He was never meant to win, but YouGov’s Labour leadership poll gives Jeremy Corbyn a 17-point lead over fellow candidates, claiming that the Islington North MP is set to receive 43% of first preference votes. But why the huge surge in support for Corbyn, who was only nominated for the ballot at the eleventh hour in order to widen the spectrum of the debate about the direction of the party?
Politics has become about personality and image, rhetoric, not lying but not really telling the truth, not giving straight-forward answers – it has become about attacking opponents, and spreading fear about the opposition party. These are some of the contributing factors, among others, that mean the public have by and large become marginalised by and disengaged with politics, and in many cases find themselves unable to trust politicians.
Jeremy Corbyn does not appear to be of that ilk. He doesn’t seem to adhere to the conventional political dress code, moreover he seems unfazed by the modern political playground. He is a man of principle, a man who spells out his thoughts in an honest, straightforward manner and doesn’t manoeuvre his way around questions. He is passionate about equality and fairness. He is the only real candidate who has started to map out policies, and the only one who to many seems refreshingly trustworthy, engaging and not like the usual salesman type politician.
Corbyn’s ideas are not as radically left-wing as some newspaper columns make out: a number of his ideas are popular with huge swathes of society. A genuine living wage, controlling the private rental sector and making housing more affordable, tackling climate change: these are progressive, common sense ideas that the majority of the public should support. Even a proportion of the Conservative Party welcome plans to re-nationalise the rail services, and middle to high end earners would certainly not argue with the decrease in fares this would bring.
Recent comments by prominent party figures have lead to a reported ‘split’ within the party. And with his fellow leadership candidates, and other Labour figures such as Chuka Umunna, claiming they would not serve in the shadow cabinet under Corbyn, Labour need to take a few deep breaths, cool off, and tread carefully.
Ken Livingstone has said that Labour needs to stop saying it will do “pretty much what the Tories are doing”. Only 24% of the registered electorate voted Conservative, who won by utilising fear not spreading hope, and it is apparent from recent unrest that some people want a clear alternative and are willing to shout to get it. None of the other leadership candidates besides Corbyn inspire a hope that we could change our society and the face of politics for the better. This is the reason for the increasing support.
The Labour supporters at grass-roots are crying out for the kind of party that they want, but the PLP are not listening. And perhaps voters want more representatives like Corbyn and the 47 other rebels (18 of them newly elected MPs) who stood up for what they believed to be right in opposing the Government’s welfare bill.
People are joining the Labour Party, reportedly a number of the younger generation, to vote in this leadership election and the top dogs must take heed of what its future voters are telling them. One thing is for certain, they don’t want “Tory-lite”: they want change, they want someone who truly represents Labour’s values, the values they joined the party in support of. Labour didn’t listen in Scotland and we’ve seen how that played out – can they afford not to do so again?
You can take what the polls say with a pinch of salt, especially after the General Election result: but, Corbyn really could win, and his Labour peers have to be prepared to accept that potential outcome. They have to put personal opinion aside and accept, in that instance, that it is the direction Labour supporters want the party to go in. They were elected as MPs by Labour supporters, they claim to represent Labour supporters and their interests, so talks of rebellions and coups are down right arrogant and have to stop. Corbyn is apparently “unelectable”, but he also wasn’t meant to be leading this contest, yet he is. A glimmer of hope for many, even through all the oppression and fear, is something that clearly terrifies the Tories.
Labour need to realise that whilst they are chasing after those who voted Tory and worrying about what the media will say about them, that it can isolate and lose core supporters by its actions – and that would be a disaster beyond reconciliation, one that really would keep them out of power for a generation.
Image Rights: Garry Knight