The leader of the Labour Party in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, is facing a bitter leadership election, despite being in the job less than 12 months.
Corbyn – a veteran backbench MP – became leader in a landslide victory following Labour’s defeat in the 2015 General Election.
Many party members see Corbyn as representing a return to Labour’s core values. Others, including many fellow MPs, have denounced him as unelectable and too left-wing for the general electorate.
At the end of June, the majority of Shadow Cabinet resigned in protest at Corbyn’s leadership. Although this was a damaging blow to his authority, at the same time, membership of the Labour party has grown sharply in recent weeks – with many of those joining thought to be Corbyn supporters.
He’s now locked in a leadership election battle with the former work and pensions spokesman, Owen Smith, MP.
We asked four LGBTI Labour Party members – two supporting Smith and two supporting Corbyn – to explain some of the reasons behind their decision.
Emily Brothers: ‘Winning power with Owen is what will change people’s lives’
Owen Smith is best placed to deliver for LGBT people because he has the ability and credibility to lead Labour back to Government. With broader public support, Labour will better advance rights and opportunities for LGBT people under Owen’s leadership.
I’m not going to pretend that Owen is the most liberated guy in town. Perhaps he’s too ‘normal’, whatever that means.
Some improvement in Owen’s awareness and confidence around LGBT issues may be needed, but a task in progress is better than Jeremy’s forlorn protests. Winning power with Owen is what will change people’s lives.
As a democratic socialist and pragmatic politician, I want Labour to secure power with a purpose. Tackling inequality is critical in that endeavor. Owen has signaled this mission by calling for Labour’s Constitution to be updated, with equality at the core of what Labour delivers. Jeremy is himself very fond of speaking about values, but Owen proposes walking the talk by underpinning what Labour believes in a more tangible way.
Being gay or having trans experience is central to our identity, yet there is so much more that we want to achieve, build and change.
Heading for 22% by 2020 with Jeremy isn’t going to deliver a prosperous economy, broker trade deals within new European dynamics, generate jobs and better education opportunities, build more houses and safeguard public services for LGBT people.
Holding power for the common good enables Labour to deliver on these things and with Owen that will be accomplished for LGBT people.
Emily Brothers, Former Labour Parliamentary Candidate and former London Assembly Candidate @EBrothersLabour
Fred Mann: ‘I have seen both a return to and an extension of core Labour values – despite the seemingly endless smear campaigns against him’
Like many people who grew up with the Labour movement, when Tony Blair was elected after years of Tory control I felt relief.
But Blair, seduced by the Westminster elite, big business and the international stage, transformed into what was my worst nightmare and dashed my feelings of hope.
I left the party after the invasion of Iraq and could not align myself politically to a man more right wing than John Major and whom Thatcher stated was her greatest achievement.
Since I re-joined and Corbyn was elected by a landslide victory as leader of the party, I have seen both a return to and an extension of core Labour values – despite the seemingly endless smear campaigns against him.
Elected on a clear anti-austerity and anti war mandate, he has opposed the bombing of Syria, the Welfare Act that has forced so many into poverty and has been the true and unsung champion of the NHS. Despite a constant barrage of negative and biased press, an attempted coup from within his own cabinet and endless, unfounded claims of anti-Semitism, he has been effective.
We now have a leadership contest at exactly the time when Labour should be attacking the Tories, following the resignation of David Cameron, the terrible referendum on Europe and the mess they have made of the economy.
Instead, The Labour PLP has tried to oust Corbyn. But always look to the voting history of any candidate: Smith doesn’t stand a chance; and Eagle not a hope in hell.
Fred Mann, owner of New Art Projects gallery in East London @newartprojects
Philip Normal: ‘This country needs a Labour government again, and Corbyn cannot deliver this’
Do I think Corbyn could win a General Election? No, it would be carnage. Labour Party membership has risen to record levels, however it is a misconception that we are more influential as a result.
Corbyn has good voting records on gay rights, however this is probably the only positive comment I have to say right now. I am still waiting for his views on PrEP: there has been silence, when we have an opportunity to create a generation free from HIV in this country.
During the leadership elections, I left JC off my ballot paper for a number of reasons. One of them is his desire to have the NHS fund homeopathic treatments. While people should have every right to indulge themselves in this sugar pill quackery, the idea this should be funded by the NHS alongside evidence-based, peer-reviewed medicine is a dangerously absurd idea.
This and the silence on PrEP leads me distrust Jeremy with the NHS.
This country needs a Labour government again, and Corbyn cannot deliver this. Being a Prime Minister involves working in a team. When your team do not have confidence in you, you’re not fit to be Prime Minister.
We need a leader that can build a team and a party around him, encompassing the broad church that the Labour party is. We need to address the challenges of re-engaging with traditional Labour voters who have veered towards UKIP, because they see no hope in the Labour Party as it is currently.
Philip Normal, LGBT Officer Vauxhall Labour Party @philipnormal
Phil Jones: ‘It’s more than just my belief that Corbyn has the right policies. It’s also about upholding democracy in the party’
I have been a Labour member for almost 30 years. I am a keen activist, I was even a Constituency Labour Party Secretary.
In 1997 I was delighted to elect a Labour government with a majority large enough to make real changes. But as time wore on I became very disillusioned with ‘New Labour’. I cannot deny that they did some good in those early years but they soon lost direction.
Instead of being the party of ordinary working people like me, prepared to take action to help the poor and vulnerable, they became a party more interested in the City, Big Business and in power for power’s sake.
It became clear that we needed to change direction. We needed to go back to our core values and beliefs. We needed a leader with true socialist principles, someone prepared to challenge the establishment over issues such as Trident, someone who would put ordinary people first. That leader is Jeremy Corbyn.
But it’s more than just my belief that Corbyn has the right policies. It’s also about upholding democracy in the party.
In 2015 Corbyn was elected with an overwhelming majority by grassroots members in a One Member, One Vote system. Sadly certain MPs have plotted against him from the start.
Some in the Parliamentary Labour Party view the membership as ‘petulant children’, out of touch with the electorate. The reality is they are the ones who are out of touch.
Instead of uniting to oppose the Tories they would rather go to war with the membership destroying the party in the process. Jeremy Corbyn has vision and integrity. I stand by him.
Phil Jones, trade union activist and campaigner for LGBT+ equality
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