The Case For Warmin’ To Jeremy Corbyn
This is the first post from the column, ‘Something for the Left of Us‘.
It’s been a long time since those with left-wing tendencies in Labour’s ranks have felt so enthused. At first, the mere purpose seemed to be to ‘widen the debate’ – with some political commentators even going as far as saying it will “prove the left is redundant once and for all” or something equally as dull-witted. Fast forward six weeks and Jeremy Corbyn has sent Blairite factions of the Labour Party, Ladbrokes and faux-left Guardian columnists into absolute meltdown. Odds have dropped for Corbyn to become the next leader of the Labour Party from an outrageous 100/1 all the way down to 10/11 – an odds on position.
It’s not difficult to work out why people are flocking towards the Corbyn campaign. Likeable and endearing, he’s often seen getting the night bus home after a day on the campaign trail. With the lowest expenses of any parliamentarian, he’s been proven right on the need to talk with Sinn Fein, his opposition to the Iraq War, as well as the dangers of bank deregulation and the private finance initiative. At the leadership hustings across the country, the consensus has been that Jeremy Corbyn is the most believable, agreeable and captivating candidate in the contest. In contrast, the other leadership contenders seem to be inept at talking about their own policies, visions and campaigns. LBC presenter Iain Dale even went as far as lambasting Burnham, Kendall and Cooper live on-air, saying “this is exactly why Jeremy Corbyn is way ahead of the rest of you, he’s given me a straight answer to a straight question and the three of you can’t do that.” Instead, they’re just mumbling the words “unelectable” or “party of protest” whilst trying to internally process the idea that they’re going to be replaced by John McDonnell or Dennis Skinner in a shadow cabinet they were expecting to have unwavering influence over.
It’s a sad state of affairs when one of the few admirable politicians out there is subject to such vitriol and deemed ‘unelectable’ or ‘starry-eyed’ by people in his own party, especially when it seems like they’re putting more effort into their vacuous opposition of Jeremy Corbyn than they did in five years of opposition against the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. It’s typical that at a time where unity is imperative, senior Labour figures see tens of thousands of people joining as members after being inspired by one of their leadership candidates as a bad thing. When you actually look at what Jeremy Corbyn is offering, it is really not as ‘hard left’ as some would have you believe. Support for renationalising the railways (something which even Tony Blair falsely promised) and energy companies has cross-party support and even splits Tory voters. Similarly, a poll for ComRes found 64% of the public agree with Corbyn’s staunch opposition against the Trident nuclear missile system. The majority of the electorate aren’t mortified at raising taxes to tackle inequality either. For somebody who is lamented as ‘unelectable’ by the very people who’ve just lost two elections (a lesson to be learned there?), his policies are incredibly popular with the wider public. Corbyn and his supporters claim that the country is crying out for something different, in essence, an alternative to the politically motivated austerity agenda. The sole believers of this aren’t just the ‘hard left’ or Trotskyite entryists like Neil Kinnock et. al would have you believe, but Nobel Prize winning economists, and according to YouGov, the majority of Labour’s swing voters.
The head vs. heart narrative that is being pushed by pretty much every mainstream media outlet right now seems groundless. Even more so when during this contest Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have displayed nothing which proves they could win back enough voters to succeed in 2020. Admittedly, Liz Kendall may swing a few Conservative voters, but as a bit of a corporate drone, how can she tackle the SNP? What about UKIP and the Greens? What about the people who don’t vote at all; the people who’ve actually been in the majority since 2001? At least Jeremy Corbyn, according to this data, stands to win back the most votes lost to UKIP, proving that a segment of their supporters aren’t as anti-immigration as one may assume, but merely disillusioned with a political climate where nobody stands up for them. Several highly respected political scientists have concluded that the working class stopped voting in droves for Labour because of the “ideological convergence of the two main parties”. People are obviously growing sick and tired of the focus-group, sound-bite filled centrist nightmare they’ve had to endure for the last decade, and who can blame them?
Plugging another middle-of-the-road New Labour manifesto twinned with a leader who inspires nobody will guarantee failure in 2020. Jeremy Corbyn presents himself as a change figure in the same way that Thatcher, Blair and Sturgeon have in the past, and the one thing those three have in common is electoral success. After all, who would’ve predicted ten years ago that Jim Murphy and Scottish Labour would have been humbled by an anti-austerity, anti-Trident Scottish National Party? As much as people have felt the need to criticise Tony Blair in recent times, in 1997 he was a bastion of change who offered something different against a Conservative Party who were still, for example, anti-minimum wage.
The enthusiastic mass-movement encircling Corbyn wherever he goes is something that we have not seen in British politics for a very long time. Corbyn himself joked that “we don’t usually get this many people at our meetings”. With a reported 2,000 people in attendance at his rally in London last night, he even had to give a speech on top of a fire engine to supporters who couldn’t actually enter the main hall or its respective overflow rooms. As a party, we must be willing to give someone who can engage and inspire people from such a wide variety of backgrounds a chance. Jeremy Corbyn is that person. Don’t write him off when the five years of (hopefully vehement) opposition has only just begun. Maybe, just maybe; the time has come for a left-wing resurgence.