As anyone who knows me is all too aware, I can’t stand the Labour Party. I harbour a burning contempt for them, and would love to see them consigned to history. That’s exactly why I’ve joined the #Tories4Corbyn rave, and paid £3 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn: he is entirely unelectable, and his leadership of the Party would lead to oblivion. However, I understand I’m not alone in voting for Corbyn – many people think he would actually be a good thing for the Labour Party. I feel duty-bound to tell you why I disagree:
It’s often easy to get wrapped up in a bubble while you’re at uni, especially if you’re politically minded. A bubble that not only reinforces your beliefs that austerity is wrong, Trident has to be scrapped, and that there’s never been a problem with mass immigration, but also convinces you that everyone else out there is actually thinking the same. You feel like you could go door-to-door, right across the country, and everyone you speak to will be passionately in support of you and your ideas, and you’ll depart their doorstep having politically liberated one of the vast silent majority who lack the confidence to engage with politics, but instinctively agree with the radical and compassionate politics you advocate.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however, and anyone who wants to save the future of the Labour Party needs to dispense with this delusional groupthink as soon as possible.
Whether or not you like Corbyn’s blue-sky ideas of ending austerity and abandoning any form of migrant control whatsoever, the electorate do not, and will not vote for it. This ultimately comes down to a decision between principle and practicality: stick with the far-left values that Corbyn advocates, and never get into office again; or move to the centre, appeal to the median voter, and have a chance of getting back into government in the future. If you are a Labour Party member, supporter or voter, you need to ask yourself one question before supporting Corbyn: Would you rather have a party that says things, or a party that does things?
Some people will say that Corbyn will bring something fresh and new to politics, and he’ll win over voters that way. Yes, of course he’ll win over some voters, but not the ones Labour need – Brighton Pavilion might go from green back to red, but would his message see the voters in the most important Labour-Tory marginals back him? Could he convince the floating voters in crucial seats like Warwickshire North to put a cross next to the Labour candidate? Of course not. Labour would be obliterated in such seats. In a year when the Tories won so many seats across England by relentlessly plugging the message that voting Labour would see the SNP into government, I find it incredible to think that anyone could believe Labour can now be best-served by a leader who pitches himself to the left of the SNP. The Conservatives won this election because they managed to locate the middle ground, and put a very big blue tent there; the Labour Party cannot hope to evict them by choosing for their leader a man who is not only toxically left-wing, but also has a dark history of associating with IRA terrorists and anti-Semites.
The last time that Labour were led into an election by such a left-wing leader was 1983. His name was Michael Foot, and his manifesto contained eerily Corbyn-esque policies such as nuclear disarmament and huge borrowing to finance an infrastructure boom. The result? Utter humiliation. Labour had made themselves look so radical that even Mrs Thatcher came across as a moderate in comparison. They won 209 seats, to this day their worst result since the 1930s, and it was little wonder that one of their MP’s at the time called their manifesto “the longest suicide note in history”. However, to this day, the Labour Party and all its supporters have failed to learn one key lesson: a move to the left will not win them an election. Tony Blair, their most electorally successful leader ever, only achieved what he did because he recognised that Britain would not vote for old-style, democratic socialist policies. He recognised the potential of the middle ground, and Labour were rewarded with 13 years in government. What Blair did in office was, in retrospect, atrocious, but you cannot deny his electoral success.
Ed Miliband’s failure came not just in looking weak and awkward, but in being quite simply too whiny and too left-wing. He wrung his hands, for example, at the increasing number of food banks in the country, claiming this was the epitome of how the Tories’ economic recovery was leaving behind those at the bottom. It was a stupid message that was guaranteed to lose. On the way out of the worst recession in living memory, asking voters to put aside the economic recovery and think of the less fortunate in society instead was plain suicidal. Don’t just trust me on that, though – a post-election YouGov survey showed that, were the government to have money to spare, 30% of people would prefer it to be spent on increasing welfare benefits, but 60% would rather it were used to cut income taxes. You can’t get much clearer than a ratio of 2:1 in favour of cutting taxes over increasing welfare spending, and so Labour’s attempt to smear the economic recovery the Tories managed by highlighting the pain felt on the sharp end of it was doomed from the start.
If I haven’t convinced you by now, then I hope this last piece of evidence is sufficient. This is from a week after the election, and clearly shows that the public saw Ed Miliband as much further to the left than where they thought Labour should be. As for Corbyn, this chart does not stretch far enough to the left to accommodate him.
To wrap this up, if you’re a member of the Labour Party, or are paying to vote, PLEASE vote for Jeremy Corbyn. His election as leader would be the final nail in Labour’s coffin, and I would love nothing more than to spend the next five years watching the Labour Party fall apart at his hand. However, if you’re voting with honest intentions, and want to see a Labour Party that can once again challenge the Conservatives for government, you have a clear choice of three candidates – there’s little to choose between Cooper, Burnham and Kendall; I personally think Kendall would be best, but all three are reasoned, respectable, and can appeal to the middle class that Labour desperately needs to start winning back – a far cry from the teenage shock-and-awe strategy of Jeremy Corbyn. There’s also a deeper, more fundamental decision to make here, though: Do you want your party to simply be a megaphone for radical policies you believe to be principled, but will lock Labour out of government? Or do you want your party to be a realistic, progressive movement that recognises that principles and policies are pointless, without the power to put them into practice?