The small village of Hayfield in England’s rural north west got thrown into the limelight last month as the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn made an impromptu visit to the region. Pro-European flags flew high alongside an unreserved supply of “bollocks to Brexit” stickers while hundreds gathered in the parish to hear Corbyn speak.
People young and old, families with children and even dogs sporting “Vote Labour” rosettes on their collars jubilantly cheered the Labour leader who delivered an upbeat speech about the growing support for his party, its equality-driven policies and the demise of the Tories who are teetering on the edge.
The rally atmosphere in this small, rural community – which until the 2017 general election was a Conservative constituency – is testament to Britons' rising discontent with neoliberal policies as Prime Minister Theresa May's Tory alliance falters and a leftist Corbynism is in ascent.
No least, the Brexit divide has reached a boiling point as Conservatives lead the escalating division – most pointedly "Brexitremists" like MP Jacob Rees-Mogg who still cling with unwavering thirst to their idea of a pure Brexit. On the flip side is Mogg’s fellow MP Anna Soubry, an anti-Brexit Tory who doesn’t mince words when she says that hard Brexit ideologies are blighting the process.
Observing the extreme divisions within the Tory party over the issue, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee wrote recently: “There is no leader who could bridge the yawning divide between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Anna Soubry.”
It's no secret that Britons are increasingly recognising the economic, social and political disadvantages of leaving the EU. Inflated promises that if the British people voted to leave the EU, they would keep the “exact same benefits” they enjoyed as a member – a phase overly repeated by David Davis, May’s former minister responsible for negotiating Brexit with the EU, who resigned from his position in June – now look ominously unlikely.
Also out of step with reality are the assertions by former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the chief Brexit campaigner, that Britons would have complete freedom to live, work and study throughout Europe. In a particularly fretful week for May, Johnson stepped down earlier this summer from his position as foreign secretary at the same time as Davis amid the throes of Tory Brexit chaos.
Such is the disorder surrounding Brexit that many are appealing for a second referendum. As Anatole Kaletsky, economist and former columnist at the Times of London and the International New York Times noted: “The consequences of the Brexit self-delusion are now becoming obvious, as Britain’s government finds itself unable to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic plan to leave the EU. If this situation persists, Britain will have only one alternative: another referendum to reconsider the impossible result of the 2016 vote.”
Brexit backbiting isn't the only issue gripping the people of Britain. Austerity, inequality and rising poverty are augmenting the growing discontent and adding to support for Corbyn as he pledges to make the nation fairer. Noting the “huge battles ahead of us,” Corbyn spoke at Hayfield of the challenges citizens are facing on a day to day basis – feeding their children, getting finding a decent and affordable place to live, and holding a good job with and enough pay to get through the week.
Condemning the government’s ongoing austerity, the Labour leader described current society as “grotesquely unequal” where 1.3 million people use foodbanks and more and more people are suffering mental conditions.
“We cannot go on with this lack of investment in the needs of ordinary people throughout our society,” Corbyn stated. He spoke about the way universal credit has devastated so many living on the margins of survival, and described the brutality of “holiday hunger” where free school meals don’t extend to the summer holidays.
Observing the achievements of the socialist Portuguese government, where the economy has grown without austerity, Corbyn said that Labour would "join forces with others around the world who have turned their backs on austerity.”
“We are ready whenever they [Conservatives] collapse for an election that will take place," he pronounced.
As Tory in-fighting intensifies, Brexit negotiations reach deadlock and May’s position wears increasingly thin, the prospect of a general election looks feasible. The question is, if a third vote takes place in four years, could Corbyn and Labour realistically win?
The latest Times/YouGov poll suggests Corbyn’s Labour Party could come out on top, with Labour ahead at 39 percent support over the Tories' 37 percent. Labour’s thin lead among voters is largely a result of voters unhappy with the prime minister’s handling of the Chequers deal and its fallout.
The publication of the government’s Brexit white paper unsettled many Brexiteers as it became clear the Tories’ manifesto pledge to leave the single market, the jurisdiction of the European Court and customers union, would not be delivered.
Failing to fulfill the government’s promise to leave the EU, keeping Britain closely tied to Brussels, led to the resignation of the Brexit Secretary David Davis, who said he would not be a “reluctant conscript to the plan agreed at Chequers.”
But opposition from hard Brexiteers over May’s softer Chequers deal, and her increasingly weakened position as leader of an unstable government, are not the only elements pointing toward a potential Labour win if another general election takes place.
The mainstream media’s constant hounding of Jeremy Corbyn has also provoked condemnation among voters, along with government’s harsh policies targeting the vulnerable. As Catherine Hughes, secretary of the New Mills and Hayfield Branch, which helped organise Corbyn’s impromptu visit to the High Peak, said:
“Feedback about the rally was very positive, and everyone told me it only reinforced their support for Jezza, in the midst of mainstream media’s desperate efforts to discredit him.”
Andy Pickard, former head of education at Manchester Metropolitan University, attended the rally and shared Catherine Hughes' optimism that support for Corbyn is mounting.
“I loved the crowd," Pickard told Occupy.com. "Other parties don’t get crowds like that – all ages from kids to pensioners, even the dogs. He speaks like no other leading politician in that, while he is no great orator, he is passionate about inequality and has policies which will try to produce a more just society. “So yes – I’m still optimistic that ‘the times they are a changin’.”