I wanted to write and tell you why I believe Jeremy Corbyn should be the next leader of the Labour Party. After the General Election, the Labour Party has seemed to shift towards the right. Tackling issues such as tax avoidance, food banks and zero-hour contracts are no longer issues that dominate the interests of the party. The Labour Party was founded as the political wing of organised labour to represent workers and promote social justice. Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader committed to these principles, who believes in a fairer and more equal society where work pays, and aspiration is not defined as a middle-class value.
Thanks for your email. The current Labour leadership contest is pretty interesting in the context of British politics as a whole. I understand your point. One of the criticisms of Labour is that it is increasingly shifting with the prevailing wind to the right of politics, as opposed to standing up for those fundamental principles the party was founded upon, and arguing the case for them.
Corbyn is of course ‘old school’ Labour. I believe the main reason for his rise in the leadership discussion is that he seems to be an honest, genuine person, and not the typical, manufactured, ‘plastic’ politician that we have all become accustomed to. With him, what you see is what you get. I wish more politicians would be as transparent as he appears.
Part of me thinks he would be a good leader of the party, as he would actively challenge the Government and provide an alternative narrative, which is healthy for democracy. The other candidates just seem so weak and incapable of challenging them. However, part of me also has doubts. Would I really want Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister? Whilst there is an appeal with some of the things he says, I can’t help but feel that he’d fail miserably in trying to implement many of his proposed policies. Take free university education as an example. Free university education sounds brilliant on paper. But how would you implement that? Where would the money come from? Let’s not forget that tuition fees allow universities to undertake cutting edge research, which comes at a cost, and is vital in order to remain internationally competitive. I am yet to hear Corbyn provide a cogent argument for how we would do this.
I’m glad you agree Jeremy Corbyn is healthy for democracy. People’s voices are being heard and in an age where politicians seem too disconnected and cold, there is something genuinely warm and human about Corbyn that has energised the entire leadership contest.
Corbyn has argued that education is a human right that all should be entitled to. He has announced that funding the abolition of tuition fees will cost around £10bn. This would be managed either by slowing the pace of deficit reduction, or slightly raising the corporation tax (we have one of the lowest corporate tax levels in the world) thereby injecting some fairness and equality into our society. It is worth remembering that we lose around £25bn a year to tax avoidance (although this is actually a conservative estimate) while recently it was revealed that the taxpayer props up businesses with £93bn a year. So it’s quite clear that if we tackle the corporate influence over our governments, we will find there is money there to provide for free education.
The figures Corbyn quotes seem very crude, and that is what concerns me. Slowing the pace of deficit reduction? Most Britons are concerned about this deficit that we have, and Corbyn as of yet hasn’t articulated a clear strategy as to how he would reduce this. Raising money through corporation tax is also interesting; yes, we have low levels of corporation tax, but that’s what attracts big businesses to trade in the UK, and that creates jobs for people like you and me. I worry that under a Corbyn government, he would clamp down so hard on businesses that they would eventually relocate, resulting in higher unemployment and more people being reliant on the state for support. Surely it’s in everyone’s interest to have as few people relying on the state for handouts? I would also like to hear more about how Corbyn would strike the balance between getting big businesses to pay up, whilst leaving incentives for them to remain and even expand operations in the UK.
But what you and I both agree upon is that funding free university education would be a massive financial undertaking. How would we achieve that, alongside all the other financial burdens that we have, such as keeping the NHS afloat in increasingly demanding times as a healthcare system free at the point of access? If Corbyn wishes to convert the ‘Corbynmania’ we are seeing now into something more tangible, he needs to gain credibility from the masses, and he can only do that by cogently showing where the money for his policies will come from. I don’t think he has done that yet, which is why many in his party remain unconvinced.
I feel many Muslims would welcome the fact that Corbyn would probably take the issues of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred more seriously than the current Government, and signs suggest he is more likely to engage with the Muslim community on these issues. However, we are yet to hear his views on an alternative counter-radicalisation strategy. Has he thought of one? Does he even think we need one?
I think the most commendable thing from Corbyn’s campaign is how he has garnered the support of younger people in society. Many of his policies have struck a chord in their hearts which is why they seem to be flocking towards him, as they have been continually ignored by mainstream politics in recent history. If Corbyn were to become Labour leader, it would send a clear message to other political parties that the younger generation have a powerful political voice. This would prompt them to take the views of younger people more seriously, as their active involvement could have the potential to change the political landscape in Britain.
