We Need Statesmanship AUDIO

Here is our audio submission for Ben Chambers’ Sixteen Million Rising August broadcast. The text of the audio is as follows:

Britain is stumbling into negotiating its future relationship with Europe with no clear vision of the outcome that our people now want, still less a strategy for getting there.

This is the most critical moment in Britain’s post-war history: the agreement reached will impact deeply on the lives of all young people.

The course that May and her unruly team have followed on Brexit over the last year has already greatly harmed British society, our currency, our economy and respect for our country.

Right now, Britain badly needs statesmanlike leadership –  an individual or a group of committed people who can stand above the current divisions and earn the respect of citizens of all ages and diverse political affiliations for bringing wisdom and common sense to bear on this chaotic and perilous situation. We must throw our weight behind those who can inspire us to respond positively to the great contemporary challenges posed by the fast-moving processes of globalisation and by rapid advances in technology and communications. We need politicians who understand that, if our children and grand-children are to live well and in peace, Britain, whatever its past greatness, cannot afford to isolate itself but must be fully engaged in shaping the future at home and abroad.

Apart from heading much the largest opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn has good credentials to become the senior statesman who can offer leadership to all who are deeply dismayed by the harm caused by the machinations of the present government but don’t know how to stop it. In the recent election, he has emerged as a surprisingly charismatic leader who has drawn droves of young and well-educated people to vote Labour, while still retaining his party faithful. All through his political career, he has shown a deep sense of social justice and fairness, standing up for those who are left behind. Though lambasted by his critics for contacting Palestinian and IRA leaders, he values peace highly and knows that this can only come through promoting genuine dialogue between conflicting sides and building mutual trust. In spite of his enigmatic stance over our future relationship with the EU, he sees that it must be determined not through confrontational bargaining but through engaging in a constructive and open dialogue.

The idea that Jeremy Corbyn could emerge as a respected senior statesman is, of course, merely wishful thinking unless he can quickly build a sufficient parliamentary majority to secure amendments to the Repeal Bill and trigger yet another general election. This would require engaging all opposition parties and some dissident Conservative MPs, showing open-ness to their priorities.

In the event of an election, Labour is unlikely to win an outright parliamentary majority. This means that Corbyn would have to nurture, from today, the emergence of a progressive alliance to oust the Tories. He would have to launch a fresh, highly personal, manifesto offering visionary and genuinely inclusive leadership that would bring pragmatism into the Brexit process, define a well-funded set of socially responsible domestic policies, and respond to the widely felt need for lowering tensions. He would have to temper the concerns of many older voters over his own more radical ideas, convince still more young people that he can respond to their aspirations, and yet keep most of Labour’s left wing on board.

The biggest obstacle facing Corbyn is his own instinct to get drawn into Labour party scraps and to dragoon its MPs into line with his own views.   If he is to emerge as a true statesman, rather than merely the leader of a single party, he must learn to see diverse views not as “splits” that threaten his authority but to value pluralism as a source of strength within and beyond his own party. To expand support from young voters, he must reflect their hopes as he clarifies his position on Europe.

The parliamentary recess provides the ideal opportunity for Corbyn to connect with these diverse groups, quietly building his credibility as the only person who can stop the government from driving our country recklessly down a dead-end road.

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