind his back.
The Blairite-led leadership coup was unnecessary and is the reason why Labour is polling badly right now. The leadership coup gave the Tories a summer reprieve, as it allowed them to plough ahead with their draconian policies that are destroying ordinary people’s lives. All eyes were focused on Labour while the Tories were in turmoil following the departure of cowardly David Cameron. But people lost patience with Labour following the leadership coup and at times the SNP were the only party holding the Tories to account.
Blaming Corbyn for Brexit is a lazy argument. Labour’s Remain Campaign was led by Alan Johnson who even failed to convince his own constituency to vote Remain. The buck stops with Johnson who clearly failed to convince people to vote Remain.
Despite Labour’s turbulent year there is hope for 2017. Corbyn has announced that he will be standing up to UKIP in Labour’s heartlands and will counteract UKIP’s negative vibes towards immigration. That said, Corbyn must accept that immigration is a huge issue in Labour heartlands. It’s wrong to solely blame immigration for Britain’s problems, which UKIP regularly does, as current and successive governments over the past 30 years have failed to control immigration and invest in local infrastructure.
As a community grows, so should its infrastructure. Growing communities need investment in housing, schools, healthcare, public transport and local services. This simply has not happened under any government over the past 30 years. Immigration does need to be controlled and I am in favour of a points-based system that will enable us to control the numbers coming in.
Britain should stop relying on cheap overseas Labour and start investing in young people. The Tories have created a lost generation, kids are leaving school with no aspiration and young people aged under 25 have no access to develop skills at college or university because the Tories have abolished maintenance grants and hiked tuition fees. So let’s train our young people and give them and future generations a decent start in life – something which Corbyn is very passionate about.
Corbyn must listen to people’s concerns with immigration and take them seriously. From experience, if he visits Thurrock he will receive a very hostile response towards immigration. A massive 73% of Thurrock voted Brexit, and I was one of them. People voted Brexit for different reasons but many people did so because of immigration. Thurrock also has the London overspill to contend with.
Other positives for Labour to look forward to in 2017 is the upcoming Copeland by-election in Cumbria. The Tories might not do very well in this by-election because of the current problems at Sellafield, and I don’t think the Lib Dems will do very well either because Copeland voted Brexit, so I highly doubt the party’s pro-EU stance will go down very well. As for UKIP, the party has turned into a laughing stock under Paul Nuttall’s leadership.
Nuttall, a former Tory, claims to be a man of working class people but this could not be further from the truth. Nuttall backs Tory austerity, wants to privatise the NHS, backs grammar schools, has an appalling attitude towards women’s and gay rights and he backs fox hunting. None of these are policies that will benefit the working class, they are Tory policies that will benefit Tories. Furthermore, Nuttall blames immigration for Britain’s problems rather than seeing the bigger picture.
I believe Labour will hold on to the Copeland seat, but this is a test for Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn has made it clear that he will not block Article 50 but he wants a ‘People’s Brexit’ which will benefit everyone and not just a few.
Labour does seem a lot more united than it was and the party has started to see gradual improvement in the polls. That’s because a united Labour can win people over and if the party remains united then 2017 could well be Corbyn’s best year yet.
The Fabian Society has released a report suggesting that Labour will be whitewashed at the next election and the party should consider forming an alliance with other progressive parties such as the Liberal Democrats. This is a terrible and ludicrous suggestion, the Liberal Democrats were part of a ruthless Tory government for 5 years and imposed the Bedroom Tax on 660,000 people, of which 420,000 were disabled people and carers, so it comes as no surprise that another Blairite source wants Labour to join forces with a party that helped the Tories destroy the lives of ordinary people.
Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems, recently said that he would form another coalition with the Tories, which the Fabian Society clearly has no problem with. The last thing Labour should do is work with the Lib Dems, which would seriously destroy Labour’s chances of an election victory. You only have to look at the state of Scottish Labour which is still in turmoil after joining forces with the Tories during the Better Together Campaign in 2014.
There are no local elections due in Thurrock in 2017, but 2018 will be the biggest test for Thurrock Labour: Can the party fend off UKIP and the Tories? I believe so.
Written by Scott Nelson, Your Thurrock Political Commentator
Follow me on Twitter @SocialistVoice