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Jeremy Corbyn isn’t unelectable. The Labour Party is.

On the basis of the last three months or so, since the referendum result, nobody in their right mind would want the Labour Party to be in charge of running the country.

They have been a party riddled with disunity. MPs have been intent on undermining and embarrassing their leader. Behind the scenes, effort after effort has been made to ensure that democracy is eroded and Jeremy Corbyn does not remain leader of the Labour Party.

These efforts have failed. That is not to say, though, that similar efforts will not be made again in the future. It is merely to say that – for the time being, at least – the anti-Corbyn wing of the Labour Party has been dealt a substantial blow.

Corbyn’s biggest problem is not gaining the backing of the general public, it is gaining the backing of his own party

Despite the continued efforts of some within the party – efforts which have been sustained from the very first day of Corbyn’s leadership – Corbyn remains leader. And the ordeal he has had to go through will hopefully have made him a stronger, more capable leader.

Corbyn is clearly capable of inspiring – one need only look at the frankly remarkable membership figures under his leadership as evidence of this. His biggest problem is not gaining the backing of the general public, it is gaining the backing of his own party. A problem that is fairly unique and somewhat ridiculous for a leader who has secured some of the biggest leadership mandates in party political history.

And a party that cannot stand behind, defend and help its own leader is not one that can win a general election. The solution for the Labour Party, its members, its supporters and its voters is a simple one. Back Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is not unelectable. He has just secured an increased mandate from a party electorate that is the biggest in Western Europe. And he secured his backing from every section of the Labour electorate.

who can blame the public for thinking poorly of Corbyn when the very people who should be supporting him have worked so hard to tear him down

Not only this, but the man who ran against him, Owen Smith, effectively ran on a platform of saying that he was just as left-wing as Corbyn, only packaged in a more electable manner.

There is no question that, as things stand, the general public’s perception of Corbyn is unfavourable. In fact, this state isn’t even a surprising one. But it hasn’t arisen because of Corbyn himself, or his policies. The public has been drawn into the idea that Corbyn is unelectable and an incapable leader; an idea encouraged by the actions and words of his own MPs.

So who can blame the public for thinking poorly of Corbyn when the very people who should be supporting him have worked so hard to tear him down?

But the onus of repairing this image of unelectability does not lie with Corbyn – it lies with those within his own party who have helped to create it.

Instead of bringing messages of doom and disparaging the party’s twice-elected leader, Corbyn’s critics must unite behind him

Accepting his new mandate, Corbyn called for togetherness. But it is not only his responsibility to create this unity. Those who sowed discord and disunity should be the first to extend an olive branch, an apology and a helping hand.

All over Western Europe, political change is happening at a rapid rate. People are sick of politics as usual. There is an appetite for change, a hunger for a new type of politics which can be met by a truly left-wing Labour Party that is united behind its leader.

The task for supporters of the Labour Party is clear. Instead of bringing messages of doom and disparaging the party’s twice-elected leader, Corbyn’s critics must unite behind him.

Instead of talking about how unelectable he is, Corbyn’s detractors and the Labour Party as a whole must begin convincing others to vote for him.

Theresa May’s grammar schools policy has killed her facade of working-class appeal

After a honeymoon period extended and enhanced by the currently shambolic Labour Party, Theresa May has begun to show her divisive, outdated and nonsensical leadership with her continuing push for the introduction of new grammar schools.

The policy represents the latest move in the Conservative party’s dysfunctional education strategy. Their tenure has seen EMA scrapped, tuition fees raised (twice), student grants abolished, student loan repayment interest rates increased, and the biggest cut to per-pupil funding since the 1970s. It’s almost as if they don’t care about young people.

The right wing seems to have carried over its fondness for a complete lack of evidence from the Brexit debate, extending a seemingly post-evidence trend that is becoming a growing worry in modern-day politics. See, among other instances, Donald Trump’s unfounded and unfunded policies for more.

May is willingly pushing a policy that she knows will be of no benefit to the working-classes

May has somehow deluded herself into thinking that grammar schools will benefit the masses and increase the poor levels of social mobility in this country. She is undoubtedly wrong. But perhaps the most astonishing aspect of her advocation of this policy is that it seems incredibly unlikely that May doesn’t know she’s wrong

May is willingly pushing a policy that she knows will be of no benefit to the working-classes. And this from the prime minister who pledged to be driven “not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours”; that is, the interests of ordinary working-class families. Who promised to “make Britain a country that works for everyone”. Who assured that her party “will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you”.

But, in fairness, most of us never believed any of that in the first place.

grammar schools are clearly a step backwards for social mobility

The ridiculousness of this policy has recently been put into a damning context. The OECD’s head of education has said that grammar schools benefit wealthy families without raising overall standards. And an investigation by the BBC concluded that, where grammar schools are prominent, “poorer children lag further behind, richer children move further ahead – and the losses at the bottom are much larger than the gains at the top”.

In this light, we can see that grammar schools are clearly a step backwards for social mobility – contrary to the claims of May and and many of her Conservative colleagues.

While the problem of social mobility is not exclusive to grammar schools – indeed, class inequality extends across the whole education system – a selective system certainly does advantage the rich.

the advantages that middle-class parents can exert are myriad

By the age of 11, when children take the test to decide if they have enough intellectual worth to merit a place in a grammar school, class differences have already begun to take their toll on many children. Richer parents have had the opportunity to buy a house in an area with good schools, which often prices out many working-class families. And, in this house, these parents’ children have more space to relax and study in a comfortable home environment.

