It's about two weeks since the Prime Minister called a snap election. Pundits across the spectrum predict a stunning victory for the Government. A poll suggests that the Conservatives will take Wales from Labour, ending a century of Labour dominance. The Telegraphcheers on a potential 150-seat Conservative majority.
Labour's polling has never seemed more dismal. A recent YouGov survey states that the Conservatives hold a strong double-digit lead over Labour. Half of its respondents say that Theresa May would make a good leader, followed by 36% of support for 'don't know'. Not even the majority of his own party members believe that Jeremy Corbyn would make a good prime minister. Only 45% of Labour voters would pick their own leader to enter Downing Street.
Dull and toothless PMQs, the leader contradicting the views of the party, unable to control his MPs: people say that Corbyn's leadership will be Labour's last as a credible party of opposition. Maybe one of the joke news websites captures it best: we should expect a snap annihilation of the Opposition. Maybe near-destruction in the election will be the catharsis the party needs; some diehard Labour supporters are looking forward to June, crossing their fingers that such a damaging election will persuade him to abandon ship rather than go down with it. Then, if people still believe in the party, Labour can reinvent itself.
When Labour most likely is crushed in June, Corbyn will be damned by everyone. While I am not a high-flying Fleet Street hack, allow me to be one of the few people in the small-scale (student) media to stick up for the beleaguered Labour leader. We should remember that his victory was not some administrative blunder - he won two leadership elections, after all. He must have done something right to earn so many of Labour's members' votes.
Corbyn offered a break from the economic policies that have done so much to whittle away at the public sector and sacrifice the welfare of the most vulnerable. He came forward as someone who hadn't abandoned his principles when Labour sought the Third Way and disposed of some of its core commitments. There's more to him than bringing back popular 1970s ideals such as a nationalised railway - Corbyn and his cohort are aggressive critics of capitalism. They see deplorable levels of inequality, social unrest, poverty and crises of mental health and employment and, rather than wanting to tinker a little with the status quo, they want to make big changes. For this reason, Corbyn has attracted so much support from people who consider themselves disillusioned - with conventional politics, with the economy, maybe with life in Britain as we know it.
After June's reckoning, I am sure that Corbyn's critics, perhaps including the entire Conservative Party, will say that this was the clear indication that the British public has no favour in his socialist ways. "The British people gave us a clear mandate and rejected the socialism of Labour," they will say, never mind the strength of the Conservative majority. Everything he fought for will be cast into the waste-paper basket. Labour's 'Left' will be banished for years (and don't expect the Conservatives to stop going on about it). It would be a sad, deadly blow to the strongest political force in Britain against austerity and an undisciplined free market. Everything that was genuinely in opposition to the status quo will be thrown out and we'll be back to the world of TINA.
I've never said that Corbyn is perfect and I'm not pretending that the state of the party is any better than it really is. But Corbyn was the right man at the wrong time. He appeared when Labour lost an election and began a process of soul-searching, but when Corbyn and his politics presented itself as the answer, most MPs rejected it. The party wasn't ready to adopt such a change, and it shows. They tried to throw him out and failed, messily, but despite their failure, MPs still struggle to hide their despair. Even with an election so soon to be upon us, outgoing Labour MPs don't think twice about criticising Corbyn. It is the overt display of division, the poorly-masked feeling that the wrong candidate won (twice), and the reluctant promotion of Labour's new approach that has led to the party's decline.
Corbyn has received no end of assault from all corners. Most media coverage, an investigation found, portrays Corbyn unfairly and doesn't represent his beliefs properly. Rather than hound the government and powers that be, as the media ought to do, most publications turn their guns on the opposition. See how many articles from the Telegraph you can find that are fair to him, other than the one that Corbyn wrote himself.
The break from the austerity-led agenda that Corbyn offered was never allowed to have a fair hearing. The MPs couldn't cope with a radical change and powerful forces within the media either didn't do a good job of letting the policies be heard or did their best to portray then as mad, incomprehensible and idiotic. Corbyn and those who share his opinions tried to shake things up, but the system shook back.
Just as old Labour members and youthful newcomers gathered to cheer on a dedicated response to the maladies of today's capitalism and paint a picture of a brighter future, their voices in mainstream politics will be smothered again. I like to think that, in a few years' time, someone else will come along with the power to fight for a radical alternative, but will they wear the red rose?Suggest a correction