Amidst rumours that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is considering launching a new political party, based on his Peace and Justice Project, Resist has welcomed the move.
Resist Founder Chris Williamson told Critical Mass: “Resist would welcome the move. We have never said that Resist should be the only alternative vehicle to the Labour Party.”
The idea surfaced in the Telegraph and immediately caused a frisson of excitement on social media as Corbynites found themselves hearing what they had dreamed of since the election defeat in 2019.
A PJP Party would bomb
Paul Mason, former left winger writing in the New Statesman, said: “A PJP party would bomb electorally but it might provide a home for tens of thousands of activists fed up with Keir Starmer. Launching it now, however, with Corbyn and his closest collaborators as the organisational hub, would be a very bad idea.”
It would undoubtedly be a massive gamble. There is no doubt that, whilst Corbyn remains incredibly popular on the left, he is also absolutely loathed on the right. That means that, should he threaten the very existence of the Labour Party, they will use the media, as they did when he was leader, to conduct a vicious smear campaign.
For some there is a worry that there are just too many socialist parties emerging and they question the need for yet another one. Twitter user Sam Bell said: “I think there’s enough offshoots of socialist movements to coalesce around a leadership team with the depth of experience to take a New Democratic Socialist Party forward to the next GE. If that’s viable then the membership should choose the Leader.”
100% commitment to the new party
However, this feeling is not shared by many among Corbyn’s considerable army of followers. Chelley Ryan tweeted that she would commit herself 100% to the new party should it happen. And her tweet was retweeted over 1,800 times and had over 3,000 likes at the time of writing. Paul Green, a Labour member, tweeted, “I’m a member of the Labour Party, but, if Jeremy Corbyn starts a new party, I will immediately cancel my Labour membership and join the new party that Jeremy starts.”
Writing in the Morning Star Chelley made the case succinctly:
“This revolving door of not much changing can only be challenged by a new party and that new party has to be headed by Jeremy Corbyn. Why Jeremy? Because he is the most unifying figure the left have. Because he’s the most inspiring political figure for generations. Because he has the political weight and credibility to light that spark.”Chelley Ryan
Many of the comments below Chelley’s original tweet were supportive of the idea but a good number suggested that such a move, especially under first past the post, would simply split the Labour vote and hand the Tories another term in office.
A lot of the excitement is centred on Jeremy Corbyn himself, and the comments suggest that it was about time we had a left alternative to Labour. But those comments ignore the fact that three ex-Labour MPs – Dave Nellist, Chris Williamson and George Galloway – are involved in the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. This is a genuine alliance of left groups which includes trade unions, Resist, the Socialist Party, the Northern Independence Party, and the Breakaway Party. It has a radical manifesto including nationalisation of key parts of the economy, workers’ rights and protection for the NHS.
As Chris Williamson makes clear, Resist, which forms part of the Steering Group of TUSC, are open to this new party. Rather than saying everybody should join them, he told Critical Mass that such a party “..would be very helpful to efforts being made to build an alternative to the Labour Party.”
Just a rumour
There is a strong possibility that this rumour turns out to be nothing more than that. Jeremy is a Labour stalwart and he is unlikely to stand against the party he has devoted his life to. But, were he to do so, there is little doubt his name would be sufficient to draw in a considerable number of people who are currently still licking their wounds from the last General Election.
Potentially a party led by Jeremy could reignite the electoral wing of the socialist movement in the U.K. There is no doubt that, since the Miners’ Strike and the Poll Tax campaign, the left have spent as much time arguing amongst themselves as uniting. Corbyn managed to create a sense of unity in 2016-2019. In 2022, with the planet close to environmental catastrophe, the pandemic being allowed to ravage our communities and the world on the verge of economic collapse, we need a strong movement like never before.
For all the work done by TUSC and Resist, they are still relatively small in terms of national politics. Jeremy could be the figurehead they need to bring them the publicity they need. As Chris Williamson told Critical Mass: “I would hope and expect that a new party led by Jeremy would collaborate with Resist, TUSC and the Workers Party et al.”
Mass movements need a spark
If Jeremy does not launch a new party, and let’s be clear he has neither confirmed nor denied his intention to do so, what the rumour has confirmed is that the left in the U.K. needs to work together. TUSC have held that flame aloft for a number of years, were fully supportive of the Corbyn project whilst he was leader of the Labour Party and would welcome the support of all those who believed in Labour’s manifesto at the last and 2017 General Elections.
Mass movements need a spark to ignite them. Jeremy could certainly provide that spark but, if he doesn’t, then we need to start striking rocks together ourselves, because right now the problems of the world are far greater and more desperate than they have been at any time in our history.
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.