Corbyn: A good or bad party influence?

Jez we can?

Good influence

‘An NHS with time to care’. This is just one example of the meaningless buzzwords that have been rattled off consistently by New Labour in recent years. Under Ed Miliband the party entered an election campaign with a set of ill-defined policies described in nebulous promises that clearly amounted to very little. Their manifesto consisted of general, rhetorical objectives lacking distinction and development. It was unclear how they would be implemented or indeed translate into effectual policy. Party moderates have long insisted that the central ground is the most politically advantageous, claiming that inclining too far left will alienate voters, and that the only functioning economic model is based around a market ideology, the role of a party like Labour being to mitigate its effects on vulnerable populations rather than to challenge it.

Labour has allowed itself to fall victim to mainstream political dilution, relinquishing its radicalism to market whims. Its ideological blurring has proved unattractive to many voters. Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected victory in the recent Labour leadership contest has not been universally well received but, ultimately, the party needs an original Labour radical to help re-define itself and re-evaluate its role in British politics in order to finally start successfully targeting a voter base and producing ideologically consistent policy. Jeremy Corbyn’s position is, at the very least, lucid.

Corbyn comes from a previously marginalised hard-left faction of the Labour party, untainted by the fiasco which was the Iraq intervention and by vehement opposition to austerity. He argues that his stunning leadership victory gives him the authority to shift Labour’s political centre of gravity – and considering the mandate he received, his legitimacy is unquestionable.

If Labour moves left, Corbyn has the opportunity to unify the anti-austerity voices in Britain and regain the voters who have defected to smaller or nationalist parties. Austerity is rapidly losing public support and alternatives to a left-of-centre Labour with incoherent policies continue to grow in popularity. Opposition to austerity will only increase as David Cameron pursues his more radical Tory agenda in order to consolidate backbencher support and maintain his precarious majority. Further cuts to public spending will put an anti-austerity Labour in a powerful position as voters become disaffected.

Corbyn appeals to a generation of disillusioned voters searching for political authenticity rather than meaningless rhetoric, cleverly constructed to disguise a lack of policy substance and nuance. He is genuine and direct. The level of engagement he achieved in the leadership elections alone was extraordinary and if able to replicate that appeal on a larger scale could give Britain a coherent and powerful anti-austerity movement.

Corbyn admittedly faces some opposition from within his own party but this is also true of David Cameron, notably over Europe and ideological conflict. If the conservatives continue to shift right, they create more space for a radical left alternative.

Until now, Labour and the Conservatives have not been significantly differentiated – the choice lies between austerity or ‘austerity-lite’. A more distinctive stance will help Labour to retain voters and enable their reconnection with people who no longer feel represented by the mainstream parties.

The parameters of political feasibility have until very recently been set around a conservative market ideology. Within this framework any even remotely socialist policy appears radical and unviable. As a result, Labour has felt inhibited from offering distinctive policies on the basis that they are not politically possible. Trying to operate within these limitations whilst simultaneously attempting to exercise a leftist position has proved disastrous in recent elections. Jeremy Corbyn’s rejection of these confines will be to Labour’s advantage, as it expands the arena of political discourse, allowing them to produce genuinely meaningful policies. It will reverse the disillusionment many voters feel with Labour and the current political system.

Rachel Tait LV

Bad Influence

Only a few months ago, Jeremy Corbyn was a distant outsider in the running for Labour Party Leadership. On the 12th September 2015, he had won the election for leadership with 59.9% of first preference votes. Many are still in disbelief that someone who was assumed to be an improbable or even, some claimed, a bizarre choice for leader ended up actually succeeding Ed Miliband to front the Labour Party.

In this writer’s opinion, with Corbyn in power, the Labour Party will become unelectable. Even prominent members of the Labour Party, including Gordon Brown (Prime Minister 2007-2010) and Alistair Campbell (Director of Communications) had warned voters of this and publicly criticised his radical stance on key election issues. Corbyn’s increasingly socialist views, such as his desire to withdraw Britain from NATO, support of a maximum wage policy, proposals to renationalise energy companies, and opposition to the monarchy, have suddenly dragged Labour into a position on the radical left of Britain’s political spectrum (much further afield from the comparatively central position that both the Conservatives and Labour have occupied in recent years). This dramatic change has lost Labour many supporters, as illustrated by the recent resignation of 8 front bench MPs who have refused to serve under Corbyn. Despite a new wave of left-wing supporters who have previously felt isolated by Labour’s left-of-centre policies coming in, the loss of such large numbers of long-standing followers will result in a reduction of votes in the 2020 General Election.

Opposition to Corbyn has also come in the form of sponsorship withdrawal: Labour’s largest individual donor has threatened to stop sponsoring due to Corbyn’s appointment. If Labour’s benefactors withdraw their support, the party will inevitably lose its strength and credibility, both financially and in public opinion. Additionally, Corbyn himself is unqualified to serve as party leader, with no prior experience of holding a government post (although he has successfully held his post as MP for Islington North since 1983). This lack of experience, along with his policy of attempting to end austerity without immediately taking measures to cut the deficit, lends credit to one donor’s description of him as ‘economically illiterate.’ It was due to these myriad deficiencies that people, including many Conservatives, were willing to pay the £3.00 fee to join the Labour Party and vote for Corbyn, with the intention of ruining Labour’s future and attempting to guarantee that Labour would be unable to win the 2020 General Election.

With Corbyn and his divisive policies in power, Labour will be set up for a series of internal conflicts rather than battling for victory in Parliament, much like the Tories back in 2001. The party will descend into scrapping over Corbyn’s proposals, developing a revolving door of MPs as their leader drastically gains and loses internal support. I do not see the Labour Party being electable with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, purely due to the sheer amount of opposition towards him. Jez we can? I don’t think so.

Olivia Dodd VII