On September 12th 2015 the UK’s largest party will announce its new leader, and I for one will be delighted if Jeremy Corbyn emerges victorious. Now I know what you’re thinking reading this, “Oh wow, a university student backing the left wing, anti-establishment candidate, how ‘out there’ of him”. However, my reasoning for wanting Jeremy for the job is based on much more than the visceral, post-election desire of simply wanting to ‘stick it to the establishment’. My support for Jeremy stems from the countless traits he has that I, and swathes of the electorate, feel British politics has been missing for far too long.
Career Politicians, Honesty & Integrity
Stand on any high street in Britain and ask the public walking by what they think about MPs. “They’re all crooks!”, “I don’t trust them!” and “They’re in it for themselves!” are the sort of responses you will hear time and time again. Now I’m not of the camp that thinks all today’s MPs are focused solely on their post-Westminster prospects at KPMG. However, there undoubtedly are too many men & women of this ilk in the Commons.
In spite of the fact that distrust & disdain for MPs has never been rifer than in the past half-decade, there is seldom somebody on the British Isles who would try and claim that the selfish, expense fiddling politician schema is one that befits Jeremy Corbyn even slightly.
In fact, when the expense scandal of 2010 destroyed the reputations and even careers of many a British parliamentarian, it’s worth simply pointing out that the lowest expense claimer of all 650 British MPs was (you guessed it), Jeremy Bernard Corbyn.
We didn’t buy Jeremy a conservatory for his second home; nor did he file three figure travel expense claims for a half mile journey. Jeremy didn’t even think that pornographic films were something the public ought to buy for him (obviously testament to those radical views of his!). All in all, Mr Corbyn’s work-related expense claims for 2010 totalled a measly £8.70, which were for the entirely acceptable expense of ink cartridges. And if you asked Jeremy to thank you for the ink cartridges that YOUR tax money paid for, I’m sure he would happily do so amid his amusement.
What is largely fuelling ‘Corbynmania’ (And yes, I too am amazed, and admittedly rather pleased, that this is actually a thing) is that the electorate are able to watch Jeremy speaking and see a politician doing the oh-so-rare task of managing to actually answer questions directly. He doesn’t dance around what he really wants to say and his answers don’t sound like he’s regurgitating the words of his PR team (if he even has one!).
Mr Corbyn is praised for answering the question.
We watched David Cameron continually refuse to admit his plans to slash child benefit in the 2015 election run up. We’ve seen George Osbourne never complete a sentence without coming across as a disingenuous little snake. Scenes like the above have been all too commonplace in the political establishment for decades, and as frustrating as many Britons may find them, it is years of annoyance with these very scenes that are now causing voters to support (or at the very least ‘respect’) Jeremy Corbyn & the straight-talking, policy-focused campaign he is leading.
Consistent & Time-Tested
Britain’s mainstream media have tried to use Jeremy Corbyn’s age as a means to discredit his Labour leadership challenge (evidently scraping the barrel for mud to sling). Quite frankly, if he was a pro-Establishment candidate I’m sure Sky News & the BBC would be rushing to hail 66 year old Corbyn for his ‘wealth of experience’.
Whilst the mainstream media seem to think that Corbyn’s consistent re-election to parliament since the early 80s is somehow a bad thing, I for one like the fact that we are able to judge and evaluate how Jeremy’s performed in politics against history. Evaluation we can only dream of doing with most MPs and not any of the three other Labour leadership candidates.
Were there any serious wrongdoings or scandals in Corbyn’s past, his campaign would have been derailed long ago by a mainstream media so eager to undermine him. However, since his 1983 election to parliament, Jeremy has constantly found himself on the right side of the history books. Jeremy Corbyn hailed Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nelson Mandela when Thatcher’s Tories were calling him a “terrorist”. Jeremy Corbyn was marching for rights for the LGBT community when it was a cause reserved only for ‘loony, hippy, liberals’. Jeremy Corbyn called the Iraq War a mistake long before it played a crucial role in the establishment of the merciless, barbaric Islamic State. Jeremy stood for all these causes at great personal cost, and is still fighting on the side of the marginalised.
The late Tony Benn would say that some politicians are like weathervanes, simply pointing wherever the winds around them are headed, whereas others are signposts, and stand firm come what may. Jeremy Corbyn is one of a rare breed of politician with the elusive trait of consistency who can certainly position himself in the latter camp.
We live in a political landscape where Conservative Nicky Morgan will vote against gay marriage one year but will Tweet her congratulations to Ireland’s LGBT community post-referendum in 2015 when her continued opposition would be politically damaging. That considered, the consistent & principled stances that Jeremy Corbyn has maintained over the years merit a huge deal of respect.
Scotland, UKIP & the Westminster Bubble
Another arrow in the quiver of those opposing (unsuccessfully I might add) Jeremy Corbyn’s charge for Labour leader is the claim that he is unelectable and has minimal chance of winning the 2020 general election. My first issue with this idea being sung in unison by media outlets is that after the trouble predicting election results in 2015, our media are perhaps being a tad over confident in their prophetic abilities by trying to make messianic doomsday warnings 5 years in advance.
