As one of the people who supported Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to get on the ballot paper to be Leader of the Labour Party, I have been as surprised as anyone about the journey we have taken as a party over the last few weeks. But perhaps it should not be such a surprise.
Like Jeremy, I am a product of North London Labour politics -; though not the shallow media stereotype of dinner parties and the Granita pact. It is the politics of defending people who have been hardest hit by the Conservative Party’s onslaught against communities like ours.
In my previous role as Leader of Islington Council, I always found Jeremy to be a supportive MP, who understood how difficult it was to lead a large borough with high levels of inequality and who supported the tough choices I had to make as Council Leader in a period of Tory austerity.
Jeremy has a keen sense of moral clarity, but until this campaign, few people realised that he is warm, pragmatic and wildly popular with the constituents he serves. His popularity was the reason why, in the 2010 election, council candidates from across the spectrum of the local Labour Party proudly penned joint election addresses with Jeremy.
It was unquestionably the right thing for me to help him onto the ballot paper. But let’s be honest, none of us expected the Corbynmania which has ensued.
Well, in retrospect, we should have. Despite his longevity in politics, Jeremy represents something new, he is not cut from the same cloth as most Westminster MPs. His judgement was right on the Iraq war.
In this period of ‘anti politics’ he appeals to young people who want to hear politics ‘unspun’. He has rarely sought personal advancement and he is a committed anti-racist campaigner. He is a strong supporter of local communities and has defended the NHS and public services throughout the Tory years of cuts and pay freezes.
Jeremy understands that we do not win by accommodating the Tories’ attack on our communities, instead we need to challenge it head on. It is an optimistic message that says we need to restore the balance between the powerful and ordinary people if our economy is going to stand up for the millions not just the millionaires. That we need to give hope to the young people who have been hit so hard by Tory policies in the last five years.
Despite the strength of other candidates’ appeal, it is the freshness of Jeremy’s approach which has the momentum in this leadership campaign. So I will be voting for Jeremy. I believe that my colleagues in the House of Commons can and must embrace the ‘big tent’ approach that he has pledged, including all wings of the party.
More importantly, I believe his authentic leadership style will engage the next generation of Labour members who will have the energy to take the fight to the Tories, providing a genuine alternative with Labour values of social justice at its core.
Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green