The Blog

Jeremy Corbyn, This Could Go One of Two Ways

Many in the media predicted a dull Labour leadership contest, how wrong those people were. In the excitement of the past few weeks it has been hard for anyone not to adopt a stance on this subject.

Many in the media predicted a dull Labour leadership contest, how wrong those people were. In the excitement of the past few weeks it has been hard for anyone not to adopt a stance on this subject. A queue of Labour Party grandees, celebrities and even Conservatives have publicly waded into the debate. It's down to the policies and presence of one campaign, Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader.

What's that? Another opinion piece on Jeremy Corbyn? Oh, go on then.

A recurrent theme during leadership discussion seems to be that people on the right of the Labour party don't disagree with Corbyn's policies so much as they think he goes too far left. They believe those ideas wouldn't catch on with 'the electorate', that great uncomplicated entity that can only be found in a place called the 'middle ground'. The middle ground which is never changing and will remain very much to the right of the middle until 2020.

Why are Labour MPs worried then? It's because they think that with Corbyn they might lose their seat in 2020. "It's history!" They say, "just look at Michael Foot" - he was popular in the early 1980s and then the party split and Labour lost in the 1983 general election.

Instead of looking at this as a reason to go against Corbyn, it should be recognised that this history lesson might actually tell us something quite different about how this all might play out. If the gang of four hadn't left to form the SDP in 1981 there was a good chance Michael Foot's Labour party could have won the 1983 general election. The SDP were the real losers afterwards, realising that breakaway parties can never prosper in a First Past the Post voting system, even though they had a large share of the vote. Indeed if the SDP votes were added to Labours then Foot's Labour would have had far more votes than Thatcher's Conservatives.

No-one can know what might have happened in 1983 had Labour not split. But one thing is for sure, Labour MPs know the history of the SDP and none are going to risk splitting from the Labour party this time around and risk a life as a minor party player.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins, it gives him a chance to present a strong opposition to what the Conservative party are doing. In spite of objections in the mainstream media, the ideas and policies he stands for could catch on with a disappointed electorate and might well inspire some of those who have abandoned voting to engage or re-engage with politics. It looks like his campaign has already made the difference to engage many of these people. People are fed up and Jeremy Corbyn knows why. Their wallets are hurting and they are starting to realise how much this government has transferred money from taxpayers to the very wealthiest. If they knew that the deficit is likely to be around £75 billion in the UK this year, a country where £120 billion is lost to tax avoidance and evasion every year by wealthy businesses and individuals they might get more fed up, they are fed up with the cost of rail travel, they are also fed up with paying much more of their salary on rent than they paid a few years back - aren't you? The Labour party had already mentioned some of these things going into the last election, but a noble set of policies was so often overlooked as the Conservative party steered the broad debate exactly how they had hoped.

It might go another way though. The public forgets the injustices and the dents in their wallet that this government is happy to sanction and enforce. When the painful news becomes tomorrow's fish and chip wrappers, they forget their plight, believe the constant slurs and turn against Corbyn - he becomes deeply unpopular. Will MPs in the Labour Party allow their party to go into the 2020 election with an unpopular leader? Will Corbyn fight on even if the polls go as drastically against him as many on the right of Labour are predicting? The answer to both of these questions is no.

If the electorate cannot be convinced that Corbynism is better than more cuts, austerity and sluggish growth then it certainly will not take Labour MPs five years to oust their leader. If Labour go badly in the polls for a couple of years then other candidates will be primed (if they haven't been already). The chances of winning an election led by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall as leader for five years aren't great either if polls are to be taken seriously with this long to wait until the next general election. Each of them would face the same internal hostility if local elections and the London Mayoral don't show any signs of improvement in electoral fortune. This way Labour get to try out something that most of the party membership truly believes in. It is a once in a generation opportunity to sell a message of hope and prosperity for all to 'the electorate', but if signs are showing that it is not going well then they will have several years to elect a leader more to the right of the party who they believe is more palatable to the electorate. Whether you are on the left, middle or right of Labour don't be bitter about how this election, things can only get better.