How to solve a problem like New Labour

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – The Weekly Bull/Flickr

It’s been nearly a month since the controversial Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party. There is no doubt the former back bencher from Islington has split opinions across the nation, as well as the party. But what will the long term effects of his ascension be? Will the nation and his party grow to love him, or will he leave a bitter taste in our mouths?

Since the election of New Labour in 1997, the British public have witnessed the slow convergence of Labour and the Conservatives, especially in terms of their economic and social welfare policies – rendering the two parties almost indistinguishable.

Following their crushing defeat in the 2015 election, it is an inescapable fact that the party that has suffered the most from this convergence is Labour.

A study by the Smith Institute identified that the root cause of this failure stemmed from the party’s inability to connect with the largest voting age group of over 55’s, the working classes and small town Britain — especially in regions such as my hometown of Blackpool.

This failure highlights a number of key issues within a stagnating party that has failed to elect an electable leader since the departure of the controversial, yet charismatic Blair.

The party, now marginalised, has a colossal task of rebuilding the public’s perception of what their party stands for, as well as developing a winning strategy based on their core values. These values have taken an extreme turn to the left following the replacement of the electorally impotent Ed Milliband, with the political enigma that is Jeremy Corbyn.

The right man for the job

A lot has been said about the Wiltshire born socialist and what impact his opinions on matters such as austerity, nuclear development, and the nationalisation of British railways will have on the long term sustainability of the party.

A recent yougov poll states that the Labour leader has received the worst public opinion ratings in 60 years. Since his ascension he has been subject to a mass cabinet walkout, as well as one of the most absurd smear campaigns in recent history.

However, in spite of all this negativity and opposition, I still firmly believe that Corbyn will be the best thing to happen to the Labour party since the rousing slogan of “Education, Education, Education”.

The Tories have made no secret of their view that austerity is the means by which all of the nation’s woes are to be resolved. Their message is, and always has been clear, that harsh cuts to the public sector are necessary in order to get the country back on track, following the global economic crash of 2008.

Whilst they did succeed in gaining an outright majority in the 2015 election, with harsh austerity measures taking a prominent role in their manifesto, the protests outside the 2015 Conservative Party Conference show there is still a strong feeling of discontent amongst electorate. In light of this, it is in the interest of the British public to have a leader of the opposition, who will actually lead the opposition.

End Austerity Now march – Michael Candelori/Flickr

If Labour’s problem is that their policies are almost indistinguishable from their right wing counterparts, then it is clearly in their best interests to distinguish them. If Labour’s problem is an inability to connect with the electorate, then it is in their best interests to elect a leader with a strong grassroots following.

And if the loss of the working class vote is what has had the biggest impact on Labour’s success at the last election, then electing a leader who will take a hardline on austerity measures, of which working class families will feel the brunt, is in Labour’s best interests.

What Labour wants or what Labour needs?

I do not believe that Corbyn will ever be Prime Minister; I don’t even believe his reign will last until the next election — frankly a number of his views are too radical for his time.

The volatility of Europe’s current relationship with Russia and the ever present threat of radicals from the Middle East, mean his stance on foreign policy and nuclear weapons will never take hold. And the renationalisation of the railways will cost the taxpayer far too much, for far too little a return

But most importantly, I don’t believe Corbyn has to even run in a general election for him to have served his purpose.

He is a passionately outspoken, self identified socialist who will relentlessly oppose harsh cuts to the public sector. Whilst he may end up being nothing more than a political Martyr, he will lose power whilst providing Labour with what it really needs — an angry voice that will reinvigorate a stagnating party and realign Labour back to its traditional leftist views.

If the public perception of Labour is that they are nothing more than a watered down equivalent to the conservative party, what measures could they take to counteract this? For me, the solution is simple. Elect a leader who is so far left that he can vanquish this perception in less than a month in charge. And when he fails, the final remnants of New Labour are able to swoop in and save the day, with the hard work already done by their publically chastised peer.

To paraphrase the great Commissioner Gordon, he doesn’t have to be the leader that the Labour party wants, to be the leader that the Labour Party needs.

 

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