Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership


Leadership means understanding your part in building a social movement, not believing you are the personification of one.

By Richard Burden

Originally published by HuffPost, July 24, 2017

Traitors, backstabbers, Red Tories, Blairite plotters … all of us who have called for a change in Labour Leadership have had these kinds of labels thrown at us in recent weeks. Often they come from keyboard warriors for whom the field of battle is Twitter and Facebook. A battle where victory is measured in numbers of likes and retweets; where everyone can assure themselves that they – and not those with whom they disagree – are at one with the views of “the people;” And where always, always you must insist on having the last word to prove the other person has no answer.

Real life though, is a bit more complicated than that. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has had his detractors from day one – including some whose sniping from the start has been as self-indulgent as it has been destructive. But take a look at what people like Lilian Greenwood, Lou Haigh, Paul Blomfield and Liz McInnes have been writing. These kinds of people are as far away from right-wing plots and conspiracies as you could get. And as for me being some kind of Blairite lackey, try telling that to Tony Blair himself. With my record on Iraq and a range of other things, I think he would be pinching himself to make sure he is not dreaming.

Anyone is entitled to disagree with what any of us is saying and, in the forthcoming Labour Leadership election, if you are an eligible member or supporter, your vote will be worth no more and no less than any of ours. But if you are also someone who threatens deselection or worse for any Labour MP who has spoken up over Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership, please remember this. We have spoken out not because we are part of some sinister conspiracy from which we can only be detached by dire warnings of the personal consequences we may face should we not do so. We have spoken out because we mean what we are saying.

Nevertheless these demands of total loyalty to the Leader have got me thinking about the nature of leadership. I am not alone in observing some ironic parallels between the demands we face today and those that sometimes came from the more extreme end of those who would tolerate no criticism of Tony Blair in the 1990s and 2000s. In both cases, the fact that the Leader had been elected by Party members meant that their supporters could legitimately claim a “democratic mandate” for the general political direction in which that leader wished to take the Party. But in both cases it has gone beyond that …

Read the full article here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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