A Tory minister has praised Jeremy Corbyn for attracting hundreds of thousands of young people to Labour - and warned his party needs its own ‘moral mission’ to tackle inequality.
Education minister Rob Halfon said that “too many Conservatives” had celebrated Corbyn’s re-election, and warned that there was a real risk of under-estimating his appeal with the voters.
Speaking at a fringe meeting in Birmingham, Halfon said that the Tories had to recognise why the Labour had energised many supporters this summer during his leadership campaign and second landslide victory.
His words echoed similar warnings from Theresa May, who said her party should not be “complacent” about beating Labour, and from Liam Fox, who cautioned that the next election could be “unpredictable”.
Halfon told the Conservatives that they could not take anything for granted in coming months and said that all the jokes about Corbyn could turn sour if Labour began to recover in the polls.
“When Jeremy Corbyn got re-elected there were too many Conservatives celebrating on Twitter and implying that it’s a walk in the park, that we can all go to the Bahamas for the next five years, that the 2020 election is already won,” he said.
“Now, the reason why that is wrong is actually we’re not looking at the much deeper meanings of how he won.
“Not every one of the 600,000 members who have joined the Labour party are a hard left Trotskyite.
“Of course there are many from the hard left, but there are also many hundreds of thousands of people, I suspect, who have joined the Labour party, who support the Labour party because they believe they have a noble mission which is helping working people and helping people on lower incomes.”
Halfon, who who turned his Harlow constituency from a marginal Labour seat into a safe Tory seat in 2015, warned that images of Tories popping champagne corks at Corbyn’s re-election were making a big mistake.
“When we think ‘oh whoop dee doo, Jeremy Corbyn’s got re-elected’ we should actually be thinking ‘why are so many young people joining the Labour party?’
‘Why do they still have a powerful message on the doorstep despite the fact that many Conservatives believe they get it wrong?’ So the first task of the Conservative party...is we have to be a party with an ethical, moral mission too.
“We must not be complacent about the Labour party for one minute and think everyone is just a far left person because there are many idealistic people who are joining that party.
“We have to frame our language correctly, we have to make sure that our policies reflect that language and we have to, as members of our party and ambassadors.”
Late last night, May told a ConservativeHome fringe meeting: “Let us not be complacent about the Labour Party.”
And International Trade Secretary Fox told a HuffPostUK fringe event on Sunday that it was a huge error for his party to ridicule Corbyn.
“I think that it’s extremely dangerous for the Conservative Party or any other political grouping to say: ‘This party has now taken such leave of its senses it couldn’t possibly be elected.’
“Electoral circumstances are unpredictable – we know that from history. This is a very dangerous leader of a very dangerous party at the present time.”