Category Archives: Labour

Labour has the ammunition to win in 2020 – will it use it this time?

Which news item did you hear about this week – the fact that the NHS has been brought to its knees so severely that a third of UK GPs expect to quit in the next five years, or the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had help writing his Labour conference speech? The fact that the World Economic Forum has placed our ‘big picture’ economy 108th in the world table, below Haiti and Zimbabwe, or the proposal that Corbyn is a threat to what is claimed to be the fastest growing economy in the developed world? The fact that David Cameron’s government has been doing deals with human rights violator Saudi Arabia in secret, or that Corbyn borrowed a tie for Monday’s conference? Most likely, you heard the second story over the first in each case.

It’s obviously no accident: as we’ve highlighted before, the UK press predominantly supports the Conservatives, meaning news that reflects badly on David Cameron’s party isn’t as widely reported as that which affects Jeremy Corbyn’s. Increasingly, people are turning away from the mainstream media to alternative sources for their news, but not quite enough for the public opinion-at-large to change. The Tories wouldn’t have returned to power in 2015 otherwise, and the Labour party wouldn’t now be going through a crisis in search of lost votes. Unfortunately for fans of impartial news coverage, the right-wing control the conversation in this country. On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn made reference to that in his conference speech. Simply pointing out the bias against himself and his party, though, isn’t enough.

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Why do people like Jeremy Corbyn? Because he’s telling a damned good story

Well, what a week it’s been. Britain’s shiny new bus pass-wielding Karl Marx has already stolen food from war veterans, spat in the face of the Queen (aka Victoria WHO?), destroyed the sanctity of PMQs by daring to ask questions and offended every woman in the universe by giving only 16 of them well-paid, respectable positions in his cabinet. And yet, somehow people aren’t baying for his head on a pike – why? Because anyone who doesn’t get that a sizeable part of Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal is his uniquely mild version of not giving a shit what you think, isn’t fully tuned in to the fact that the new Labour leader is telling the best damned story British politics has seen for decades.

Whether we like it or not, politics today (particularly large scale elections) is far less about board rooms or seminar rooms, and far more about living rooms. Without an engaged populace at the base of a campaign to fervently scream and flag wave for your corner, without people who truly believe in what you’re selling, you’re not a politician. You may be an intellectual, but not a politician.

How then do you engage people in a topic as frequently dry and tedious as political debate? The answer (unfortunately), for the most part, is you don’t. For we, the proud proletariat, are far more likely to engage our minds using straightforward narrative rather than prolonged discussion. Most of us prefer a sitcom to PM’s questions, a soap opera over a live party election hustings. That’s because these stories offer us a satisfyingly easy choice: one side is good, one side is bad. It’s clear, it’s simple, it’s easy to know who to root for. It’s not, say, Ed Miliband’s confusing stance on immigration.

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What a difference a month makes

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.

– Mahatma Ghandi

On the 15th July, the Telegraph comment desk published an article encouraging its readers to register as Labour supporters and vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election. The idea was that a Corbyn win would surely spell disaster for the Labour party, as the Overton window has shifted too far to the right to accommodate Corbyn’s socialist policies.

Well, what a difference a month makes: far from appearing confident that Corbyn would “destroy the Labour Party”, The Telegraph now appears to be encouraging tactical voting to knock Corbyn out of the Labour leadership battle. Ben Riley-Smith, Telegraph political correspondent, writes how the other candidates are calling for second and third preferences to be shared between them in an effort to out-maneuver Corbyn, while another Telegraph article reports on Tory calculations that Corbyn’s policies would cost British households £2,400 a year (which apparently is worse than the £24,000 per household the Tories have already given to the banks.)

Perhaps it is the recent polls which show cross-party support for Corbyn that have the Establishment trembling, and that the usual tactics of character assassination and mockery seem so petty they only serve make him stronger. Corbyn represents a movement the Establishment were perhaps blind to see coming, and one that they aren’t quite sure how to handle.

Update: The Torygraph has since published an editorial calling for Jeremy Corbyn to be stopped, with brilliant one liners like “He would end austerity in the public finances, which would put Britain well outside the mainstream of economic thinking.” We aren’t sure which mainstream the Telegraph is looking at, but it sure isn’t the one where two thirds of economists said austerity harmed the economy.

 

Featured image: Bob Peters (via Flickr)