To (vote for) Jeremy Corbyn or not to (vote for) Jeremy Corbyn? Macthehack mulls over the two sides of the argument
We published a rather one-sided and at times foul mouthed rant in favour of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership challenge a couple of weeks ago, one we’re sure many people reading Louder Than War will concur in essence. But a lot of other Labour Party voters – and we assume Louder Than War readers too – will have equally been plunged into a bit of a quandary by the surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn as they are left wondering whether to risk voting for Jeremy Corbyn whose vision they agree with, or whether to play it safer and vote for one of the other challengers, all of whom appear considerably more electable. Macthehack has been going through this dilemma himself, and here he outlines the two sides of the argument in a rather less radical and more nuanced tone than that previous article.
A new Labour – what do you really want?
The old Blairite brigade are queuing up to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, while the young disenfranchised voters, lost to the last election are backing Red Jez (as The Sun will certainly be labeling Corbyn).
An end to austerity, renationalized railways, no Trident and an end to the rich getting richer, while the rest of us foot the bill. That all sounds good to me…
But what if the price tag of that wishlist is Prime Minister Boris (or George or even Theresa May) dragging the country ever further to the right, without any effective opposition? You don’t fancy that? Me neither.
So here’s the rub, I like a lot of what Corbyn says, I like the fact that he’s a maverick, who, despite having served in Westminster since 1983, clearly isn’t part of the establishment. I might even vote for him in a general election. But who else will?
Corbyn joined the Labour leadership contest as a no-hoper, standing to influence the debate apparently, rather than with expectations of becoming Leader of the Opposition. Now having tapped into that same well of mistrust in all things Westminster that saw the SNP all but evict Labour from Scotland, he looks set to become the outsider who came in.
So what? Personally I like a lot of what he stands for, but the problem with Jeremy is, he’s been around too long. He makes a big target for the Tory press and right now they’re going easy on him. But in the febrile atmosphere of a general election will voters be able to ignore the tide of propaganda from the right? Video of him describing Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’ has already emerged and it’s easy to imagine that’s just the tip of quite a large iceberg.
Of course if Corbyn could galvanize a generation that previously turned its back on the electoral process, could it mean the 2020 election would be our Syriza moment?
Well, would the Tories be dumb enough to leave the country in such a bad way that a radical-leftwing solution gets popular mass-appeal? Without a Greece style economic meltdown, would the older generation go Corbyn? Syriza won because all of Greece was sick of the mess their traditional political classes had landed the country in. However bad it gets here, tax cuts and a few more fire sales of national assets mean the Tories will paper over the cracks.
A more likely scenario for a Corbyn led Labour party will be fighting it out with a social democratic type splinter group for the soul of old Labour, like two bald men fighting over a comb, while the Tories sweep by to five more years. At least that’s what I fear in the 2020 election.
That’s why, even though I have natural sympathy for a lot of what Corbyn says and I’ll be glad if his intervention prompts a return of some real radical leftism, I’m just not sure he’s the man to lead the revolution.
Even if I’m wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time – just how much of his vision would Corbyn really be able to implement? He wouldn’t be the first politician to find that the dead hand of the real Sir Humphries of Westminster can still frustrate real change. We may like to think of ourselves as living in a modern democratic society… but we can’t even get rid of the House of Lords!
You’ve a long way to go Jeremy.
I want to believe in Corbyn. But I can’t. I can’t believe this country is ready to move so far to the left after years of drifting to the right. But I can believe in the possibility of 10-15 years of ever more right wing Tory rule. That’s quite a gamble.
So how about this? Andy Burnham – by far the most convincing of the ‘mainstream’ candidates – gets in but learns from the Corbyn effect and takes the party to a pragmatic left-wing position. Putting people first, giving protection to the oldest, the weakest and the most vulnerable in society (rather than kicking their crutches away a la George Osborne). Kind of a 21st Century John Smith approach, to stretch a point.
But if Corbyn’s intervention inspires a new generation of young people to engage in the political process and in doing so demand a real, genuinely alternative opposition to unbroken Tory domination, then perhaps rather than a Syriza moment we can find our own alternative to austerity, start to close the growing gap between the have it all’s and the have sod all’s and get people voting for a change rather than sitting on the sidelines while the old guard has a free ride, then great.
But I just don’t think that a country that considers Russell Brand a great political thinker and Boris Johnson a bit of a comedian (I have got that the right way round haven’t I?) is ready for ‘corbynomics’. Or perhaps that’s precisely why it is.
(Right – I’m going for a lie down, or possibly I’m going to emigrate to Greece).
All words by macthehack. More work on Louder Than War by macthehack can be found here.