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Corbyn’s appeal to young and old Labour ‘will push him past the winning post’

Corbyn’s appeal to young and old Labour ‘will push him past the winning post’

🕔29.Jul 2015

Jeremy Corbyn is going to be the new Labour leader because he represents something that is strikingly different in a politically superficial age, even though victory will condemn his party to many more years in opposition, writes Paul Dale.

Corbyn’s unexpected popularity has parallels across the Atlantic, where Donald Trump is fast emerging as a serious contender to grab the Republican party Presidential nomination.

Corbyn and Trump are similar in some ways although not in terms of policy and personality, of course, where the two are polar opposites.

Trump is a hugely wealthy, brash, extreme right winger with a holdall of prejudices who doesn’t care who he upsets and appears to be on the ego trip of a lifetime. Corbyn is a sober veteran socialist representative of the hard left hitherto almost unknown outside of Islington whose idea of a good time is probably to curl up with a copy of Das Capital and a mug of Nicaraguan coffee.

Both Trump and Corbyn find themselves in unexpectedly advantageous positions as the political parties they represent desperately seek answers to why they have been dumped out of government and are likely to remain out of power for some considerable time.

In America, the Republicans have several poor quality candidates running for the Presidential nomination. Trump shines because he appears to represent something different. He gives hope to those that have lost hope, even though his chances of making it to the White House are surely only marginally better than mine, and I’m not even an American citizen.

In Britain the Labour party has three leadership candidates in Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall who can at best be described as beta plus. Labour, in its heart of hearts, doubts that any of these has the talent or the voter appeal to win the 2020 General Election, and judging by their lacklustre leadership campaigns the three probably don’t see themselves getting to Downing Street either.

So that leaves Jeremy Corbyn whose hard left agenda of renationalisation, punitive taxation, scrapping university tuition fees, spending our way out of austerity, scrapping nuclear weapons, leaving Isil to get on with it in Syria, and negotiating with terrorists groups seems to have struck a chord with two key sections of the Labour party.

First, Corbyn appeals to the old guard. He has stirred the emotions of those long enough in the tooth to recall the 1970s and 1980s when Corbyn’s policies were mainstream. These people have conveniently forgotten that this was the agenda responsible for dumping the party out of power from 1979 to 1987 when Labour was rescued and revitalised by Tony Blair – yes, by Tony Blair, the three-time General Election victor who is now treated by Labour with about as much respect as Ramsay MacDonald, that is to say he is detested and regarded as a Tory traitor.

Second, and this is of crucial importance, Corbyn appeals to many of the tens of thousands of new Labour members who have joined the party since May. Ask any constituency party secretary in the country and you will get the same answer – membership lists have never been healthier, and the average age of the new joiners is young. They see Corbyn, apparently, as a wise old grandfatherly figure and a politician who “says what he means and means what he says”.

It seems clear that the Labour family has suffered something approaching a collective nervous breakdown since May 7. Many old members, and new members, have convinced themselves that Ed Miliband simply wasn’t left wing enough and that some proper old fashioned socialist policies are required to sweep the Tories out of power in 2020. And they all lived happily ever after or, definitely, not in this case.

I’m calling this for Jeremy. I think he will win, quite possibly on the first ballot without requiring second preference votes. Two opinion polls, admittedly of debatable provenance, have put Corbyn ahead with a lead that is growing. He is already in the low to mid 40 per cent range.

A more accurate measure of support can be seen from the number of constituency Labour party nominations for the candidates. Corbyn is ahead with 121, Burnham is second with 107, Cooper has the backing of 91 and Kendall is in last place on 14.

Anecdotal evidence gleaned from West Midlands and Birmingham constituency Labour parties indicates a groundswell of support for Corbyn. Some CLPs, Yardley for instance, have voted to back him while others like Hall Green did not take a vote but it was clear from the mood of a well-attended meeting that Corbyn would have won.

A very senior West Midlands Labour figure wrote on Twitter that he was backing Corbyn because he had “electrified” the party. That may be the case, it’s certainly shocking, but the dangers of playing with electricity should not be underestimated.

A friend who is a member of the Sutton Coldfield CLP was staggered to hear a longstanding party member declare that personality meant nothing in the search for a new Labour leader. Policy was everything, apparently, and no consideration should be given to image or attempting to find someone who could appeal to a broad cross-section of voters. We might as well be back in the 1950s. Perhaps we are?

Another reason why Corbyn is likely to win, perhaps THE main reason, is that this leadership election is being fought for the first time on a one member one vote basis. Every Labour member gets a vote, including thousands of people who for whatever reason have taken advantage of a £3 associate membership, and each ballot slip has the same value.

This time the winner won’t be pushed over the line by trade union votes, although the powerful Unite union is naturally backing Corbyn and is helpfully pointing its members in the direction of the £3 scheme.

A highly respected Birmingham Labour figure told me he backed OMOV and “trusted Labour members” to make the correct decision, which in his case would not be a victory for Jeremy Corbyn. But Labour’s grassroots membership is generally to the left of the Parliamentary party and this time may avenge decades of being overlooked by electing a full-blooded socialist as leader.

There is much crazy talk about an immediate coup if Corbyn wins, as if the party elders can somehow declare the election null and void and start again. Realistically, if Corbyn wins Labour will be stuck with him and the first few weeks and months will be a period of maximum danger for the party. Will he trim back from the hard left towards the centre left? Unlikely. Will the remaining Blairites leave the party? Possibly. Will there be a vicious Labour civil war? Definitely.

There are several certainties likely to arise from a Corbyn victory. The first is that Labour will adopt a left-wing agenda of the type not envisaged for 30 years. The second is that the blood lust of the Murdoch press will be unleashed on Jeremy, exposing his life and times to inflict maximum damage. It won’t be a pretty sight. The third is that the 2020 General Election can be written off by Labour, and quite possibly the 2025 election as well.

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