The data from the polls and from social media is matching up with the data from phone bank canvassing. This is really happening. Jeremy Corbyn really is this popular. Whilst supposedly left wing publications and leading Labour figures- even the rest of the contenders in the leadership election-collectively engage in schadenfreude towards Jeremy Corbyn, his campaign appears to grow stronger.
This internal fracas began when two polls implied that Jeremy Corbyn could quite possibly win the leadership election. Two polls commissioned by opponents of Corbyn had him at 15 points ahead and a YouGov poll put him on 43%- 17 points in front of Andy Burnham. After these polls were announced, the Labour Party machine went into overdrive. John McTernan- Labour’s very own Medusa (so called because everything he touches seems to be a disaster) was the most forthright, denouncing MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”. Even fellow leadership contender, Liz Kendall, is getting involved in the hate campaign towards Corbyn, saying in the Guardian “Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster for Labour” Kendall makes the mistake of equating a Corbyn victory with the politics of the 1980s by saying “Turning back to the politics of the 1980s, which saw us suffer defeat after defeat, does nothing to help the people we all came into politics to serve.” Tony Blair gave his two cents worth at a recent Progress gig where he said of Corbyn: “When people say: ‘My heart says I should really be with that politics’, get a transplant,”
The centrist, moderate wing of the party today seem to lack the self awareness of why Corbyn is proving so popular. There is a collective head scratch as to why people would possibly want to vote for him as opposed to the HQ-approved Labour-bots Burnham, Cooper and Kendall. What are the key differences, if any, between Burnham, Cooper and Kendall? There don’t appear to be very much. Corbyn goes against the “mainstream”. For years, when things have been good and Labour were winning elections, politicians of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall’s ilk were shitting on the membership and the membership became so placid that they did little to challenge the party on their increasingly neo liberal direction; because it won elections. It is, clearly, no longer winning elections. Labour wins elections when the direction of the party is radically changed. New Labour was somewhat successful in gaining a majority of 179 because it was reinvented as a new party. Clement Atlee won in 1945 because his Labour Party offered something completely new and radical. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall carry too much baggage from frontbench positions to change the party for the better. Jeremy Corbyn has ambitions of making the Labour Party a “social movement”- something that is becoming increasingly popular across Europe. Left wing parties across Europe are making an impact because they are actively challenging the status-quo and providing an alternative. A real alternative. Syriza in Greece stood on a platform of anti-austerity and won the recent elections. They provided an alternative to Eurozone imposed austerity with a strong leader and a strong message.
Sadly, too many people on the centre and the centre-left of Labour seem to be quite willing to accept what the right wing press says and what the electorate who reads the right wing press says. The Labour membership is growing again. Since the election, 140,000 people have joined as members or have registered as supporters. We can radically transform the message the Labour Party sends out to people. We can change the player; we can change the game. Perhaps we failed because we did not offer enough of a clear alternative to the Tories. Perhaps we failed because we did not have an effective leader. Perhaps we failed because of Conservative fear-mongering about Labour and the SNP doing a deal together. The claim that we lost because we were too left wing, can be refuted as Labour increased it’s popular vote share from 2010.
Corbyn’s policies and opinions are more in-line with the public’s view on issues such as nationalisation of the railways; nuclear disarmament and free university tuition. The trouble is, these ideas are lauded as madness in the popular press. They are criticised as left wing fantasy politics, but as countries across Europe show us, they can be achieved. Corbyn is proving particularly popular with young people. Young people see his ideas as new, even though they are not. Corbyn offers something radically different from the third way, non politics that has dominated the Labour Party for twenty years. It’s time to change the record.