Corbyn determined to fight rebels
The leader of the opposition Labour Party in the UK Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn became the first official victim of the UK voting for Brexit. He lost a no-confidence vote among Labour MPs. The party’s Parliamentarians voted 172 to 40 against Corbyn’s leadership in a secret ballot on Tuesday afternoon. There were four spoilt ballots in the contest, while 13 MPs did not vote.
No doubt Corbyn lost the no confidence, but he is yet to lose the trust of the people who voted him as the leader of the Labour party. Obviously, Corbyn responded to the vote by saying he would not resign, suggesting to do so would be a "betrayal" of the members who elected him by a landslide last year.
“I was the democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy,” he said. For Corbyn, it was more than the compulsion of nationalism or simply catering to the needs of the Britain’s middle class.
In fact, it was the Marxist pragmatism that forced the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to stand in favour of the UK continuing to stay within the European Union.
Corbyn has been a known bitter critic of EU. On a number of occasions, he rebuked the conglomerate for their lack of democratic functioning and trying to impose the will of the EU on Britons. But this time, he threw his weight behind the Remain. The reason is he had perceived that there could be “bonfire” of workers’ rights if the UK votes to leave the EU in June.
He had foreseen that the Conservatives would "dump" equal pay, annual leave and maternity pay rights. Corbyn held the belief that not "too many people" had come to the UK from inside the EU.
Corbyn stood by his past criticisms of the EU but said Britain had to remain in to fight for social reform. He set out an alternative, "socialist" vision for Britain in Europe. Over the years he has been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and remain critical of its shortcomings; from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.
He called for an EU minimum wage to prevent "unscrupulous" employers from undercutting wages and said: "Just imagine what the Tories would do to workers' rights here in Britain if we voted to leave the EU in June. They would dump rights on equal pay, working time, annual leave, for agency workers, and on maternity pay as fast as they could get away with it.
It would be a bonfire of rights that Labour governments secured within the EU.” He was confident that in the 2020 parliamentary elections the Labour Party would come to power and once in office it would protect the interest of the working class.
For Jeremy, the issue of people migrating to work across the continent was not an alarming situation. But there has to be a level playing field on pay and conditions, he argued. What EU and UK today have is unscrupulous employers doing that. True enough a Labour government would have done more at an EU level to save the British steel industry by backing European Commission proposals to impose import tariffs on Chinese steel imports.
Corbyn backed EU action on tax avoidance, accusing the Leave campaign of wanting to make Britain "the safe haven of choice for the ill-gotten gains of every dodgy oligarch, dictator or Rogue Corporation". He was absolutely clear that Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with UK allies in the EU.
He held “It's perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member." Corbyn argued that there was "a strong socialist case for staying in the European Union, just as there is also a powerful socialist case for reform and progressive change in Europe".
Corbyn's stance on immigration made him an "outlier" within his own party when other senior figures advocated for the need for tighter controls. They even alleged that Corbyn had no understanding of how "uncontrolled" mass immigration from the EU had "crushed the aspirations of so many of our people".
It is worth mentioning that he had voted against EU in 1975 referendum. But this time the Labour Party and trade unions had "overwhelmingly" decided to back EU membership "and that's the party I lead and that's the position I am putting forward".
“You cannot build a better world unless you engage with the world, build allies and deliver change. The EU, warts and all, has proved itself to be a crucial international framework to do that,” he said.
The real question for the Corbyn-era Labour movement is whether it can adapt to new times where the working class is no longer seen as the engine of social change. The challenge is tough before Corbyn.
The possibilities could not be ruled out that the current power struggle over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership may split the Labour party. If Corbyn remains in control of the party, many MPs will probably consider forming some new type of internal Labour grouping.
Anyone wishing to challenge Corbyn needs the backing of 20 percent of Labour MPs and MEPs. Currently, there are 229 Labour MPs and 20 Labour MEPs so any potential candidate needs the formal support of 50 of them.
Corbyn has sought to bring the battle to the forum of Labour Party members who overwhelmingly support him The challenge is very tough but Corbyn is determined to fight against the MPs on the basis of his grassroots support base.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)