By Omar Raii – UCL Department of Mathematics
In May of this year, the Tories managed to gain an overall majority in the general election and got ready to continue in power for five more years, with plans of implementing even more devastating cuts to public services and an unrelenting austerity agenda.
Imagine if someone had said at the time that a few months later, the Labour party would be led by the vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a man who had voted against the previous Labour government hundreds of times. Imagine if someone had said that this man would have as his Shadow Chancellor someone who described one of his hobbies as “generally fomenting the overthrow of capitalism”. It would probably have sounded somewhat surprising.
But that is of course exactly what has happened.
After over a hundred thousand people joined the Labour Party, as well as many registering as supporters, Jeremy Corbyn, initially quite the outsider with some bookies offering odds of 100-1 for his winning, was elected by a landslide on a mandate to oppose austerity and change the direction that Labour had been going down for many years.
Corbyn has chosen as his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, someone who has not only had a track record of opposing Tory attacks on working people, but who also has supported student protests in the past. This included visiting student occupations at UCL in 2010 and 2012 to show his solidarity!
There has been a somewhat refreshing renaissance within the Labour Party and in its relation to the government it was always meant to oppose. After a majority of Labour MPs shamefully abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill, we are now in a position where every single Labour MP voted against the Tories’ ultra-restrictive Trade Union Bill and the party is now
promising to support strikes in future. The new Labour leader’s anti-austerity politics carried over also into education and debt, where he promised to end tuition fees, leading him to be very popular with student voters and being officially supported by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
With the current Tory government planning on ending maintenance grants and furthering marketisation of education with the “Teaching Excellence Framework”, this has come as encouraging news.
But this honeymoon period can’t last forever. On September 20, various youth and student groups as well as individual Labour party members that had been supportive of the campaign to get Corbyn elected came together to set up a new organisation, Labour Young Socialists, in order to build on the momentum from the campaign and to further socialist ideas and democracy within Young Labour and Labour Students as well as the wider party.
If you’re a Labour member, get involved with Labour Young Socialists as well as your local Constituency Labour Party and fight for the socialist policies that Labour desperately needs.