I’m beginning to think that the bandwagon sweeping Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership is pretty well unstoppable. Even if he doesn’t win, unless any of the other candidates can create a coherent and credible programme for government, Labour are probably doomed anyway. The argument will merely be by how much Labour loses. With Corbyn leading the Labour campaign, I suspect the SNP would replace them as the official opposition from 2020.
Much of Corbyn’s alleged support comes from people who left the party years ago, preferring to heckle from the sidelines or joining the Socialist Party “front” organisation, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. It is not entryism as practised by the Socialist Party/Militant tendency in the 1970s and 1980s, but entryism that was actually invited by Ed Miliband’s “legacy”, the shambolic leader election ballot process that invites anyone to have a vote, not least those who have previously shown any interest in Labour. Thanks for that, Ed.
The claim that Corbyn has new and refreshing ideas is laughable in the extreme. Everything he has said so far is just a rehash of what Labour went through under the hard left in the early 1980s and today he has gone out of his way to confirm it by endorsing the return to the Labour Party constitution of Clause IV, Part IV, which was changed in 1995. The old clause went like this: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.” It is not what I believe in and it never was, but Corbyn, to his credit, is honest enough to say it is what he stands for. This is not just progressive nationalisation of the railways as advocated by Andy Burnham but the nationalisation of pretty well everything in the land. Tony Blair and – critically – the likes of John Prescott understood the electoral millstone this represented and they changed it.
Corbyn himself has conducted himself well in the election campaign, which is more than you can say of some of his more abrasive supporters who have employed abuse and slurs against those who do not accept the hard left doctrine and, heaven forbid, point out the potential catastrophe for working people the election of Corbyn would represent.
There is plenty of clear water between Labour’s candidates now, with Corbyn camped firmly to the left of virtually the entire electorate and slipping even further leftward by the day. If you cast your vote for Corbyn, you know for sure which policies you will get, even though you will surely know in your heart of hearts that you will never see the policies put into action.
It is not just Corbyn’s hard left position that will never see him in number ten, it is also Labour’s dismal failure to look and sound like a government in waiting. The party failed under Miliband for four main reasons: voters did not see Miliband as a potential prime minister, voters did not trust Labour with the economy, voters felt that Labour would be heavily influenced by the SNP and Labour did not present any kind of coherent vision of what the country would look like if they won. Until Labour understands these simple truths, they will never win again.
As we have said before, in order to win power, Labour must win 100 seats off the Tories, maybe more than that after the forthcoming boundary changes which will make it still harder. Already, they have a mountain to climb and so far they haven’t approached the foothills. Corbyn’s appeal with never extend beyond those of the left and it will certainly not play out well with the middle class voters Labour needs to win office. I know that is uncomfortable for many to take in but there is a clear choice: appeal to the largest possible electorate and stand a chance of winning or remain pure and get annihilated.
People are saying that they would rather Labour lost with a rehash of the failed policies of the 1980s (or a radical left wing agenda, as the Corbynites would say) than win with a centre left manifesto. I respect their honesty but I don’t regard it as particularly socialist to abandon the poor and vulnerable to a generation or longer of a right wing Tory government. I don’t buy the “It’s better to have fought and lost than never to have lost at all” argument because Labour needs to win, otherwise, what’s it there for?
I believe Corbyn will win this election and no one will be celebrating more than George Osborne, who will be all but guaranteed the keys to number 10 in 2020.