In fact, makers of the only poll that had any predictive success in the 2015 election (the Exit Poll) actually returned results only last week showing that the British electorate claimed that they were more likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn than any of the other Labour candidates. So the electability argument hits the skids here.
Besides, Labour lost 40 seats in Scotland to a party that positioned itself staunchly anti-Tory and their ideological, economically unsuccessful austerity. It was not simply nationalism that caused the SNP’s surge; Scotland was keen to vote for what they saw as a proper social-democratic party. Only a leader like Jeremy Corbyn can debunk the myth in Scotland that Labour are the ‘Red Tories’. If Labour harbours any hope of a resurgence in their old stomping ground then they need Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It really is that simple.
It’s not just the ‘not leftist enough’ views held in Scotland that a Corbyn-led Labour could exploit. In the 2015 general election UKIP completed the transition from a fringe party (albeit a noisy one) to one of considerable prominence amongst the British electorate (although not in the Commons). UKIP flourished because the British public (completely wrongly) viewed them as being anti-establishment. Corbyn is the only Labour leadership candidate properly challenging the status quo and looking to shift the depressingly right-wing Overton Window.
The last election showed us that there are 4 million British voters with an appetite for somebody (literally anyone considering they voted for UKIP) to challenge the current political establishment. This means there are 4 million predominantly working class votes that a Corbyn-led Labour in 2020 could tap into better than the party under the reign of any of the other 3 candidates (who Britons rightly view as firmly rooted members of the Westminster Bubble). A Survation poll of those Britons who voted UKIP in the last general election returned results supporting the above analysis. They would be most likely to vote Labour in 2020 if it was under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Contempt for our current political establishment is widespread in the UK, and Corbyn is better placed than anyone to be the leader that disenfranchised Britons rally around.
Swing Seats & the 2020 Election
If Labour are to win in 2020 it is widely accepted they will need to regain lost seats in Scotland as well as pick up votes in England (not allowing UKIP to split the working class vote for them). However, there is one crucial thing they will need to do in their quest to lead the nation once again: they will need to reclaim swing seats down South that went blue. It is these seats that anti-Corbyn Tories & Labourites alike point to when continually calling for Labour to ‘return to the centre ground’ (wherever that lies one month to the next). These Tory-held seats are what are being considered unwinnable by a Corbyn-led Labour; although pointing to these seats to attack Jeremy Corbyn specifically baffles me somewhat. Would such seats really be under significantly greater threat if one of the other candidates led the Labour party?
Unless Liz Kendall can befriend Rupert Murdoch Blair-style then the 2020 election will consist of Labour trying to out-Tory the Tories, and the media-backed Conservatives will subsequently hold on to their swing seats and probably Downing Street too. The Conservatives and right-wing media would have little trouble discrediting a lovely, albeit vanilla, Yvette Cooper by 2020. A recovery of the size needed by Labour requires the boat of British politics to be thoroughly rocked, and, I believe, it’s quite easy to see that Yvette Cooper simply wouldn’t galvanise support enough to lead such a comeback. The same can be said for Andy Burnham, although a charming individual who certainly looks more like the quintessential politician than Mr Corbyn; his yo-yoing between the left and right of Labour has failed to inspire the members of his own party, which hardly bodes well for his prospects of driving an electoral recovery in five years’ time.
Now on to Jeremy’s Labour fighting the oh-so-important swing seats. For too many years the British electorate has been forced to choose between the ‘lesser of two evils’ or, as London mayoral candidate George Galloway put it, “two cheeks of the same backside”. It is being claimed that Corbyn would have minimal appeal to these Southern constituents in the same way that Blair’s media-backed New Labour did. However, just because Britons (only 24% of them actually!) elected the Conservatives when faced with an election fought on the Tory terms of slashing state spending, it is not evidence enough to suggest that the Southern English are largely Conservative in their views. In fact, the vast majority of “Vote for Policies” figures released in the run-up to the 2015 general election showed just how ‘leftist’ & ‘radical’ the average Briton really is.
With this in mind, imagine 5 years of Jeremy Corbyn in the political spotlight shifting the debate towards more progressive, social issues. Imagine the mood in the country when the British electorate know that their choice of political leadership could actually produce visible, felt changes in the nation around them. In half a decade’s time, the policy difference between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour & Anonymous Eton Alum’s Conservative party would be greater than anything political pundits are used to. Can our pollsters (still red faced from their performance in May) really predict British voting patterns so far in advance? Especially as 2020 could have the unique claim among recent British elections of being one not fought on the basis of personality & disappointingly similar policies.
Win or lose the 2020 election (Labour’s current position means any of the 4 candidates have a tough ask to win), at least a Corbyn-led Labour will shift the political debate away from the current right-wing ‘centre ground’ of neoliberalism & “socialism for the rich” (Jones, O; 2015).
Labour faces an uphill battle & rather long-odds to return to power in 2020. Jeremy Corbyn has so far thrived on being the outsider, underdog and anti-establishment candidate. People underestimated his chances when he entered the Labour leadership election, and they would be foolish to do so again when 2020 rolls around.
Tom Drissi – Tom is an Economics student at Bristol. Follow Tom – @TYD29