These parents can afford medicines to ensure days at school aren’t missed due to illness. These parents may have a better standard of education themselves, allowing them to understand and manipulate the educational system and admissions procedures to their child’s advantage. They may be able to better heat their home, better feed their children, get them to school more easily, take time off work to support them, make sure they don’t have to babysit younger siblings or help out around the house – the advantages that middle-class parents can exert are myriad.

And when their child turns 11, middle-class parents can pay for a tutor to help their child pass the 11+. It is no surprise, then, that only 3% of grammar school entrants are entitled to free school meals, compared to 18% in non-grammar areas.

When Jeremy Corbyn presented much of this illuminating and critical evidence to May in their PMQs session, she floundered. And we got a glimpse of what a strong and united opposition can do: highlight the hypocrisy of a Tory party that claims to be for the working-classes; show the inadequacy of May, her leadership and her policies; and, most importantly, defend the working-classes from further disadvantage in society.

If Theresa May and the Conservatives are really interested in social mobility and improving the lives of the working-classes, they would do better to abolish the grammar school system, not extend it.

Expect the unexpected: cricket edition

In times of great upheaval and uncertainty, it is often the small things in life that become the most important, their simple and consistent pleasures giving us the strength to face the day and carry on despite our hardships.

Unfortunately, English cricket is neither a simple nor a consistent pleasure.

Despite recent Test series victories and a steady climb in the world rankings, the England Test team haven’t been overly consistent of late. In fact, they still lie one place behind Pakistan in the rankings at no 4.

Not too long ago they were losing to the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Then they were losing the last Test of virtually every series they played. Then they were thoroughly beaten in the UAE by the Pakistan side that begin their tour proper of England  this week.

And the inconsistency hasn’t exactly been banished since then.

Joe Root’s performance at no 3 has the potential to be the deciding factor in this series.

While the scoreline in the recent series against Sri Lanka paints a very flattering appearance, the reality gives a different picture. Against a distinctly average Sri Lankan outfit, England were 83-5 on the first morning of the tour.

There are deep questions over their top order batting strength. Admittedly Alex Hales seems to have progressed nicely into his role as opener, although his failure to convert steady contributions into match-winning centuries is a slight concern. But the issues for England’s batting are now most pressing in the three spots that follow him.

Joe Root’s performance at no 3 has the potential to be the deciding factor in this series. For the past two years he has been England’s star batter, their most dependable player. His short time at no 3 earlier in his career does not backup this reputation. There is no doubt that he is physically capable of taking on the role – how often has his technique been made to stand facing the new ball from no 4 after an early flurry of wickets? His technique is not the issue.

For England’s sake, let us hope that his mental strength is up to the test of batting at first drop. There is no reason to think it wouldn’t be; he is now one of England’s most senior players, a settled vice captain, a role model, and someone who has dealt with and learned from scuffles with opponents. Did somebody say David Warner?

Then comes the middle order. James Vince failed to make a single contribution during his five innings against Sri Lanka, and given Pakistan’s superior quality bowling attack he will have to find the county form that earned him his call-up sooner rather than later to avoid becoming the under pressure batter in the England lineup.

Mohammad Amir’s skills with the swinging ball have the potential to be deadly in English conditions.

Speaking of county form, let’s hope Gary Ballance doesn’t find his. Despite an average that only climbed to the not-so-heady heights of the mid 30s thanks to an unbeaten century in the County Championship recently, Ballance has – ludicrously – earned himself a recall. It will be interesting, if nothing else, to see how his largely unchanged technique stands up to the test of Pakistan’s pace bowlers. It is hard to believe they will have been quaking in their boots after hearing of his call-up.

It will be fascinating to see how England fit Ben Stokes back into the side once he is fit to bowl again. There are a number of possibilities available – dropping a batsman, harshly replacing Woakes, leaving out the spin option of Ali (and potentially replacing this with a combination of Root and Borthwick) – who knows which one will take the fancy of England’s selectors. Perhaps the only certainty is that there will be a further degree of change to the England side in the coming weeks.

And what of Pakistan’s side?

They come to England a strong team, and a stronger one for the presence of Mohammad Amir. Undoubtedly the senior faces of the team will rally round the quick bowler, and his skills with a swinging ball have the potential to be deadly in English conditions.

But despite their strength, they have fragilities of their own. Many of their batsman have poor records in English conditions. Their own middle order has problems, not least the fact that Misbah-ul-Haq, their 42 (yes, 42) year old stalwart, isn’t exactly as fresh as he was at the start of his career.

Given the relative inexperience of their batting lineup in English conditions, the starting of the series at Lord’s will be a veritable blessing for them. Add on to that the fact that England’s chief destroyer from the Sri Lanka series and no 1 ranked bowler in the world, James Anderson, is missing from the lineup, and Pakistan’s chances start to look a lot better than many people are giving them credit for. Especially when England’s bowling lineup will be completed by a debutant and the recently unreliable Steven Finn.

Make no mistake, England will be challenged by Pakistan. Really challenged. In a series that starts surrounded by unknowns and uncertainties, the only thing to be expected is the unexpected.

 

On my journey to the hospital

I walk down
the stairs of the
double decker, stopped
by a body in front of mine.

The bus stops, the doors open, the bodies move forward.

“Thank you very much, have a nice day,” says the body to the other body behind the glass screen.

“Thanks,” I say,
my legs carrying my body off the bus.