7 things Corbyn’s supporters are betting on
If they’re right, I’ll be rich
Yesterday, 172 MPs voted to declare no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. Later that day, a Times Poll showed Labour voters backing him to remain as leader by a 19 point margin. Meanwhile, thousands of people materialised in Parliament Square to show their support for him.
Are these Corbyn supporters inflexible idealists, unwilling to accept defeat, or do they actually think he can win a General Election? Like, actually?
Yes, they do. Here’s what the Corbyn backers are betting on.
He’s really popular
We all know about Corbyn’s massive mandate. We were told it wouldn’t last. But Labour increased their vote share in all Parliamentary by-elections and doubled their majority in Tooting on the day his Cabinet resigned. Currently two polls have them ahead, and one level with, the Tories. Membership of his campaign group Momentum has been sky-rocketing in the last few days. 13,000 people joined Labour today, with most putting on their actual form that they were doing it for Corbyn. But yeah, 7/10.
The PLP know this. If you think this coup is about his ‘lacklustre’ performance during the referendum, just remember that while he could only persuade 63 per cent of Labour voters to vote ‘In’, this is only one point more lacklustre than Nicola Sturgeon’s celebrated sweep of Scotland, in which 64 per cent of SNP voters did.
The press want you to think that these are mainly idealistic undergrads from London. Not so. The 5,000 people on Parliament Square on Monday were, just…the Labour Party. I’ve heard people claiming that it was ‘actually’ hard left parties because the placards were branded Socialist Workers Party — that’s because the SWP always bring placards, because the Trots know how to organise. But it’s ordinary people coming out for Corbyn — the placards read ‘Corbyn In, Tories Out’, and most people tear the SWP bits off.
More importantly, it was also the Unions. The Fireman’s Union brought a fire truck and just parked it outside parliament without asking anyone. The baker’s union came. Who could accuse the Baker’s of red-blooded fanaticism? These organisations were built to ensure that working people had enough power to protect their rights against rich elites with more direct access to politics. They are the basis of the Labour movement in the UK, and they disaffiliated from the Labour Party after Blair abandoned them. And they’ve come back for Corbyn. His supporters aren’t Islington socialists, guys. They’re working people with actual energy to campaign.
His leadership style
The efforts of the press to depict Corbyn as a power-mad monocrat are pretty weak. A 67-year-old man working six and a half day weeks with University-age children at a job he barely even applied for, who never in his entire career has shown any distinguishable ambition, avarice, or hint of careerism? He’s a martyr for his mandate. Corbyn knows that to resign would be to betray those of us who voted for him. He isn’t a ‘great leader’, but progressive politics has never been about ‘great leaders’.
Clement Atlee wasn’t a great leader, and he got us the welfare state. Before Thatcher, party leadership was about having a strong cabinet, and it will be again.
He’s got more of a hope than the rest of Labour
The shadow cabinet members that resigned were stuck in a Labour Party that their members don’t want anymore. In case the politics of their resignations are unclear, check their voting record. Every single one failed to vote against the Tory austerity bill that made the poor and disabled bear 12 billion of cuts. Many of them voted for the Iraq War, and against the Iraq War inquiry, meanwhile Corbyn has said he is willing to open war criminal investigations in the aftermath of the Chilcott report. Do you know any Labour supporters who backed the Iraq War and welcome Tax Credit Cuts for the poorest families? Do any of them live in Hartlepool, Sunderland, Redcar, Blackpool etc.– the Labour heartlands who voted Leave? I didn’t think so.
The post-referendum electorate
People’s perception of the electorate has changed since the referendum, and the arguments of the Parliamentary Labour Party is that Corbyn can’t win with these people, and that Leave voters represent former Labour voters that are now lost to the progressive cause and won’t vote for his Labour party. But is this the case ?
The win for Leave wasn’t nearly as resounding as people say it was. The difference was about 1 million votes. 7 million eligible people, mostly poor or from ethnic minorities (according to the last study in 2014) didn’t register to vote, and a further 13 million people who were registered didn’t vote on the day. The 51.9 per cent of the votes scored to the Leave side amounts to just under a third of all those eligible to vote.
Some of the people who, on top of this, could not vote, were the millions of European Union citizens living in the UK, many of whom can vote in a General Election, and 16 and 17-year-olds, some of whom will be able to vote in the next GE, and all of whom will be able to vote in the election after that, and whose future has just been devastatingly gambled by a Tory power play, something they won’t easily forget.
Oxford Academic Danny Dorling has crunched Lord Ashcroft’s figures and found that, of those who actually did vote, 67 per cent were middle class. Of those who voted Leave, almost 60 per cent were middle class, and the proportion of Leave voters from the lowest two classes was just 24 per cent. The poor and working class North did not overwhelmingly back Leave, and the referendum result is not the ‘howl’ of anti-Labour sentiment that people are styling it as.
In other words, Brexit was won by white, middle class votes from the South of England. Not exactly Labour’s heartland or people who would vote for Corbyn in any election. These people are just as unlikely, I would bet, to vote for Angela Eagle, given that in fact their jobs and their houses aren’t particularly threatened by immigrants at all. They are people with right-wing beliefs — they don’t go away, but they aren’t worth any Labour leader losing sleep over either. And they certainly aren’t a big enough group to make any election unwinnable.
The next Labour offer
The 50 and 60 year olds who voted Leave care about their children having places to live, and jobs. Even if they vote Leave, that’s still their primary concern after Brexit, and they will need to be offered a policy package that does that. We are already the lowest tax and spend country in Western Europe, with the highest concentration of poverty. In this environment, would you rather be campaigning as a Labour or a Tory leader? I don’t fancy Boris’s chances myself.
His opposition suck
Most Tory voters aren’t immune to these shifts in fortune. At the end of the day, only a tiny percentage of the electorate is spared from worries about whether their children will have homes and jobs. The graduate internship at a bank your daughter had lined up this Summer? Gone; the banks have had their shares frozen. The job at a National Heritage Trust museum your son was dreaming of? Gone; there’s no more EU funding to keep it open.
Ending free movement of peoples, control of fishing waters and 350million a week for the NHS — all three of their key promises to Leave voters have been reneged on within days. I find it implausible that people will turn out for the Tory party, now that the consequences of this referendum are becoming clear. And, if they do, I would like someone to make the case for that being a good, fair, democratic thing. Corbyn and his Cabinet’s policies are in the majority interest now more than ever.
I have yet to hear anyone against Corbyn and the left of Labour actually support the alliance between the Tories and England’s poorest areas, as sustainable, democratic and functioning. It’s not enough to say Corbyn is unelectable — to do so is to assume that the misinformation that bonds working class England to Boris and Osborne will last. That, the Corbyn supporters are betting, will not happen. The truth will out, and only one person has an incentive to campaign for the votes of the real, silent majority — the working class of England, the ethnic minorities and the young. Hint: it’s not Angela Eagle.