The Corbyn Effect

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland (LPNI) experienced a similar growth in membership to its UK parent organisation during the recent leadership contests which resulted in the election of Jeremy Corbyn, twice. Author and LPNI vice chair Kathryn Johnston spoke about the Corbyn effect.

On the issue of Corbyn’s previously expressed support for Irish nationalism, she said: “Jeremy has every right to his views, but I would point out that most of the views that he expressed were made from a London based perspective in the 1980s. If the DUP can sit in the executive with former IRA members in Sinn Féin and work away and share power in the executive, I think Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t really be a hindrance to people in the North.”

She added: “He’s had a remarkable effect and I think it’s to do with the fact that he speaks to people on their own level he speaks to people about their own concerns and incredibly honest. In North Antrim, my own constituency, we’ve had a surge in membership and I’m always asking people, ‘what made you change your mind after not being in a party?’, and the answer is ‘Jeremy Corbyn’.Johnston is optimistic concerning her party’s election prospects in the UK. “I think if the Tories and everybody else who are so worried about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party were worried that he was going to lose the next election they wouldn’t be making half as much fuss about it.

“I think the reason there is so much fuss especially in the Tory press where they’re foregrounding every bit of dissent that they can hit on is to try to outline the idea that Jeremy Corbyn is sliding down the polls and nobody in the Party supports him, and of course the complete opposite is the case.”

Currently the members of the LPNI are involved in an internal consultation process on standing candidates in future Northern Ireland elections. Johnston believes this would be a positive development in tune with wider progressive developments in Northern Irish politics.

“There are people in the LPNI who would support the union with the UK, there are people who would support a United Ireland, and probably more still who don’t care either way. We are really lucky that it’s not an issue and that it’s been taken out of the day to day sectarian maelstrom of political life and we can afford to concentrate on class issues.”

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