in the end, I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election. I was just too worried about the issue of electability, and therefore the need to show economic competence to the wider electorate. I did not think that potential was something Corbyn adequately conveyed during the campaign. If Labour lose the 2020 election I think the Conservative programme will become too entrenched with deeply unpleasant and inequitable consequences for our society.
So instead, I chose Yvette Cooper. Friends and family have derided her for being boring and equally un-Prime Ministerial, but I disagreed. Her speech on immigration late in the campaign was passionate, and when I saw her speak in person (a couple of years ago) I was mightily impressed. I think she could have found a way to restore Labour’s economic credibility. I think she was – and is – electable.
I won’t deny that I was also keen to see a woman elected Labour leader, although I don’t think identity politics should trump policy.
None of that came to pass, however, and Corbyn was the overwhelming preference of party members and supporters. And yesterday a friend sends me this message:
Btw – am seriously thinking about joining the Labour Party now that Khan is mayoral candidate and Corbyn is at the helm. Are you not excited?
Yes, I am.
Since I have never been firmly wedded to one ideological faction of the Labour Party, I am not waiting “to be proved right” about Corbyn as I suspect is the case for some people who voted for other candidates.
Instead I am experiencing a feeling equivalent to buyers’ remorse. Whether Corbyn’s policies are the right ones or not, his election represents a clear attempt to try something different to the tired political paradigm we have experienced over the past few years. This is something that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall could never have delivered, and I am still torn as to whether this consideration should have been my first priority when casting my vote.
The Corbyn shift may not come to pass. Events, the media, his staff, or his own personality could all cause his downfall. But an opportunity to try something different has presented itself. This is indeed exciting.
What particularly pleases me about this development is that it has come about through (for want of a better phrase) people power. Many political complaints actually boil down to a dismay at the apathy of others, who fail to be sufficiently engaged and thus allow politicians to “get away with” whatever is going wrong this week. The Labour Leadership election has resulted in the quick identification and registration of vast numbers of people with a left leaning outlook who, together, have the potential to force a change of political direction in this country, and perhaps a change in our political system too. In his essay ‘Corbyn’s Golden Opportunity‘, Anthony Barnett (for decades an important purveyor of outside-the-box ideas for British Politics) lays out a path for the new Labour leader, to break what he calls the ‘Media-Finance complex’ that so constrains us. Central to the plan is the new supporters of the Labour Party who brought Jeremy Corbyn his victory.
Now Jez has been elected, can these foot-soldiers remain invigorated, and be mobilised towards long term political activism? The thing that makes me optimistic that they can is the election of Tom Watson as Deputy Leader. Watson made by far the most sophisticated pitch to members and supporters regarding how he would mobilise the Labour Party. He now has a database of half a million enthusiastic people to work with. This could be a game-changer.