THE BLOG

What Have Corbynistas and Leave Voters Got in Common?

28/06/2016 10:57

The so-called "experts" predict disaster, but we don't care. We have our ideological principles, and that matters more than what the facts on the ground are. But our tunnel-vision and unfalsifiable worldview may destroy the very things we claim to care about.

I, like other people who voted for Corbyn last year, am a committed left-winger who desperately wants renewal in the party, and to question the privatise-it-first-then-worry-about-the-consequences assumption of mainstream politics. But as the kaleidoscope goes into flux, now is a good time to consider whether we need a new Labour leader.

It's very likely there will be a general election within the year. The Tories, led perhaps by the Bertie Wooster/Thatcher lovechild Boris Johnson are likely to win. With the divisions over Europe put to rest, Boris could lead a new alliance of Little Englanders and old Labour northern voters, riding the crest of a new Brexiteer coalition. Then he sets the terms for our post-EU country for generations to come.

Farage has argued we need a "Brexit government", and many traditionally Labour voters who just backed his side of the referendum will be tempted by a leader that represents traditional Tory 'economic stability' with a streak of jingoistic anti-EU fervour. At least they get Boris Johnson.

If this election happens, my question to my fellow Corbynistas is: is Jeremy Corbyn going to deliver a Labour majority, allowing a socially just version of our post-EU country? Because leftwing social media is energetically arguing that Corbyn should keep his position, whilst at the same time bemoaning the victory of the Leave campaign.

This puzzles me. Corbyn was surely partly responsible for the failure of the very campaign these people say they passionately backed. His "7 out of 10" support of the EU and absence from the campaign until the very last days (when many postal votes had already been sent) were surely not hugely helpful to the Remain camp?

If we feel deeply sad that Remain lost against an apparently fact-adverse, ideologically blind Leave campaign, why declare loyalty to a man who only tepidly supported our side of the argument? Or even if we argue that he tried his best, he absolutely failed to convince traditional Labour areas across the country to back Remain, in which case his resonance with the voters that we will rely on in the upcoming general election has been shown to be weak.

Social media is full of anger that a wave of ideologically blind voters flew in the face of the considered opinion of the vast majority of our elected representatives. And yet we also argue that the very narrow ideological wave of 250,000 people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn last year know better than Labour MPs, who are elected by the general public. 30 million people just voted in the EU referendum. If a fair whack of those people (who, remember, just backed Farage and Johnson's side of the debate) vote in the upcoming election, can those 250,000 Labour members be certain their guy has appeal for the rest of the country?

My Corbyn-supporting friends might argue that Corbyn is doing a great job as leader. Look at the government U turn on tax credits, arguably his greatest achievement. Was it his achievement? Or was more to do with the Tory rebel MPs that threatened the government's thin majority?

It might be argued more broadly that he has "changed the terms of the debate". How? His poll numbers are hardly a source of great hope. The local elections at best represent holding on to the watermark set by Ed Miliband in 2012. "As good as Miliband" - is that the best we've got? Has that 'changed the debate'?

I would point to his consistent lack of basic competence as a politician. He is the leader of the opposition, but failed to, for example, take advantage of Iain Duncan Smith's highly damaging resignation - the very definition of an open goal. There are the other examples of this worrying lack of instinct, for example in this Labour Uncut article. We can't just support him because he's ideologically pure, even though he isn't doing the job well. Otherwise why not just let a copy of the Communist Manifesto sit at the dispatch box whilst the Tories happily destroy the social fabric of the country?

But my point isn't some Blairite attack on Corbyn's principles, many of which I share. I would just point out that at a time when people are clearly not voting for traditional economic reasons (the very people who most strongly voted for Leave are those who have the most to lose, economically), a traditional socialist economic argument from a man who might, just might, be perceived as a quite weird North London lefty are not going to resonate. And I say that as a quite weird North London lefty.

Who could replace him, in this context? An example would be Dan Jarvis. An ex-soldier with a compelling life story, he could resonate with conservative Labour working class voters who clearly care a lot about national pride at the moment. Jarvis could make the argument for social justice but via a narrative of British service and patriotism.

That way, traditional Labour voters and - I'm ducking behind my desk here - even people who might otherwise vote UKIP or Tory could vote Labour in the upcoming general election. In other words, the very people that we need to win. And we have to win this upcoming election, if the post-EU settlement is to have even a slither of social justice.

I know from our perspective as largely metropolitan ideological true-believers that is heresy to say. But if we want a Labour government to be in charge of re-establishing our relationship with Europe, we need to think less like Brexit voters - with a gut-instinct fervour that flies in the face of more complex political arguments - and more like the Remain voters we are.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS