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How Jeremy Corbyn can secure a great result for Labour in 2020

Centrist and moderate commentators think Corbyn will doom Labour, but they're wrong, says Tim Grayson.

I’m tired of reading articles from moderate, centrist and right-wing political commentators on how a Corbyn victory would signal the end of the Labour Party, kill off the Green Party and fragment the left (or words to that effect), so I thought I'd explain why I think they’re wrong, how I see a Corbyn victory as being a great, unifying result for a progressive Labour Party, the Greens and many other parties on the left, and how I think he could lead the party to victory in 2020.

I want to first clarify what I mean by ‘great result’, as results in politics are such subjective things. If Corbyn wins, left-leaning parties like the Greens will likely see a significant drop in votes and membership numbers, while Labour will likely see a surge. However, what many commentators don’t seem to understand is that people on the left/liberal side of the political spectrum care more about enacting positive change than party colours. It’s important to point out here that since the start of Corbyn’s campaign, the left (people and parties alike) have started to unite under a common cause, and this hasn’t happened for a generation. If he wins, the issues we hold close to our hearts will finally be thrust into the limelight and debated seriously in parliament. That’s the best result the left-leaning Labour voters, Greens and other left-wing parties could hope for, and I’m sure many with democratic socialist beliefs will either join Labour or start to form progressive inter-party alliances to help be a part of this change.

Historically, however, political parties have been unlikely to win without the support of centrists and moderates, but I believe the centre ground has been muddied with self-serving career politicians which have made ordinary people feel powerless and disenfranchised for so long that public apathy and weariness has crept in. I think this is why a third of those registered to vote didn’t even bother in the last election. It’s important to point out that the 'centre ground’ has also shifted further and further to the right under decades of a prevailing Tory narrative (perpetuated by the Lib Dems and New Labour), which I also believe is leaving a lot of people feeling cold. If the pre-general election leadership debates taught me anything, it’s that people want something they can vote for.

The Conservative party understands this better than any other large party, and this is why they did so well in the last election. They packaged themselves as the party for “aspirational” working people, which got them the votes from poor people who don’t want to be [or think of themselves as] poor, middle-earners who want to earn more and rich people who want to get richer. It’s good PR, pure and simple, and while I can’t stomach the Conservatives’ policies, at least I know where I stand with them.

In the last election I thought that Labour, in contrast, felt as if it was unsure of what it actually was trying to achieve (apart from wanting to oust the Tories). It felt as if the party was trying to be a 'Jack of all trades’ to try and win the support of both left and right-leaning moderates without the heart or policies to back it up. It all felt a little desperate, to be frank.

With Corbyn, on the other hand, people actually know what they’re voting for: a principled politician who speaks up for what he genuinely believes will be best for ordinary, vulnerable and excluded people. This is why I don’t think the 2020 election will be won in Blairite fashion by appealing to the already-voting centre ground, but instead by inspiring the third of registered voters who didn’t vote to get to the polling booths, as well as inspiring the many more who didn’t register to vote to actually sign up in the first place. That is the real challenge, and out of all the leadership contenders, only Corbyn has demonstrably shown he has the ability to inspire such loyalty.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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