It’s an interesting time to have an interest in British politics. A subject that would send most people running if you brought it up over a few beers has (temporarily – I’m not under any illusions) become one that most people have an opinion on. The ascension of Jeremy Corbyn from backbencher for Islington North to leader of the Labour Party is a rags to riches story of Cinderella proportions, but the man the BBC insist on referring to as ‘left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’ would surely disagree with serving his diverse constituency as the rags end of that analogy.
He’s polarised the members of his own party and has inspired frankly inspirational levels of hatred amongst the general public and the Murdoch empire of British media, as well as being accused of being a terrorist sympathiser and the saviour of not only Labour but the whole democratic process.
In the interests of journalistic openness I’m going to lay my cards on the table now and say that I’m a massive Corbynite – I can’t find any aspect of his policy that I disagree with except for that one unfortunate reference to women-only train carriages, a throwaway comment that inspired a thousand memes. I also don’t understand how his detractors can’t see that whether or not his policy is your personal cup of tea, he’s an incredibly powerful prospect.
The fact that in the first weekend after his election victory, over 15,000 people joined the Labour Party must go a way to show the pen pushers at Parliament that moderate Blairite policies do nothing but alienate the millions of people that view every other potential leader as Tory-lite. I’m so tired of scrolling down my Twitter feed to read variants on ‘how will Corbyn manage to regroup the people that turned to the Tories? None of those want a scary beardy vest-wearing communist vegetarian in charge’ – let’s have a look at a breakdown.
The seat share in 2015 compared to 2010 changed radically – whilst the Tories gained 35 seats they only gained 0.8% of the vote share, and Labour also increased their vote share by 1.5% on 2010. The primary reason for their abysmal defeat was the 50 seat gain achieved by the Scottish National Party, who’ve left one solitary Labour representative in Scotland, who presumably spends most of his time crying and complaining about those SNP bullies. And why did they suffer this defeat? I could point you to a wealth of articles that cite alienation from Labour’s policy – you’re not going to vote for a party that doesn’t represent you.
When you’re fed up with a party that fundamentally ignores the people they pledged to represent, having a leader that promises more of the same isn’t going to drag anybody back to the fold. Blair won in 1997 because he was a child of the neoliberal revolution, which was going full force at the time. In 2015, when the idealistic (and housing) bubble has burst, more of the same isn’t going to cut it.
So to those who support the Labour party who are willing Corbyn to fail before he’s even started, shame on you. Those who don’t, relish the chance for someone with a genuinely different form of politics to test whether your views win elections because of ‘real’ democracy (which we won’t have until we change our voting system – but that’s for another column) or because there’s no viable alternative. And as I’m sure Corbyn himself would be happy to tell you, there’s always an alternative.