Raising corporation tax only slightly, as he put it, will not turn away large businesses. Nor will raising the top-rate tax back to 50% (hardly a left-wing figure either). In addition, Corbyn has already suggested that he will clamp down fiercely on tax avoidance and corporate welfare; this is a matter of fairness, in not serving corporations but extending opportunity to all. Most people are actually hugely supportive of Britain taking a strong fist approach towards businesses. In regards to finding a balance between getting big businesses to pay up and leaving incentives, should Corbyn become leader and exact his policies, then Britain will see long-term growth through huge public investment which will create a prosperous consumer society. Surely big businesses can see the benefits in contributing their fair share to create that society? The current economic plan is creating a society so disastrously unequal that soon we will reach a point where millions in a consumer society cannot actually consume because they are too poor to spend.
In regards to funding free education, building up the tax revenue by raising top-rate tax, corporation tax and clamping down on tax avoidance would contribute. Similarly, raising the minimum wage to a living wage would boost tax revenue by ensuring millions are earning enough to pay tax. This was actually one of the crucial reasons as to why the Tories have failed miserably in cutting the deficit. By attacking public services and enriching the richest only, they have created a society where wealth is so unevenly concentrated amongst the wealthy few who are desperate to keep hold of that wealth rather than help the country. We cannot underestimate how much easier it would be to fund public services once we stop subsidising corporations, be it through tax credits, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts, money loaned to private healthcare companies for NHS contracts or rescuing the failing railway companies. At the moment, when the government says there is no money to spend they are right: it’s because we’ve given all of it to the big cats.
In regards to Corbyn’s stance on Muslims; the crucial thing is he will end the atmosphere of hostility and persecution faced by Muslims. At the moment, as a minority community, Muslims feel increasingly besieged. Corbyn has correctly identified that a crucial step to halting radicalisation somewhat is by radically changing our foreign policy plan. Young British Muslims, vulnerable to radical ideas because of their anger, feel a massive sense of injustice at what happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine and Syria. These are not always religiously literate Muslims, but rather politically motivated individuals who build a sense of solidarity and comradeship with their Muslim brethren in the Middle-East. Why does this happen? Islamophobia plays its part. Muslims in the UK are in an identity crisis, feeling alienated and hopeless, constantly being pounded on the ropes by the media. For many young Muslims, they see Muslims suffering in Iraq and other places and believe that Islam all around is under attack. When they see Muslims being persecuted in UK and killed abroad, and the British government involved in some way, it feeds into the “us against them” narrative spouted by Muslim extremists who provide these young, vulnerable individuals with a sense of identity and acceptance in society that we could never provide.
Corbyn I believe understands these things. His fight for social justice is so we can all have a stake in this society, and that includes young Muslims.
I am yet to be convinced that Corbyn has it within him to foster a meaningful relationship with big businesses. I also disagree that most people are supportive of taking a strong fist against business. Yes, many of us are concerned about the numerous loopholes many businesses use to avoid paying their taxes, and I do believe it is important to address this issue. But most of us also realise the important role businesses play in our society. I’m not sure taking a strong fist against the private sector is the answer to addressing the very real problem of inequality that we face.
Also I think some of the language you have used against the rich within society is on the opposite end of spectrum of certain bigoted individuals in the higher echelons of society who speak in a derogatory manner about the poor. Let’s not forget that the rich amongst us pay a significant chunk of the tax bill already, and their contribution in keeping our public services in working order is too often ignored. Your tone in which you seem to be despising the rich, and stereotyping them to be greedy individuals who avoid paying tax is just as bad as those who look down upon the poorest in our society as lazy benefit scroungers. There are bad people in all spheres of society, and they must equally be addressed. In fact, it is this same tone from a number of Corbyn supporters that many people find concerning.
I agree with Corbyn that we must learn the lessons from our recent past in dictating our foreign policy. I think he raises some particularly prudent points about IS on addressing the fundamental issue of their arms supply, and the income they generate from oil. However, I am not convinced that merely addressing foreign policy will somehow make the problem of radicalisation miraculously disappear from Britain. It’s much more complicated than that. I also agree that many facets of British society are going through a process of re-calibrating their identity (the Scots are a good example), and that Muslims in Britain are going through a similar process. Whilst I agree it is important for us to have compassion and continue to raise awareness about the injustices that people face all over the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, I believe the focus of our concerns need to be for the troubles of the weakest and most vulnerable in our immediate vicinity. It is interesting that whilst many people agree that something like zakat should be given locally, as we are supposed to ensure the needs of those amongst us are the ultimate priority before looking further afield, this sentiment doesn’t translate into the rest of our activism. This requires us to be more invested in wider society, and if Corbyn (or any other Government) was to help facilitate this process by working with Muslims, I believe it would go a long way in addressing many of the problems faced in the British Muslim community.
I think it has been very insightful to get your views, a young British Muslim, on this issue, and it will be interesting to see how events unfold in the next few months
Wasalaamu Alakum Wararhmatullahi Wa Barakatuh