Jeremy Corbyn [Image: Harry Borden for The Guardian].

Jeremy Corbyn [Image: Harry Borden for The Guardian].

Wasn’t today’s (September 17) interview with Jeremy Corbyn in The Guardian a pleasant surprise? Instead of discussing some fake ‘hard-left’ bogeyman, we got a few facts about his policies and plans, and saw a few falsehoods dispelled.

Here, he discusses his policies and achievements so far:

Corbyn believes he has managed to shift the national conversation. “Don’t underestimate what’s happened in the past year,” he says. “I was elected in a very surprising set of circumstances, and we challenged fundamentally the economic agenda. Now [our] anti-austerity agenda is almost the norm. Everybody says, well, now you have to invest in the economy rather than cut. There’s been a fundamental change and we will continue in that direction.”

How does he plan to do that? “We’ll reach out and try to be as precise and campaigning as we can in policy areas,” he says. “Take housing policy. Building council housing, providing starter mortgages and regulating the private rented sector: that is something that has a lot of resonance beyond Labour voters. I will also be emphasising the contradictions in Theresa May, who stands on the steps of Downing Street like St Francis of Assisi, and then produces a higher education bill that further restricts access. Now she is proposing a British bill of rights which will repeal our human rights act.”

Corbyn has proposed investing £500bn in infrastructure and manufacturing, backed by a publicly owned national investment bank and regional banks. He wants to build at least half a million council houses, to introduce rent controls and a charter of private tenants’ rights.

These are all good points – although whether Theresa May’s government will give more than lip-service to promises of investment rather than cuts is debatable.

On housing, Mr Corbyn should have mentioned the elephant in the room: the Bedroom Tax. Council housing designed to accommodate tenants needs regarding the number of bedrooms would go a long way towards ending the hated charge, which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats opportunistically slapped onto the people who were least able to afford it.

Regulation of private landlords and starter mortgages to restore house sales will also help clear public rented dwellings of people who are paying too much for the roof over their heads, by order of the Tories.

It is also right that he should counter the contradictions created by the Conservatives. Theresa May and her cronies might consider themselves the ‘Party of Choice’, but reintroducing rejective education and scrapping the Human Rights Act for an arbitrary ‘Bill of Rights’ that allows people only such liberties as Conservative MPs want them to have is no choice at all for the vast majority.

Corbyn says he plans to take the lead on issues such as housing and education, with policies he thinks most of the party can rally around. But if he leads, will the party follow? “I’ll be saying, in a kindly way, ‘There is an awful lot we can campaign on together. If we do that, we’re going to be effective. If we don’t do that, we won’t.’”

But will that be enough? “If Labour party members and supporters re-elect me, that will be a second mandate in a year. Respect for the mandate is about respect for democracy itself.”

“I will put it to them that I’ve got a mandate, if I’m elected. I’ll put it to them that the mandate is about the policies I’m trying to put forward. Not every dot and comma and crossed T, or whatever. But it is the general direction of the economy and policy. And I’ll invite them to work with us. Whether they’re going to love me at the end of it? I think the love may be further away.”

The attitude of the Parliamentary Labour Party MPs who rebelled against Mr Corbyn and forced another leadership election – only to have him confirmed as the public’s choice even more emphatically, it seems – is a thorny issue.

Many Labour members have been bitterly disappointed by MPs’ refusal to accept Mr Corbyn’s mandate. Did those MPs actively try to sabotage Mr Corbyn’s leadership in the nine months leading up to the attempted ‘coup’ at the end of June?

The PLP’s vote of no confidence and subsequent leadership challenge, just as the Tories dusted themselves off and elected a new prime minister, have had an impact. In the most recent YouGov poll, Labour are 14 points behind. A poll last month put the new prime minister’s net favourability rating at +33.6 and Corbyn’s at -30.7.

Grassroots members feel betrayed by their behaviour and are already planning suitable punishments for transgressors. It is unlikely that Mr Corbyn will be able to do anything to prevent this.

Despite the PLP’s reluctance to support him, Mr Corbyn has won significant victories:

Labour has won all four of the byelections held since he was elected, upping its share of the vote in three and dipping by just 0.3% in the other. In mayoral elections, Labour has won Bristol and London, key cities it had previously lost; in local elections, it has outpolled the Tories and retained control of key bellwether towns such as Nuneaton and Stevenage. In a poll taken shortly before the EU referendum, Labour was even with the Tories.

In fact, Labour was equal only in weighted polls that do not take account of the influx of new, energised members who are willing to promote Mr Corbyn at the ballot box. The unweighted, raw results showed Labour in the leader – until the opponents within his own Parliamentary party stabbed him in the back and launched their abortive coup. It is easy to understand why there is so much antipathy to people like Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and leadership challenger Owen Smith.

Will the 170+ members of his own party who tried to depose him buckle down and start doing the job they were elected to do, after the anticipated landslide victory next week?

It’s hard to tell.

What seems certain is that Mr Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader is secure – and that it is the credibility of the party as a whole that has suffered as a result of the rebels’ antics.

Do they want Labour to stand a credible chance of victory at the next election?

If so, it seems their choice is clear.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn: ‘People say I should be tougher. But it’s not my style’ | Politics | The Guardian

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