Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen numerous public figures say that there is a high possibility of Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour into government. One of the first posts on Tim Montgomerie’s new blog UnHerd was entitled: Get ready for Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn… and President Sanders… Yesterday the Conservatives’ policy chief stated that Corbyn is now a ‘real threat’ and last week we saw Tony Blair remark: ‘for most of my political life, I’ve been saying that I think this is the right way to go and, what’s more, it’s the only way to win an election. I have to qualify that now. I have to say that it’s possible you end up with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.’
I must quickly say before you read any further that my crystal ball has been particularly murky as of late. I didn’t see the Conservatives getting a majority in 2015, I couldn’t perceive that over half of the voting population would decide to leave the EU and I certainly didn’t foresee the rise of Corbyn and Labour in the last General Election. So, please take everything that I’m about to say, with the knowledge that I’m probably wrong in this crazy era of politics that we’ve found ourselves in.
Anyway, it looks as though I’m indulging in clairvoyance once again.
The main reason that I can’t see Corbyn reaching Number 10 is his position on Brexit. In the recent General Election many young people decided to support Corbyn, as the focus of the election became diverted onto issues, such as tuition fees, the triple lock on pensions and the winter fuel allowance. One of my friends, an ardent Cobynista, decided to sport a t-shirt with the Labour leader’s name across the front on the way through town the other day. I was amazed by the rather vocal support that many gave him; one lady even shouted from the other side of the street, ‘I love your shirt!’
Yet Corbyn’s beliefs, about the EU, are antithetical those of much of the younger generation that voted for him. Last month, he fired three members of his shadow cabinet just because they voted for Chuka Umunna’s attempted amendment to the Queen’s Speech that would set out proposals for staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union. Considering that the next election will most probably be after the negotiations have ended, how can the youth conceivably support him again? How can the youth support someone that has unwaveringly been in favour of the Conservatives’ Brexit option? One poll (I know they’re not accurate anymore, but still) suggests that around 80% of the Labour membership do not agree with his Brexit approach.
And what’s the alternative for those disenfranchised with Corbyn’s strategy on Brexit? The Lib Dems and Vince Cable, who have been consistently advocating for staying in the Single Market and Customs Union and who want a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Or maybe I’m just being too hopeful that the Lib Dems could form a government.
What’s more, in the recent election May was shown to be one of the worst campaigners in recent political history, coming across as rather awkward and robotic. Next election the Conservative leadership will have most likely changed to someone that is actually willing to debate and they must have learnt their lessons about trying to squeeze highly controversial policies into the manifesto – without any costings whatsoever. Next time Corbyn will most probably not have the good fortune of facing such a weak opponent.
I will begin to conclude by just mentioning one smaller point. Corbyn may fall victim to his own success. In the election part of his rise was due to the perception of his being an outsider. Due to his success he may well no longer be seen as such – the more people say that he can/will become PM, the less of an underdog he seems. It’s perhaps a minor point, but is still worth mentioning.
I must just put one caveat on what I’ve said. I don’t think that Corbyn can become Prime Minister, but that is not to say that Labour can’t win. Let’s say they were to change leadership to someone else, such as Stella Creasy, David Lammy or Chuka Umunna, then they would probably not have to carry the electoral bomb that is Corbyn’s approach to Brexit.