The election of Jeremy Corbyn is the most exciting event in British politics for decades.
Membership of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party has nearly quadrupled to 6,000 since the start of the Labour leadership election. Many members and supporters of the Green Party in the city are joining Labour because of the election of Jeremy Corbyn. In this personal commentary, John Medhurst (pictured left) - who has made the switch - highlights the significance of a seismic shift in politics, locally as well as nationally.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is the most exciting and transformative event in British politics for decades. Elected by an enormous majority of Labour members, his mandate to speak for Labour is clear.
Since he was elected, tens of thousands of new members have flooded in to the party. Already the sea change is obvious. John McDonnell, a brave and committed socialist who said in the Commons that he would “swim through vomit” to vote against welfare cuts, is shadow chancellor - and George Osborne finally has a fight on his hands.
Corbyn himself is quietly yet firmly signalling a change from the cringing conformity to the British state and its totems that often characterised Labour. His display of silent respect at the Battle of Britain ceremony - while refusing to sing an outdated monarchistic anthem that celebrates crushing “rebellious Scots” - set a fresher tone and style: unafraid of media moguls who speak for the rich and powerful, standing up for the marginalised and poorest in society, and offering the hope and vision of a kinder, more civilised Britain than one dominated by an Oxbridge elite, City bankers, and boorish TV presenters.
On Sunday (September 13), I attended a TUC fringe event at the Corn Exchange addressed by Green MP Caroline Lucas, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell, and ex-Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. It was a truly inspiring and uplifting evening and it seemed to prefigure the kind of mass-based, progressive alliance that is now emerging to challenge the Tories and their far-right policies.
The “Green Surge” of new members to the Green Party earlier this year was an influx of people looking for a real alternative to austerity and politics-as-usual, but sadly the party seemed to fumble the ball when confronted with an historic opportunity. Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for leader produced a similar surge - but a much larger one, far more significant and politically charged.
For some in the Greens, this has meant a difficult decision to leave the party and join Labour, even though some of the key figures in the local Labour Party have shown themselves to be out of touch with the majority of the party and its allies. I think that will change, one way or another.
The Green Party has a vital perspective on radical system change, one that Corbyn’s Labour must respect and learn from.
I wish my friends in the Greens well and hope that a transformed Labour and a radical Green Party can work together - in Brighton and nationally - to replace an elitist, out-of-control Tory government, change the political and electoral system, and take the country in a new direction.
John Medhurst, who is writing in a personal capacity, is a trade union official and the author of That Option No Longer Exists: Britain 1974-76 (Zero Books). He is delivering a presentation about the politics of Aneurin Bevan, Tony Benn, and Jeremy Corbyn at the Cafe Salvage, Western Road, at 7.30pm on Thursday, October 1.