What Did Corbyn's Progress Speech Say About The Local Election Results?

17/05/2016 08:34 | Updated 17 May 2016

I was fortunate to be sat in Congress House on Saturday to listen to Jeremy Corbyn's keynote speech to this year's Progress Annual Conference.

I've been critical of Mr Corbyn's leadership ever since he was elected to the post, I kept telling myself that his politics weren't mine, but this was my first time hearing him in the flesh.

Part of me (a small, childish part that I'm not proud of) wanted to dislike Jeremy but as he took to the stage I felt that was the furthest thing from my mind.

It was genuinely good to see Mr Corbyn speak last Saturday and, I'm guessing, like a good many of the audience I felt myself warming to the man. Listening to his speech which ranged from trade unions to apartheid to the poll tax I saw something which many of his biggest supporters already get: his genuine, fundamental decency.

But that, for me, is where my problem lies.

Being genuine and decent doesn't automatically make you fit for the most important job in the country, that of Prime Minister. Being genuine and decent actually doesn't make you exceptional, there are plenty of genuine, decent, principled people throughout the political spectrum not just even in our own party.

I know many decent people both in and outside politics the question I have to ask myself is how many would I trust to become the leader of my country?

What most of us want from a Leader is someone who can provide answers, a clear vision if you will, and that is not only my biggest reservation but I feel that of many voters in marginal constituencies up and down England.

Importantly that clear vision is not about simply having one for Britain but one of how a Corbyn lead government will benefit, directly, our own lives and those of our families.

Last week the Fabian's released Lewis Baston's analysis of Labour in the 2016 Local Elections. The conclusions are stark. Baston has looked at the results in marginal constituencies, all of which Labour would need to win a majority in 2020, and drawn some basic conclusions.

Clearly the 2016 results are a snapshot and his essay is filled with caveats, such as the relatively low turnout compared to a higher but overall less politically engaged one at a general election but there are lessons to be learned.

Whilst a similar turnout would mean constituency seats would be gained, particularly across the south in seats such as Reading East and Swindon South, the further north you go the projections look less rosy. In fact, on a like for like basis Derby North, that most marginal of all constituencies, would see its miniscule Tory majority increase.

Baston convincingly projects that, all caveats aside, the 2016 local elections would result in a Tory minority government. And that is before we factor in boundary changes.

Of course an academic analysis is in many ways only worth the paper it is written on, it is talking to voters where we learn so much even if it is done simply down at the pub - it doesn't have to be a focus group.

Which brings me back to Mr Corbyn's speech.

Last week Alison McGovern wrote that Labour must have a narrative to win marginals along the fabled M1 corridor, a narrative that gave as much credence to interest rates and mortgage repayment as to rents, a narrative which understood petrol prices as much as train fares. Crucially it is where in his speech, and in the data, Labour continues to fall down.

In the few questions he took Mr Corbyn was asked what his Labour Party had to offer to people who weren't unemployed, who do not work in the public sector. In other words the vast majority of us who work for companies in the private sector.

I'm still not sure what his answer was.

Speaking with fellow delegates outside the hall after Jeremy's speech we asked 'if you were working hard in a warehouse or call centre to pay the bills and try and take the family on holiday once a year what would Labour's current offer offer you?'

The answer again and again was we don't know, but as far as we could tell - nothing.

Those people I describe are the key to those M1 corridor marginals. Those people who right now will have no reason at all to vote Labour unless they feel particularly altruistic to demographics we happen to prefer.

Without those votes though, as Baston's projections suggest, there will be very little chance of us establishing a government when 2020 comes.