Hello all, and welcome to our pilot for a potential new interview series, in which we ask prominent left-wingers and other political figures eight short, but hopefully insightful, questions.
This time we’re interviewing George Aylett. George is a Labour Party activist and a strong voice and organiser in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. He stood for parliament in 2015 in South West Wiltshire, where he managed to increase the Labour vote by 1335.
What drew you to the Labour Party?
I joined the Labour party when I was 17 and I saw what was going on, there was big inequality in the country. There are 13 million people who can’t afford the essentials in Britain and I thought that was unfair. That was one of the first things that drew me into politics, the scale of inequality in Britain. While the top five per cent of earners have seen their wealth increase on average by £128,000, those at the bottom have been suffering from cuts and austerity. I’m not a big fan of that and I wanted to challenge that directly. The only way I could do that was to get involved directly.
How can we keep socialism strong in Labour if Corbyn isn’t elected?
Well my job to ensure that he is elected! But if he fails to win then the left can still remain strong with one word: Unity.
On a more positive note, if Jeremy does become our leader, what do you think will happen to the Green Party, and all the other smaller parties to the left of Labour?
What we have to do is to reach out to all of those on the left and build a broad coalition of those who share the belief that we can all achieve more collectively rather than on our own. I would hope that all of those on the left: the ‘soft’ left and ‘hard’ left would join Labour to ensure that we can build a movement to work for millions, not just millionaires. I would hope that Labour can work with parties like the Greens, SNP and Plaid to ensure that we can lock out the Conservative Party in 2020.
Why do you think the political establishment casts aside socialism so often?
I personally think it’s because we don’t talk about those issues enough and that issues on the left are rarely discussed in mainstream politics. That was until Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour leadership race. Since Corbyn entered the leadership race, issues like public ownership, anti-austerity economics and increasing the minimum wage have been placed on the table. Because these issues have been raised it means they have to be discussed, and if Corbyn is elected as leader we can ensure that these vital issues can be raised every week: In Prime Minister’s Questions, BBC Question Time etc. The political establishment will have no other option but to discuss socialism and finally we can raise these issues in public debates.
What do you feel was Labour’s greatest achievements in the Blair and Brown years, and what lessons can we learn from that era more generally?
Labour from 1997-2010 managed to achieve a lot. The minimum wage, sure start and reducing child poverty were key achievements from those years. However we must understand that we made mistakes as well. Introducing tuition fees, the Iraq war and accepting privatisation are probably the most famous examples of the mistakes the party made. Our goal should be to build on the achievements from New Labour but also learn from their mistakes as well. When it comes to tuition fees we should scrap them, we should reverse privatisation and try to stabilize the world by encouraging peace talks rather than going into more illegal wars. To build on our achievements: increase the minimum wage to a genuine living wage, invest more in education and ensure that the Labour party do their best to eradicate poverty in the 6th richest nation on Earth by investing in the people.
What do you think sent us into wilderness from 79-97?
There are many reasons why we lost in 1983. The Conservatives capitalizing on the SDP split and the Falklands war boost was the reason why we lost then and the Conservatives kept on bouncing up whilst the Labour party remained a split party. What Labour need to do to win is to achieve unity, no matter who the next leader of the party is Labour members must stay united and back their leader. We democratically elect our leader and this election will be the most democratic ever, so we should respect the will of the members. Discuss, debate and scrutinize proposed policies but stay on board to build a better Labour party, only unity can ensure a victory in 2020.
From both within and outside the Corbyn campaign, there has been much talk of a radical overhaul of the Labour Party’s structures if Jeremy does indeed win. Do you think this is likely, or indeed desirable, considering the potential fallout?
I think we need a more democratized Labour Party and Corbyn certainly advocates it. All Labour members should have an equal say on policy to ensure every voice is heard, we need to become a democratic party and ensure that nobody feels like they are voiceless.
And lastly, what was it like to stand as a candidate in the general election?
It was an incredible experience. It challenged the preconceived idea of what a politician should be. I believe all people from all background should be represented in politics. However young people have absolutely no representation in Westminster, or any other major political establishment. We need young people in politics to represent the views of the youth, and to give the platform young people so desperately need. We need to get young people voting and we need more young people running for parliament. I would encourage any young person reading this to get involved. Register to vote, look up policies, join a political party, get involved locally and, if you want to take the leap into directly representing the youth in politics, put your name forward for public office and stand for election.
Questions by Seb, Vint and Brym