By Ian Hodson, National President, BFAWU.
Politics is a savage game, and the personal abuse dished out by the mainstream media against Jeremy Corbyn since he was elected Labour leader back in 2015 was more relentless and more brutal than anything I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
Somehow, a man who had spent the majority of his political life being an advocate for peace, was labelled as a ‘terrorist sympathiser’, a Czech spy and a threat to national security.
A man who had a record of having stood against all forms of prejudice and bigotry while others had looked the other way, was targeted as a racist. If that wasn’t enough, key domestic policies relating to public services, industry, workers rights, wages and welfare, many of which were already commonplace in several other successful countries around the world were viewed as Marxist, radical, or ‘hard-left’.
The media never let off from day one, even going as far as to criticise what clothes he wore, what bicycles he rode and how low he bowed at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.
Yet despite all the vitriol, Jeremy Corbyn continued to do his duty; to give a voice to the voiceless, call the government to account and to raise the issues that politicians of all parties had simply wanted to ignore; be it austerity-linked death, the growth of inequality, anti-Trade Union legislation and a dangerous foreign policy.
He dragged Labour back to its roots, increased its membership and found a strong audience with Trade Unions, traditional Labour supporters and young voters, all of whom nearly got him over the line in the 2017 general election, when despite agent provocateur Labour MPs doing everything they could to derail him via ill-judged attempted coups and endless media appearances designed to discredit him, his anti-austerity and ‘people first’ platform cut through and forced a shock, hung parliament, which would ultimately spell the end for Theresa May’s leadership.
Our Union, the BFAWU was the first out of the blocks to nominate Jeremy Corbyn back in 2015 and we are proud of that. Politics had never been so dis-engaged from the working class and the relationship between the Trade Union Movement and the Labour Party had never been so low.
Jeremy Corbyn was different; he stood on our picket lines, spoke to us about our lives, took time to understand our issues and as an MP, he stood up for his community time and again. I’ve met many politicians who have come to our conferences and events, spoken to our members, made great speeches and done Q and As, only to leave their writing pads behind, not bothering to ask for them back.
Corbyn didn’t do that; when he took notes, he did so for his own reference and because he was taking what was being said to him very seriously. If he said he was going to support you, he did just that.
Eventually, Corbyn’s Labour was undone by Brexit; ironic, seeing as the European Union was always the Conservative Party’s Achilles heel. For whatever reason, Labour abandoned the approach of 2017 and became embedded in second referendums and fringe issues, while unveiling new policies by the day that just didn’t seem to click with people.
The Labour heartlands felt betrayed on Brexit and were determined to give the party a bloody nose, which they did to devastating effect in the 2019 general election.
Despite this failure, there’s one thing that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell did achieve, and that’s destroying the myths surrounding austerity. Thanks to them, I don’t think there’s anyone who now believes that austerity was necessary or who sees it as a successful economic model.
We now appear to have a Tory government recognising that the only way to ensure we can flourish as a nation is by investing, even going as far as to borrow a number of Labour policies. This could well end up being their legacy.
We are very grateful to Jeremy for the support he has given our members, be it on the picket line or through media platforms. Jeremy Corbyn took onboard our concerns and turned them into policy commitments.
From ending insecurity in the workplace, the abolition of zero hours contracts and ending inequality, to the scrapping of age-related pay and raising the minimum wage to £10 per hour, he backed us all the way.
When Jeremy steps down from the leadership, we know he will continue to fight for our members, fight for those without a voice, stand up for communities, oppose racism and campaign for peace.
The BFAWU wishes Jeremy all the very best for the future. Thanks also to Laura and the Corbyn family, who have endured so much pressure due to the UK media.
Jeremy Corbyn gave us a chance to elect the type of politician we all say we want in high office; an honest, decent person who represents the many and not the few.More Articles by Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union ...