Picture the scene. Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham drop out of the Labour leadership race ‘for the good of the party’ and Yvette Cooper pips Jeremy Corbyn to the post and becomes Leader. Labour spend the next five years trying to win over Conservative voters again and lose, again. It is certainly a possibility.
Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru Murthy put the question to Corbyn.
‘Why do you think the people who voted Conservative in 2015, will suddenly vote for a socialist in 2020?
Keep this question in mind and let’s consider another possibility. Let’s contemplate the state press being correct. Yvette Cooper becomes Prime Minister in 2020 because she manages to win enough support from Tory voters. This is apparently Labour’s quickest and most effective route to victory. But gaining power in this capacity would not help those in need. The power for power’s sake ideology plaguing the party is a symptom of the deep routed functionality problem within.
Traditionally, support of the state media has benefited politicians. Afterall, ‘It’s The Sun what won it’. These days however, it seems that increasingly, people have begun to tire of the evident bias dominating televised news and the printed press. It helped the SNP to be the underdogs and it appears to be helping Jeremy Corbyn.
Huffington Post’s Owen Bennett urged people that Tony Blair’s opinion of Jeremy Corbyn is important because Blair knows how to win.
‘Does it help when a man who led the Labour Party to three general election victories for the first time in their history gets involved? Yes it does. I think they should listen to Tony Blair.’
Firstly, let’s look at the three things Blair did when he first came in to power. He detached the Bank of England from parliament and gave it full control over monetary policy. He cut eleven pounds a week from welfare to single mothers. He introduced tuition fees to all students. None of this was in his election strategy. So let’s dispel the idea that Tony Blair was elected on the back of a campaign promising to aid the US in their illegal occupation of Iraq and abolish the 10p tax rate.
In 1997, people voted Labour largely because they wanted to see Thatcherism undone and the damage it had caused to the working class, mended. If Blair had some magic formula, it would be reflected in his election results. From 1997 to his last victory in 2005, his percentage of the voting public went from 30.8% to 21.6%. A drop of almost four million people. In actual fact, John Major received more votes than Blair ever did in 1992. As more people began to realise they had been sold a lemon, Labour’s support diminished and in 2010, Gordon Brown lost by a sizeable margin.
Even if Labour do move more to the right and somehow manage to win, it would be meaningless. A left wing Labour Party, win, lose or draw would broaden the scope of UK politics. A Labour Party genuinely interested in improving social welfare instead of fixating on their perceived quickest route to power, is a Labour Party capable of gaining support.
As of now, Corbyn has a ’20 point lead’ in the polls according to The Telegraph and a ’22 point lead’ in the polls according to The Independent. Irrespective of your preferred reading material, he has the support of 42% of the Labour Party members. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Corbyn more recently topped the constituency group vote by 162 to Yvette cooper’s 121. In addition, he has the support of both of the UK’s largest trade unions, Unite and Unison as well as the Community Workers Union. Corbyn’s success leaves Scottish Labour scratching its head.
Kezia Dugdale said recently that were Corbyn to become leader, they’d be ‘Carping on the sidelines for years’. This comment was eerily similar to Tony Blair’s former director of political operations, John Mcternan’s view.
‘No one supporting him (Corbyn) thinks he is going to win. Politics is about winning power’.
This rather pitiful attitude displayed by both Dugdale and Mcternan is symbolic of Labour’s inability to contemplate how superficial and insincere they sound. ‘Carping on the sidelines’ would give them much more traction than abstaining on the sidelines will.
The SNP’s victory is evidence that a manifesto with policies to the left, can win support. Had the
SNP stood in England in May, they would have likely won a lot of support. This was evident in Nicola Sturgeon’s strong UK wide support during the televised debates, prompting many to Google the question ‘Can I vote for the SNP if I live in England?’ It is worth noting that May’s General Election saw a record low 13% Conservative vote In Scotland. As the Tories continue to fade, Labour seem to show no interest in entertaining social democratic politics. This is why they face near certain damnation at the ballot box next year.
Kezia Dugdale has been seen publicly drinking from Jim Murphy’s Poison Chalice. Ken Macintosh, to his credit, has supported Corbyn’s right to stand and has expressed his desire for a fully devolved Scottish Labour Party, but is unlikely to win. Even if he did, Scotland is so skeptical of Labour now. The recent bi-election wins for the SNP only provides further proof. Overcoming the SNP’s thriving support is too big an ask while Labour flounder down South.
This swell of grassroots Labour support, seeing a sharp rise in membership, is something I would never have expected 6 months ago. Whether Jeremy Corbyn has the look or the personality that many thought Ed Miliband didn’t have, is really irrelevant. He represents a broader European wide challenge to Neo Liberalism. People can see how genuine Corbyn is purely because he has the courage of his convictions. He has never sold out his ethics, where others in the party historically have.
From as far back as the Tony Blair era, they have been bleeding the essence of what defined them. Now, Labour has lost so much blood, it has turned blue. The abolishment of clause 4, the move away from trade union funding to business funding and the prevention of a Scottish devolved minimum wage to name but a few, has shaped what we see today.
One of the many problems Jeremy Corbyn faces if he does win is his politics being too progressive for his party to accommodate in its current form. Writer Will Self articulated the significant width and breadth of Labour when he called them ‘Too Broad a Church.
‘On the right you have people who are affectively Neo-Liberals…and on the left you have in some cases, entryist Marxists.’
A win for Corbyn would expose this. There is already a very significant split in opinions within the Party. At this point anyway, an official split seems more likely than a complete overhaul.