Remember Jeremy Corbyn’s historic victory in the Labour leadership contest? The left – a marginalized unit within the party – were ecstatic. This was their chance to reclaim the party from the clutches of Blairism; and to reconnect with the working class, who had become increasingly alienated from Labour since Blair assumed power.
After this success, Labour began shifting back to its old roots, while modernizing in specific areas. For Corbyn, among others, were ministers in the party since the ‘Old Labour’ era. He had continued to uphold these principles, and clutched onto them dearly since. He was aware what many workers longed for originally: someone who would fights for their rights, represent them in parliament, and act as a bulwark against the Conservative Party.
Sadly for Labour, times change. Politics does advance forward, and parties need to adapt to modern issues. The workers now have new pressing concerns, which Labour doesn’t seem to address fully. Nearly every poll shows that mass immigration is the main concern among the British public; ahead of issues such as education, healthcare and housing.
The recent interview with BBC Journalist Laura Kuenssberg is likely still fresh on the reader’s mind. At a speech made by Mr Corbyn on the EU — Miss Kuenssberg was heckled by hard left supporters in the party for daring to ask a tough question to their beloved leader. The question she asked however deserves greater consideration:
‘For Labour voters, what do you think is more important? Defending workers’ rights or immigration and the impact on communities in this country?’
Such strong condemnation towards Miss Kuenssberg is unwarranted. In fact, it is a perfectly reasonable question, given that immigration is a prime concern among the public.
While not providing a clear answer in this particular instance, My Corbyn has already pledged to oppose any limits on immigration — potentially dangerous when around 75% of Britons want immigration reduced. He also said the debate on immigration has been ‘poisoned’.
Perhaps the latter remark has truth to it. Of course — mass immigration certainly isn’t the prime cause of Britain’s failings. Greater issues are at play, such as insufficient housing being built; lack of job availability, and draining of public services — ones which existed long before mass immigration into Britain. While these issues prevail however, adding a vast increase to population figures will cripple Britain further. Many workers see it this way too.
And yes many have voiced how they feel disillusioned with Corbyn. One supermarket worker from the South West of England tells me how he feels Corbyn is out of touch and not to be taken seriously – due to his lax stance on immigration. Additionally, others complain about how communities are being torn apart and divided — concerns which many Labour ministers and members will not only refuse to empathize with, but sneer at. This leads to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) sweeping up much of the working class vote, due to its tougher stance on mass immigration. These are, of course, the voters that need to be won over; the voters that could win elections.
It doesn’t help that the Labour Party is almost unanimously in favor of remaining in the EU; and not even debating the issue, when support for ‘brexit’ is disproportionately among the working class.
Instead of becoming representative of the working class — Labour is becoming another sect of ‘Momentum’ — and is personifying certain negative traits of the modern left. Traits that restrict it from connecting with the most vulnerable in society, at the expense of pushing its ‘progressive’ dogma. Workers are dismissed as being uneducated and racist, or simply disregarded, for holding views seen as incompatible with the modern left.
Does this mean Labour has truly ceased to represent the workers? Not necessarily. It still connects on certain issues — and its policies would otherwise benefit the workers. Yet to become more popular on a broad scale, Mr Corbyn should consider adopting a firmer stance on immigration; and at least offering more debate on the issue. Otherwise, workers will continue to feel sidelined by the party — making a reunification between the two sides that much more unlikely.