Sub Editor of Naked Politics
Well, as entertaining as the Labour Party Conference was, we’re still no clearer on what they actually stand for. Other than the one constant Labour “value” that is; the hatred of all Tory toffs and business people, of course. Claims of honest, authentic, straight talking politics, become strained when every single Labour representative answers every single question with the party’s new soundbite – “erm…well…we’re going to debate it….I think”. Snappy though that is, I’m not sure that dodging difficult questions has ever been a vote winner.
Comrade Corbyn made no reference to either the general election defeat or any plans to win in 2020. So it is clear that he isn’t concerning himself with the wider electorate anyway. His priority seems to be the accumulation of like-minded activists that will stand in solidarity against the tyranny of the Wicked Rich of the West. The one call to arms in his lengthy 1980’s-inspired speech was for his disciples to reach out to new followers. Fuelled with a religious fervour, they are compelled to distribute leaflets, knock on doors and spread the good word of JC at mass congregations.
There is no doubting that after such an emphatic victory, Jeremy Corbyn has a clear mandate to lead the party in any way that he chooses. So it begs the question that if he is as unelectable as most political commentators seem to think, how was his leadership campaign so successful.
One suggestion is that while the economy is growing and life is relatively stable, the moderate majority tend towards apathy and disengage with the political process. So the influx of grassroots support made possible by the £3 vote was always bound to lean towards the extreme. Centrists were so complacent that morbid curiosity was enough for them to “broaden the debate” by nominating him. A line of thought that has now transferred to the idea of him being the next Prime Minister – surely not?!
The drama is now unfolding like the telegraphed plot of a movie with a not-so-surprising twist. The start point, with a Labour Party content in its perpetual opposition is just too far-fetched. Maybe this Corbyn chap is a patsy and there’s actually an evil Blairite mastermind behind the façade? Maybe splitting the centrist vote in the leadership election was deliberate and the social media fever pitch whipped up by Machiavellian puppeteers with excitable centrists dancing on strings.
If there really is a clandestine coup in the offing, perhaps that was the real motivation for Chuka Umunna’s withdrawal. Not only to stand aside and open the door for Jeremy, but also to avoid the battle scars that could tarnish his public image before accepting the Shadow Chancellor role in Tristram Hunt’s cabinet. Is his job now to win back the traditional far left support before allowing them to come to terms with the fact that he is unelectable when the mayoral and council elections go against him in 2016/17?
In that scenario, it is entirely plausible that the objective is also to lull the Conservatives into a false sense of security, potentially teasing out excessively right wing policies that can be more easily challenged from a centrist position. Janan Ganesh, FT columnist, certainly believes that complacency would be understandable, writing that “If David Cameron showed up to parliament in his Bullingdon Club tailcoat to announce the sale of Great Ormond Street children’s hospital to a consortium led by ExxonMobil, his Conservatives would still be competitive against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour at the next election.”
Whether Corbyn is eventually ousted by a meticulously planned long game or an opportunist gambit, the worst approval rating of any post-war leader does suggest a certain inevitability to the outcome. It would therefore be folly for the Tories to rest on their laurels by departing from the centre ground. With the Conservative Party Conference starting on Sunday, it will be interesting to see if they fall into the trap….