THE BLOG
28/09/2015 06:45 BST | Updated 28/09/2016 06:12 BST

New Leader, New Politics, 'New' Labour? Old Story

In May, the Tories won the general election... again. But they were beaten into second place by registered voters who didn't bother to go to the polling station on the day. They amounted to 34% of the 'vote', leaving the Tories trailing on only 24%. On top of this, there are an extra 7.5million-plus people who didn't even care enough to register to vote.

To win in 2020 Labour needs this 'apathy vote' to tick their box. This won't be easy. But does a new leader plus new politics equal a 'new' Labour that will secure victory? Or is it just going to end up being the same old political story?

The Tory Reaction To Voter Apathy

Obviously, the Tories' instant reaction to the voter apathy that gave them their small majority is to ramp up the talk of bombing Assad. Naturally, as you do - at least until Russia puts some tanks in there on Assad's side, then you quietly change your policy. They also take the result as a sign that they can continue to do nothing to stimulate an economy built on the crumbling cliffs of the service industry; allow Osborne to continue his fixation with building sites and yellow hard hats; say 'Northern Powerhouse' enough times so that eventually the Oxford Dictionary will bow to pressure and declare it one word: Northernpowerhouse; ignore growing inequality statistics and continue to try to reimagine the Welfare System and NHS in their own fantastical image.

But hey, none of this is a surprise is it? The Tory Party won the election. They have a majority. They can do as they damn-well please.

The Labour Reaction To Their Loss

Meanwhile, over at Team Labour the reaction is somewhat different. Labour decides the result obviously shows that people are desperate for 'change'. They say the fact that voters returned the Tory party again does not mean that more people voted Conservative. Oh no, not so. Instead, the result clearly demonstrates that people are desperate for 'something different'. They hold a leadership contest that starts to look a little like the X Factor, and ended up with something decidedly different. They rejoice and declare the invention of 'New Politics'. Job done. Now they're certain to win in 2020.

None of this is a surprise either. They lost the election. They don't have to govern. They can do as they damn well please.

The Voters' Reaction To Politics

Out there in the real world, at least a third of people don't care who won. In fact, despite us politicos putting it all at the centre of our lives, it becomes apparent that millions of people don't even know what politics is for.

Here's a quick, and telling, example. Just after the election, the mid-20-something, non-voting, zero-hour-contract, Labour-target-audience daughter of a friend called her mother and said that she, and all her colleagues, had been overpaid by the retail store she works in - and bizarrely so had her husband who works elsewhere. It transpired that not one of the 10-or-so retail staff, including the manager, realised that this 'overpayment' was in fact due to the rise in the personal tax allowance in April.

This isn't a surprise either. More people didn't vote in May than voted for any single UK political party. They did as they damn-well pleased. And that was... absolutely nothing.

New Leader Plus New Politics Equals New Labour Voters?

To win an election ever again, Labour needs to get people who don't vote to go to the polling station in 2020 and vote for them. But will a new leader and 'new politics' transform the Labour Party into something that can engage the disengaged? Only the Leader can secure brand new voters - no one else. And that's where the problem starts: leaders need leadership skills.

Political leaders are like CEOs. They have to believe in their party and in themselves. They have to keep their shareholders or core voters happy, reduce churn and grow their membership long term. To do all these things they must have a clear vision and sound strategy; great communication skills and a cohesive message that reinforces the brand. But crucially, they need to be cunning enough to survive for long enough to realise their vision.

But political leaders, just like CEOs, are sometimes surrounded by people who are just paid to believe; people who will say or do anything to further their own agendas. So even if the senior management team - or Cabinet - don't really rate the party or the new leader, in the early days it's not in their interest to rock the boat.

In business, some advisers and PR agencies believe it's their job to perpetuate every myth, no matter how absurd. They agree with everything the CEO says; inflate the company's importance, overblow the quality of the CEO's ideas, tell them only the good news, never the bad. This goes on until it's too late, and the CEO loses his job.

This is what's happening to Jeremy Corbyn right now. His closest, most ambitious allies are biding their time. They're telling him he's the next Keir Hardie; as popular as Benedict Cumberbatch; a political colossus set to win countless millions of votes in 2020 from the people who couldn't even be bothered to register online or nip to the polling station in 2015. But ambitious insiders don't wait forever.

'New Politics' Is Not Enough

Jeremy Corbyn will not survive as leader. Not necessarily because of his beliefs but because he has no leadership ability or experience. Successful leaders must be able to make decisions and inspire others; command and control; trust and delegate; direct and implement. He or she must have a healthy ego and a necessary ruthless streak. Above all they need to look like, and sound like, the person in charge. If they don't, then before long someone else will assume this role.

Jeremy Corbyn is an honest and authentic man. He has many very admirable qualities. In fact, even I agree with him on some things such as scrapping Trident. But already we're seeing the problem - the Unions will have the last say on Trident; as they will on many other new Labour policies under Corbyn; and others in the Cabinet are already vocally at odds with his vision.

As you can guess, I didn't vote for Corbyn. But that's not to say that I want to see him treated badly. He won the leadership election fair and square and that must be respected by everyone. But my gut and political history tells me that this is just the beginning of the old story of a failed leader removed. In politics there are always 'friends' waiting in the wings to stab you in the back.

The honeymoon will end and Corbyn will not have the leadership skills or cunning he needs to defend himself. He will continue to retreat behind his mantra of 'consensus politics' and 'conscience voting'. He will continue to proclaim that New Politics is what voters want - when most voters don't even care what the Old Politics was all about. He will continue to champion dialogue as a practical solution to absolutely everything. And as with all leaders who refuse to believe anything but the best in people, he will be 'removed' by those closest to him. Then, sadly, we'll all be treated to another £3 Labour-leadership election. Oh goodie. Unless the next leader has any leadership skills, in which case they'll be no £3 contest, you can bank on that!