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Jeremy Corbyn's Guide On How To Lose An Election

20/04/2017 13:28 BST | Updated 20/04/2017 13:29 BST

"The General Election isn't about Brexit" is as good as saying "the referendum wasn't about immigration." Yes, the referendum was surrounded by other pressing issues but immigration was the defining characteristic for a large swathe of voters. And the defining issue of this snap election is Brexit. To say otherwise is naïve at best and madness at worst.

So what does Labour's first campaign video focus on? Brexit? You bet your bottom dollar Corbyn didn't even mention it. Instead of setting out a clear choice opposing May's hard Brexit, he seemed to mention everything except the EU. You aren't going to win this general election on a nationalisation-of-the-railways ticket, Jeremy.

Then on Thursday in his first election trail speech, he mentioned the EU briefly but failed to present Labour's vision of an alternative Brexit to Theresa May's No Deal.

Over the next few months, Corbyn will be heading towards a car-crash general election. Whether he wants Labour to have a quick or a slow death will depend on when (it's not a question of if) he makes the following mistakes.

1. Be slow off the mark

In Corbyn's first statement since May's announcement of the snap election, his message was clear: "We're going out there to put the case for how this country could be run." Could? COULD?! You need more enthusiasm than that Jeremy.

The hours before the announcement, he was on Good Morning Britain, telling Susanna Reid that he'll win enough support to become Prime Minister "by putting the policies out there." He seems to be playing the slow-burner tactic, thinking that he can sit around and wait for the electorate to eventually come round to voting for him.

What Corbyn needed to do was be in a position where Labour could throw themselves into Election Mode at full speed, getting a head start in front of May. But Labour seemed completely taken by surprise; the next day Shadow Foreign Minister Emily Thornberry said that Labour want to "begin a debate" on the intricacies of Brexit. Labour should have already had at least some of their Brexit policy established.

2. Get the message wrong

The EU has always been a sticky subject for Corbyn. Well, since he's been leader anyway. Before that, he was comfortably anti-EU, but since being thrust onto the Labour front lines he's publicly adopted Labour pro-EU policy. Albeit without passion, enthusiasm or respect for Labour party members. His deliberately slow, lazy and poor performance in the Remain campaign should not be forgotten.

To give Labour credit, they've rightfully snatched the title of 'The Party of the Working People' back from the Tories. In Corbyn's campaign speech he set out a nice dividing line between Labour and the Tories - the People vs the Establishment. If you shut your eyes it could have been Bernie Sanders talking.

Eventually Corbyn got to the subject of the European Union, setting out Labour's position on the single market, focusing on "gaining and retaining tariff free access to the single market." A good start, but Labour need a more rounded Brexit narrative in order to have any chance of making headway against the Tories. 

3. Be a media sham

If we're being honest, Theresa May's refusal to take part in the televised debates leading up to the election gives Corbyn an easy way out. Hardly one with media instinct, he would be ripped to shreds in a debate where he is the obvious target. If he's got any sense, he'll give the debates a miss too.

Corbyn is almost the antithesis of Ed Miliband, who had passion, an ability to improvise and an awareness of language, but no confidence in himself. And here we have Jeremy, swaggering around with his massive mandate, but without the skills needed to get the job done. It's not about how big it is Jeremy, it's about what you do with it.

4. Appeal only to the people whose support you already have

Time and time again, Corbyn fails to reach out to a wider audience, to Labour voters who aren't yet on board with him and other on-the-fence voters. 

Instead, he surrounds himself with adoring supporters, always running off the same spiel of buzzwords which target the same group of people. David Cameron's election campaigns were disgustingly successful because the Tories cast a wide net with their policies and their narrative. I just hope nobody says "long-term economic plan" this election, otherwise the electorate might implode.

Truth be told, Corbyn is happy with the power he already has. After all, being Prime Minister would require actually doing stuff. Stuff which Jeremy would rather talk about doing but never actually put into practise.

What Corbyn needs to do is that which has been highlighted by the likes of Owen Jones: offer a clear alternative to a hard Brexit. Without this crystal clear vision, Labour are dead in the water. It will be like the 1983 election but this time whoever wins gets the prize of throwing the country off a cliff. Labour needs to at least offer voters a parachute.

To be a contender, Corbyn must present himself as the Common Man. I'm not saying he should copy Nigel Farage and get a photo holding a fag and a pint in every pub on the south coast. Instead he needs to retain his support on the left and amongst young voters, whilst appealing to the 52% who voted to Leave by reinforcing himself as an antiestablishment figure, minus the hard Brexit. If you can strike the right balance, Jeremy, you could be a real contender in this general election. But until then, I won't hold my breath.