Jeremy Corbyn has just been pronounced leader of the Labour party. He won the leadership race with 251.417 votes (59.5%). His first speech as Labour leader following the announcement was perhaps one of the best political speeches I have heard in years – remember Obama in his early days?
He sounded confident, sober and reassuring, he was able to bring together passion and reason and restated his grounded agenda for change in a way that appeals to a wider audience well beyond narrow ideological confines. No insider talk, but rather a clear and straightforward call for the essential things that need to change in UK, in Europe and the rest of the world.
Unlike so many other left politicians who have been struggling lately to provide a humane and sensible response to the refugee crisis, Corbyn sensitively brought together the plight of refugees, the suffering caused by inequalities, poverty and climate change around the world, and the need to support those who are experiencing the harsh effects of austerity in the UK. You will struggle to find any other politician at the moment in Europe who can do all this, and sound sincere.
It is also clear that Blair’s New Labour agenda, as far as Corbyn is concerned, is a thing of the past. He is calling for Labour to strongly oppose the wholesale attack by Cameron and the Tories on workers and the welfare state – including opposing the upcoming parliamentary vote for the Trade Union Rights Bill. There is no ambiguity there.
Perhaps most strikingly, Corbyn did not play the card of ‘innovation’ in the way many younger movements like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have been doing. In welcoming new Labour members, he also remarked that this is an occasion for all those who believe in Labour values but lost hope in the last years to come back to the party and make sure that it sticks to its core values. His message was one of hope and change building on healthy strong principles which have a long history. Fighting for democracy, justice, equality and humanity are not ‘new’ things. Perhaps what Corbyn is teaching us is a return to the core values of a broad-based left vision that doesn’t require much ‘innovation’ to work, but rather needs to go back to the common sense of its founding principles.