Friday, August 21, 2015

Five consequences of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

No one really knows, of course, but it does look at though Jeremy Corbyn will be the next leader of the Labour Party.

What will that mean? Here are five likely consequences.

1. Whether the Liberal Democrats like it or not, they will be seen as a centre party.
I know it sounds improbable, but an SWP activist once said a wise thing to me: when you are a small party to rarely get to choose the agenda on which you fight.

Well, the Liberal Democrats are certainly a small party now and, whether we like it or not, we shall be seen as a centre party for as long as Corbyn is Labour leader. The strategy we pursued under Charles Kennedy of outflanking Labour from the left will not be open to us - unless we advocate liquidating the Kulaks or something like that.

I am sure Tim Farron will thrive as a populist centrist, but this future is in some ways a depressing prospect.

2. The Green surge will grind to a halt
I don't know how real a phenomenon the Green surge ever was, but as far as it existed it consisted of the Greens hoovering up all sorts of disaffected left-wingers, many of whom had no particular connection with traditional Green concerns,

More than one longstanding environmentalist has complained to me that this led to the Green Party rather abandoning environmentalism to embrace the anti-austerity cause. This led the party to put forward an incoherent policy platform at the last election, as Natalie Bennett so effectively demonstrated.

Now those disaffected left-wingers will flock to Corbyn's Labour and leave behind a Green Party that is smaller but truer to environmentalism.

3. Social media will be hell
We have all enjoyed laughing at Labour for abstaining on welfare cuts, but under Corbyn it will not be like that. On Twitter every day will be #cameronmustgo day and Labour activists will be filled with passionate intensity.

I am increasingly of the opinion that, by acting as a combined echo chamber and grooming parlour, Twitter is positively harmful to political parties, but that is the way it is going to be from now on.

Oh, and when Labour loses the next election, it will all be the media's fault or the Liberal Democrats' fault or the fault to Labour MPs who did not back Corbyn.

4. Labour will be in a constant state of crisis
As Nick Cohen argued the other day, the election of a party leader against the wishes of the great majority of its MPs will be a unique phenomenon in British politics.

I do not imagine many of those MPs will take his victory quietly. Add to this the opposition of the press, Corbyn's enthusiasm for sharing platforms with unsavoury characters and his eagerness to make excuses for Putin's near-fascist regime and you can see that his leadership will exist in a state of perpetual crisis.

It will be fun to watch, but ultimately will not be good for the health of British politics.

5. It will be harder for the Liberal Democrats to make a comeback
Most of the seats the Liberal Democrats have any hope of winning at the next election are held by the Conservatives. In order to win them we have to win over people who have voted for us in the past but opted for David Cameron last time.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIt is entirely possible that a Corbyn leadership will not last as long as the next election, but as long as he is there he will offer the Conservatives a powerful argument against change and taking another chance on the Liberal Democrats.


Mr Sqwubbsy said...

Can you prove to me that Corbyn approves of Mr Putin?

Nick said...

On point 1, I think there'd be space to carve out something akin to the position Ashdown and Kennedy had from the mid-90s to 2001, but this time more as an alternative to Labour than complimenting them.

On 5, the main thing we've done in the past to get Tory seats (and spectacularly lost this year) was to get anti-Tory voters to strategically switch to us to get them out. However, one reason that worked was that people saw us and Labour co-operating, which isn't going to happen with Corbyn in charge. My worry would be that we'll end up like the 80s, getting lots of votes as the two main parties vacate the centre, but not being able to get those votes lined up usefully enough to win more than a handful of seats.

Jonathan Calder said...

Mr Sqwubbsy: I don't say Corbyn "approves" of Putin. What I refer to is his eagerness to make excuses for him. You will find evidence of that here.

Nick: You may well be right. I remember feeling very optimistic for long stretches of the 1980s, but the two general election results were disappointing.