I was fortunate to have the complete distraction of the start of the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup yesterday to take my mind off the historic events of the Labour Leadership contest on Saturday. Of course – with it being a rugby competition full of 300 politicians from home and abroad it wasn’t quite the complete switch off from politics that you would imagine. What goes on tour stays on tour but the conversations, input and insight were fascinating…
As you will know I didn’t support Corbyn for a whole range of reasons – but the main one being that I think he will prove to be an electoral disaster for the Party in 2020. Yes he is enthusing people who left the party, and potentially some Greens who may switch back to Labour but this strategy doesn’t add up to winning the 100+ seats Labour needs to win to form a majority government in 2020.
I thought long and hard over the weekend about how to react as I felt numb on Saturday. I had worked out some weeks before that he was going to win (the bookies are rarely wrong even in politics). I was numb because I’ve looked at the electoral maths and realise unless I am completely wrong we have all but lost the next election already, and I desperately want another Labour government before I retire.
I have always been loyal to the Party (ironically unlike Corbyn who is now going to demand loyalty to his programme. Don’t forget Blair got 54% of the vote in 1994 and that didn’t really make Corbyn a loyalist voting over 500 times with the opposition against a Labour government!!), and up to a point will do so again. I have said my piece, I will make predictions about how badly we will do, but I won’t be posting and attacking the party; but I will watch from the sidelines. If he listens and works to understand how to win middle England seats like Loughborough I will be ready to help. But sadly the appointment of John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor sends the signal to me that he doesn’t get the need to reach out from our core vote. I have heard from way too many people over the last 48 hours who are not instinctive Tories, but were/are willing to give Labour a hearing and the sort of voters who put us into power expressing horror at the sequence of events that has created what to them looks like an unelectable Labour Party.
I was never a part of any faction of the PLP. I was not a Blairite, but also never joined the Campaign Group… although when I did rebel it was when working with them. Yet in social media anybody not supporting Corbyn has been labelled a Blairite/ Tory and told they are welcome to leave the party by lots of Corbyn supporters. I think this is going to be a horrible time for many inside the party.
I know we/ Corbyn will wail against the establishment and the Right wing press. I despise them too, but they are not going to go away in the next 5 years. If you thought Miliband had a rough ride and never quite managed to connect with the electorate you ‘ain’t see nothing yet’.
To be fair Corbyn is personable and will bring a freshness to politics. People do like authenticity and politicians who believe in something and are willing to say it. I always tried to tell people as I saw it even if they wouldn’t like what I said – including telling the Grammar school kids that I didn’t believe in private education! I do think that will help and he may get a short bounce in the polls. Despite everything against him Farage has managed to defy gravity for a few years. He has one MP.
I wish Corbyn good luck and hope that I am wrong. But these will be difficult days and I will really hate to have to say I told you so. I will be delighted if I am proved wrong in 2020 and I will hold up my hands. I won’t get in the way of this experiment. I will comment as we go along. It is a fascinating social experiment for the hard left who have always complained they have never been able to put a truly leftwing manifesto to the country (they even think 1983 was a sell -out). Now they have the chance. let’s see what happens, apart from cheering us all up a bit.