Following the final deadline to sign up as a member or supporter of the Labour Party in order to vote in the leadership election, the Labour Party has announced that 610,753 people are eligible to vote. Labour had roughly 200,000 members by election day in May, meaning that membership, which now stands at 300,000, has risen by 50% in just three months. Over that short period, 120,000 people have paid £3 to become registered supporters and 190,000 have signed up to vote through their trade union. By any measure, that is an extraordinary and spectacular rise in support.
But even the dogs on the street know what has, for the most part, been the stimulus and inspiration for this remarkable upsurge of support; the Jeremy Corbyn election campaign. The hundreds of thousands who will be voting for Corbyn come from a number of directions; young people, who have been involved in single issue campaigns or who have never been politically active before, but who have been inspired by someone who is transparently decent and straight forward saying that there is an alternative to continuing austerity, growing inequality ongoing subsidies to private landlords and low pay employers, trade unionists supporting a politician who is unequivocally on their side who wants to transform the current insecure low wage economy and create decent secure jobs, and life long socialists like me who were abandoned by the Blair ‘project’ and who have for years longed for the opportunity to be part of a mass popular party of the left which could be the natural home for socialists, feminists and environmentalists.
Almost two years ago, in November 2013, a new party, Left Unity, was established. It was set up because many of us on the left believed that the Labour Party, after twenty years of Blairism, was a hollowed out shell that could not be revived. Its objective was to help to establish a broad based socialist party free from the backward looking obsessions of the old far left sects. Its constitution laid down its aim:
to unite the diverse strands of radical and socialist politics in the UK including workers’ organisations and trade unions; ordinary people, grass root organisations and co-operatives rooted in our neighbourhoods and communities; individuals and communities facing poverty, discrimination and social oppression because of gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality, unemployment or under-employment; environmental and green campaigners; campaigners for freedom and democracy; all those who seek to authentically voice and represent the interests of ordinary working people.
The tsunami of support that the Corbyn campaign is being transformed into a grassroots movement – a movement that, to my astonishment, looks well positioned to transform the Labour Party into the democratic and inclusive socialist party that I believe is so desperately needed and which Left Unity was established to work for. But the spontaneous explosive growth of that movement renders the efforts of Left Unity redundant. In the face of hundreds of thousands of people backing the effective refoundation of the Labour Party, the existence of a separate little organisation of a couple of thousand aiming to do much the same thing becomes a little absurd. It is clear to me that the right place for socialists (of all varieties) is in this newly revived Labour Party.
I have therefore left Left Unity, signed up as an affiliated member of Labour and will be joining up as an individual member in the near future.