Wednesday, 17 February 2016

I Wish That Corbyn Were Not Leader, But I Might Still Vote For Him, by Tom Bailey

I recently wrote an extremely vitriolic article for the Huffington Post blog in which I bemoaned the new Labour leader and mocked his chances of victory.

I’ll be honest, the article was not the peak of my journalistic career: I was frustrated, and I unfairly directed my frustration towards Corbyn and his followers. 

I attacked Corbyn for the reshuffle disaster, and I blamed him for all the problems facing his party. 

Though I do think Corbyn was partly to blame for the resignations, and though I am certainly suspicious about what went on in those “hostile briefings”, I realise my article was misled and, to an extent, unfair. 

I allowed my anger to overcome my reason, ignoring the fact that both sides in the reshuffle conflict were to blame – John McDonnell for his spiteful comments about a “right-wing clique”, for example, and Stephen Doughty for using his resignation to launch a public attack on his leader. 

However, that’s not to say my feelings about Corbyn have changed: I still think he is the wrong leader for the party, and I still think he will lead Labour to electoral oblivion. 

And that’s my main problem with Corbyn: his unelectability. 

YouGov polls show that, while many people agree that Corbyn is principled and honest (a defence constantly used by his supporters), they don’t think he is capable of running the country. 

And that is, of course, a problem, because the Labour Party doesn’t want to be in opposition. 

If it wants to change people’s lives for the better, and if it wants to make this country a fairer and more equal place to live, then it needs to be in government. 

So why is Corbyn so unelectable, and why do polls show his popularity falling? 

Well, not only does Corbyn have about as much charm and rhetorical skill as a drowned rat, he also lacks the ability to appeal to the general public.

As I said in my previous article, “Corbyn’s mandate can only go so far.” What I mean by that is this: Corbyn’s mandate came from Labour supporters and people who agree with his socialist agenda. 

But just because 59.5% of Labour members support Corbyn, that doesn’t mean the whole country does. 

I’m sorry to say this, but most people in this country feel alienated by Corbyn’s views: his decision not to kneel at the Privy council, his early refusal to sing the National Anthem and his branding the death of Osama Bin Laden as “a tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy”.

Corbyn supporters are constantly telling me that his honest decency will attract young voters and the large swathes of people across the country who are disillusioned with politics. 

But can he? Yet another elderly white male from the South who wants to be prime minister? I doubt it. 

In fact, whilst campaigning for Labour in Oldham, Abby Tomlinson (one of the key founders of the Milifandom movement) says she met nobody who was attracted to vote for Labour by Corbyn, “a LOT of non voters who won’t be persuaded to do so” and a lot of people who used to vote Labour, but won’t now because of Corbyn. 

So here’s my biggest dilemma: I don’t actually disagree with Corbyn on that many issues. 

Take the above three examples: like Corbyn, I see the monarchy as a symbol of systemic inequality; like Corbyn, I loathe our national anthem; and like Corbyn, I think every criminal ought to be given a fair trial (though I certainly wouldn’t, under any circumstances, call the death of a terrorist mastermind a “tragedy”).

However, I do realise that most of the British public don’t think like me, whether for bad or for good. 

Corbyn was elected, in my opinion, because of a lack of concern (on behalf of Labour members) for what the electorate actually think. 

Indeed, I recently spoke with a lady who helped to run Labour elections and who worked alongside Miliband. 

She told me that, in her opinion, Labour party members are the worst possible people to choose a leader simply because they vote for themselves, without considering the views and concerns of the general public. 

I also realise that for a politician to be credible, they need to be careful with their words: the press in this country will jump on anything, however unfairly. 

That’s why Corbyn shouldn’t have called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends”, even though it was arguably the right thing to do in order to encourage peace in the region. 

But, as I have said before, Corbyn never expected to be in the spotlight, and that’s one of his problems. Oh, how I long for David Miliband to return. 

But, alas, instead we have a leader who is struggling to unite his party and struggling to present a credible alternative that can appeal to the electorate. 

And yet, despite my qualms, I might still vote for him in 2020. 

Why? Because he seems to be the lesser of two evils. Yes, it’s true, I don’t think he can win, and that’s why I wish he wasn’t leader: but I’d still prefer him over Cameron, or worse, Osborne. 

Though I can’t hold a seemingly staunch pacifist stance like Corbyn does, and though I am very uncertain about Corbyn and McDonnell’s economic capabilities, I think I can trust the Labour party far more than I can trust the Tories. 

What is more, with the Lib Dems seemingly resigned to becoming a protest party, voting Labour could be the safest way to ensure that the poorest in society are represented; that the NHS is protected; and that equality and fairness are promoted throughout the UK. 

I feel now that I ought to give some words of advice for Corbyn and Labour if they want to win in 2020 (listen up Jezza). 

Firstly, they need to work on appealing to everybody in the country, particularly the middle classes.

Secondly, Corbyn needs to be more careful with what he says and how he says it. Honesty alone won’t win an election, I’m afraid.

And finally, Labour need to hammer home its message over, and over, and over again until its adages are perpetually haunting the thoughts of the general public.

I can’t tell you many times I’ve heard how, “If we want a strong NHS, we need a strong economy” – it’s annoying, but it works.

Perhaps, with a lot of work, there can indeed be a Labour victory in 2020.


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