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A Corbyn Victory Would Be Disastrous for Democracy

14/08/2015 11:12 BST | Updated 13/08/2016 10:59 BST

With the deadline for Labour leadership voters to register having now passed and ballots almost ready to be issued, the only question left is who the winner will be, and whether this will be former outsider Jeremy Corbyn. If he does win it will be bad not just for Labour, but for democracy as a whole.

Were Corbyn to win, the policies that the Labour Party would be committed to would frankly make them unelectable. In the case of domestic policy, a Corbyn victory may see the reintroduction of Clause IV, the abolition of which is often considered one of the main things that made New Labour electable in the first place. Regardless of whether Clause IV formally returns, it seems likely that a Corbyn premiership would entail the renationalising of the railways and the energy industry, and perhaps even the return of the coal mines in what surely looks like a misguided idealistic return to the 1970s.

The cost of nationalising the energy industry is estimated to be at least £124 billion (to put this in perspective, total government spending this year was around £720 billion). The big question then is: where will the money come from? From the outset, it doesn't look like this money will come from Corbyn's tax plan which he claimed could raise £120 billion on its own, given that it has now been admitted that only about £20 billion of this could actually be collected. The obvious answer would then appear to be that this would have to come out of the wallets of ordinary taxpayers, something which may in fact explain the interesting dualism in that support for publicly-owned railways is high in independent polls, but not at the ballot box; it sounds fine as an ideal, until you realise you will have to pay for it.

One group of people that would not be paying for these projects, at least in the short term, would be students (or, at least, those fortunate enough to be students at the time of the relevant Budgets), which may partly explain the apparent willingness of more young people to support Corbyn (it's far easier to vote to use other people's money for major spending projects than to vote to part with your own for the same). It may also explain his patronising bone-throwing to students regarding tuition fees and EMA, suggesting that he has learned nothing from Ed Miliband's attempts to do something similar. Furthermore, today's students would do well to remember that they will likely be among the taxpayers who would be paying for these proposals by the time any Corbyn Budgets came around.

More unelectable still is Corbyn's foreign policy. His links to anti-Semitic groups have been well-documented by now, most infamously his describing of Hamas and Hezbollah as his "friends", and hosting them in Parliament, but also his upcoming hosting by Islamist lobby group MEMO, a group which openly peddles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (including the idea that Innocence of Muslims was a Zionist plot to stir up violence), to the extent that it has even been praised by David Duke. Under more recent scrutiny has been his stance on Russia, with suggestions that he could court Vladimir Putin on the foreign policy stage, a man who has presided over the enacting of draconian anti-gay laws; the illegal annexation of Crimea; and attempts to destroy the territorial integrity of the rest of Ukraine. On the latter point, it is worth noting that Corbyn wrote for Stop the War arguing that Euromaidan was caused by Nato scheming - when in fact it was a grassroots uprising against Yanukovich's unpopular attempts to bring Ukraine closer to Russia - and focusing on the relatively small influence of the extremist Right Sector in the uprising. The latter is particularly ironic when the entire pro-Russian position involves ignoring the extremism of the linguistic imperialism being openly perpetrated by Russia when its soldiers "accidentally" find themselves in Ukraine; while Corbyn at least acknowledged the direct involvement of Russian troops, he seemed extremely keen to marginalise it as much as possible as he attacked "the West" instead.

The consequences of a Corbyn victory for the Labour Party would be disastrous. Tony Blair is but the latest figure to warn that Corbyn's vision of a socialist Britain will not win elections (something to which the last nine elections at a minimum - spanning three different party/coalition governments - will testify). The recognition of this by many Labour figures has led to three possible outcomes being suggested: a coup against Corbyn on day one (which, regardless of our opinions of him, would destroy the credibility of the Labour Party's democracy and by extension the Party as a whole); another SDP-style split within the Labour Party (a possibility being warned of by Baroness Williams); or the ignominious degeneration of the Party into a glorified pressure group. All such options would likely leave left-wing politics (of all varieties) in Britain in disarray, all but securing a Conservative majority in 2020, and perhaps beyond.

As a Conservative myself, I suppose I should be happy with this possibility (certainly, there are #Tories4Corbyn looking forward to it), but I'm not, because it's bad for democracy. A good democracy surely relies on voters having at least two choices that they consider credible at the ballot box each election, and the ultimate sanction of democracy - namely, voting out the government and consigning it to the Opposition benches for five years - is not so intimidating when the government knows that the current Opposition is considered outright unelectable. This is not only a recipe for bad government by way of complacency, but also for the adoption of ever more extreme and unpopular policies, and the handing of increasing power to elements of the Conservative Party further from the centre. The mere lack of Liberal Democrats in government spawned an attempt to revive the Snooper's Charter; the thought of at least ten years of uninterrupted power, regardless of how unpopular individual policies are, will surely spawn much worse.

I shall conclude with two pleas. Firstly, to genuine supporters of the Labour Party voting in the election: please remember that the goal of a political party is to get into government, and this can only be done by winning over the minds of the electorate, not through presenting unachievable ideals coupled with indefensible foreign policy. Secondly, to any Conservatives who have registered to vote for Corbyn as a wrecking tactic: please don't. It is firstly unbecoming to suggest that our ideas are unable to stand a battle with another electable alternative (which is surely implied by voting for an unelectable candidate), and secondly the joke that a Jeremy Corbyn win was once thought of has since become far too serious; the disastrous nature of the consequences thereof is undiminished by contrast.

I am grateful to Anastasia Tropsha for her assistance and proofreading