Imagining prime minister Corbyn as British Labour leadership result looms
‘Corbyn, as chair of the Stop the War Coalition, and Vice-President of British CND visited Ireland to attend a Pana peace conference beside the Shannon Warport’
British Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn holds the final regional rally in Nuneaton on September 8th. The results of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on Saturday September 12th. Photograph: Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images
Prime minister Corbyn has a nice ring to it, at least for the more than 100,000 people who marched against Blair’s Iraq war in Dublin. We failed then. The UK/US/Nato axis went to war and has continued to go to war at virtually every opportunity since, but his victory will be ours.
But while the polls and the massive numbers attending his rallies suggest he will win, polls have been wrong, so one of the Blair candidates could win. Corbyn will have been just a summer bubble.
However, if Corbyn wins, if he is just part of a massive surge in Europe and the US (via Bernie Sanders) against perpetual war and austerity, zero-hour contracts, etc, on offer from the existing political parties, then politics as we have known it since Thatcher would change.
But the change would not be dramatic. Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the parliament in 1983 and is totally committed to democracy. His programme is a social democratic one. Renationalising the railways is popular with British people who vote Tory, Ukip and SNP as well as Labour. His opposition to war is only a revival of the values of Labour leader Harold Wilson, who refused to send British troops to the Vietnam war. There would be no British Soviet under Corbyn.
A Corbyn victory would also have an impact on Ireland. The Fine Gael/Labour government’s recently published White Paper on defence calls for improving the potential for Irish enterprise to compete for defence contracts.
Sell weaponsIrish ArmyShannon Airport
Prime minister Corbyn would also be likely to terminate UK involvement with the militarisation of the EU and thus undermine the Fine Gael/Labour commitment to even greater involvement with EU military structures on a “relatively permanent basis”.
In short, he could derail the war agenda of the Irish Government and leave real political space for political forces in Ireland to reflect the values of the 78 per cent of the Irish people that support neutrality (Red C poll, September 2013).
The effect in Northern Ireland of a Corbyn government would be unlikely to mean change. While membership of the British Labour party in Northern Ireland has increased from 350 to over 1,000, which could reflect an increase in support for Corbyn’s social democratic values, it is unlikely to change the core voting patterns in Northern Ireland or his support for the Belfast Agreement.
Of course, it is one thing to be elected leader of the British Labour party and another to become the British prime minister. The campaign by the Tories, New Labour and virtually the entire corporate media is not going to end. Their support for the doctrines of perpetual war and neo-liberalism is widely shared by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Ireland’s New Labour, so hostility to those in Ireland who share Corbyn’s commitment to democratic socialism would not go away either.
Finally, Corbyn, as chairman of the Stop the War Coalition and vice-president of British CND, visited Ireland about eight years ago to attend a Peace and Neutrality Alliance peace conference beside the Shannon Warport.
Next time he visits, he might do so, not just as the leader of the Labour party, but as prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Now, that would be a day when Irish eyes would be smiling. Roger Cole is chairman of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance