You may disagree with him, but Jeremy Corbyn has a key role in Labour's leadership race

The idea that his views should disqualify him from standing is reprehensible

Simon Kelner
Thursday 18 June 2015 12:01
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On the day that we celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it was worth noting that one of the awkward things about a mature, functioning democracy is that you don’t always get the result that you wanted. Thus it was that, after getting a sufficient number of nominations from his fellow MPs, Jeremy Corbyn made it on to the final ballot to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn’s success in getting the requisite number of 35 nominations was seen – both by Labour’s opponents in the press and the Blairite wing of the party – as final evidence that this once-formidable political force has been brought to its knees. That’s because Mr Corbyn is – whisper it very softly – left-wing. Or, in the words of The Sun, he’s “a terrorist-loving firebrand”.

I have no brief for Mr Corbyn. Yet the idea that his so-called “radical” views should disqualify him from standing in the leadership election is reprehensible, anti-democratic hogwash. At this point, it’s worth reminding ourselves that Labour refers to itself as “Britain’s democratic socialist party”. How’s that for left-wing? This means that it is the party of the people. Not the party for people of the Bernie Ecclestone-loving, billionaire-appeasing, warmongering, six house-owning, power-for-its-own-sake persuasion, but the party of the disadvantaged and the oppressed.

I know that the era of radical politics is over, and I’ve probably got more of a chance of becoming Prime Minister than Mr Corbyn. But to say that he doesn’t have a role to play in the debate within the Labour Party following such a catastrophic election defeat is plain wrong.

All political parties are, in effect, coalitions, and they are most palatable to the electorate when a range of views are heard, debated and represented. That, I thought, was a fundament of party politics. So, of course, the left wing of the Labour Party – a not inconsiderable body of people – should have a presence in the forthcoming power struggle.

And then there’s the matter of Mr Corbyn himself. Here’s a few facts about the MP for Islington North. He opposes the renewal of Trident and is a long-time member of CND. He was arrested at the South African Embassy in 1984 for protesting against apartheid. He thinks the national minimum wage should be £10. He defied Ed Miliband by opposing further austerity measures. He says that rail franchises should be taken back into public ownership. He believes there is a value in opening a dialogue with terrorists, and invited Gerry Adams to the House of Commons in the 1980s. That’s what makes him “a terrorist-loving firebrand”.

We may not agree with him, but he’s a man of principle and conviction. Just the sort of man Labour needs, if you ask me, to stimulate a proper debate about the future of the party.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Jeremy Corbyn claimed £8.70 on expenses in 2010. This was clarified by Corbyn on 17 June, 2015. This amount was filed, but only due to an administrative error. According to Corbyn, a more typical claim by him would be “a few hundred quid each quarter”.

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