Christmas might come early this year. Jeremy Corbyn – the hard left MP whose leadership campaign was a joke several weeks ago – may actually become Labour leader. A poll commissioned by The Times has him comfortably beating previous frontrunner Andy Burnham. He is the favourite of Labour activists and councillors, and enjoys the backing of the powerful Unite and GMB unions.
Corbyn’s supporters have mounted something of an online fightback lately. The hashtag #jezwecan is strongly trending on twitter.
Naturally many of us on the right have done everything we can to encourage the unelectable Corbyn. Even the Prime Minister has got in on the act, ‘advising’ Corbyn to be the ‘candidate for change’ – as Mr Cameron himself was a decade ago.
Having lost the general election in May with a candidate voters considered too left wing, Labour are all set to return to the days of Militant Tendency and Michael Foot’s ‘longest suicide note in history’.
The New Labour old guard are running scared. Tony Blair is currently doing the rounds warning that a lurch to the left could put Labour out of power for a decade. I suspect that will only encourage the lunatics.
The public – claim the corbistas – are evidently clamouring for red-hot socialism. Recent YouGov polls have shown support for renationalisation of the railways and of energy, a higher minimum wage and cuts to university tuition fees. This, they claim, is proof positive that the people are weary of austerity and Thatcherism.
It should of course be stressed that polls depend entirely on who you ask and what you ask them. Pollsters memorably failed to predict a decisive Conservative majority in May. But if that’s the game you want to play, comrades, be my guests.
That said, the logic behind this sort of wishful thinking is deeply flawed. Corbyn’s groupies imagine that because a majority of those polled back some of the things he stands for, they must be in favour of it all.
Those in the delusional progressive bubble imagine a country of would-be socialists waiting for the right man to lead them to glory. In the interests of puncturing that bubble, here are some inconvenient facts about the British public which the Corbyn gang would rather forget.
1. People are tired of tax-and spend
Cast your minds back to the televised leader debates during the general election. Ed Miliband had just refused to admit that Labour overspent during it’s time in government. The audience gasped. A few planted Labour activists clapped and cheered but the overall mood was one of shock and outrage.
“Well, he’s lost it now”, my wife immediately declared in her most authoritative voice. As happens far more often than is comfortable, she was right.
By denying that Labour’s massive spending splurge from 2000 to 2010 had put the country’s finances in a precarious position, Ed had shot himself in the foot. The voters duly gave their verdict and he was sent packing to the backbenches.
Corbyn doesn’t just deny that Labour overspent during the boom years. He would go further than Gordon Brown ever did. His solution to the UK’s growing debt burden is ignore the deficit, tax “the rich” and spend like there’s no tomorrow.
2. Attitudes to welfare have changed
Voters also aren’t too keen on paying for a broken welfare state. Attitudes here have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, with the public becoming increasingly hostile to further welfare spending and sceptical of attempts to blame poverty on ‘society’. They certainly do not support higher taxes to fund welfare spending.
Corbyn is vocal in his opposition to ‘Tory cuts’ to welfare, having recently led 48 Labour MPs in rebellion after interim Labour leader Harriet Harman’s backed the government’s Welfare Bill.
This has only fuelled his popularity on the left, where any attempt to reform benefits is denounced as an assault on the “poorest and most vulnerable”.
Once again, what plays well with left wing Labour activists does not play well with the wider British public. Who knew?
3. Most people want less, not more, immigration and don’t much like being labelled racists
On immigration too, the public tend to favour stricter controls. Three quarters of people in Britain would like to see less immigration in general, though they tend to think more positively of skilled migrants.
Remember when Gordon Brown was caught out labelling lifelong Labour voter Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’ for raising the question of immigration? Yep, so does everyone else. Labelling mainstream public opinion ‘racist’ is not a vote winner.
4. They won’t vote for a PM who calls terrorists and mass murderers ‘friends’
Corbyn opposed British involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – an opinion that is now more or less mainstream. He was – and still is – a vocal member of CND, calling for Britain to abandon it’s nuclear deterrent at the height of the Cold War.
But his credentials as a pacifist are undermined by his obsession with destroying the one successful liberal democracy in the Middle East. His list of foreign ‘friends’ includes the terrorism exporting theocracy of Iran and the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hizbollah.
This is a man who speaks lovingly of the brutal socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela. He supported the IRA when they were murdering members of the British government – in fact he still sips coffee with Gerry Adams.
Ultimately, I do not believe British voters would back a man who would negotiate to return the Falkland Islands to Argentina.
5. The public actually seem to like this whole ‘neoliberalism’ thing
Nothing has done more to improve the lives of human beings – especially the poorest – than the free market. Global poverty has shrunk by more than 80% since the 1970s. The global middle class is growing constantly.
And the public know it. According to one survey, 67% believe a free market leads to a higher standard of living. More people (40% to 29%) would rather live in a capitalist democracy than a socialist one. Support for the free market is even higher in the developing world.
Yet there’s a kind of myopia on the left about markets. They almost always find some reason to despise the free economy. In the past they claimed that socialism was better at delivering the goods. Twentieth century intellectuals lauded the Soviet Union for it’s rapid economic expansion. Look how that worked out.
Now the main excuse is inequality. Corbyn – and by extension his supporters – would break the engine that drives human progress. They would quite happily make the poor poorer in order to make us all equal.
They simply can’t acknowledge they are wrong. So they retreat into a corner, stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the facts.
Face it, comrades, the British public just don’t want your big state socialism. In fact, they actually seem to be rather keen on capitalism.
6. The right really aren’t scared of you
A bizzarre notion is doing the rounds that we on the right are scared of Corbyn’s ‘alternative to austerity’. We really aren’t. The fact that most of us actually want him to win ought to be proof of that.
Blairites might be panicking right now, but those of us who actually want Labour to fail are sitting back and enjoying the popcorn.
We’re not trying to pull some elaborate reverse-psychology spin on you. We genuinely think he’s a disaster. Make him your leader and Labour will be out of power for a generation.
7. We’ve been here before
Those who lived through the 1970s remember what socialism did to Britain. The flat-lining economy. Nationalised zombie industries on life support. Inflation at 25%. Trade unions cutting off the power and bringing down governments. Rubbish piling up in the streets.
Never again, they declared as they elected Margaret Thatcher.
The left have to realise that this country has changed. Labour have not won an election as a left wing party since Harold Wilson in 1974.
Michael Foot’s 1983 manifesto promised to scrap nuclear weapons and reverse privatisation. The voters rejected him decisively and returned Mrs Thatcher to Downing Street. Scargill and the National Union of Miners were crushed when they tried to overturn the result by force. Neil Kinnock was rejected twice, in 1987 and 1992. Only when Tony Blair embraced the market economy and abolished Clause IV was his party returned to power.
How Labour votes now will define them as a party. Either they can engage in grown-up politics, or they can cling to their ideological comfort blankets as the world changes around them. All this ‘back to the 1970s’ nostalgia is the hallmark of a gang of reactionary fantasists, out of touch with the real world.
8. Not everyone believes the things you and your friends do
The left have seized upon online and social media in recent years. Whilst the opportunities afforded by modern technology to allow activists to connect and communicate with each other are potentially limitless, there are also pitfalls.
Twitter and Facebook frequently act as an echo-chamber. It’s the reason so many bright young lefties were left bitterly disappointed the morning after the election. When all the people you interact with believe the same things you do, it is easy to fall for the notion that most people agree with you.
Those tweeting #jezwecan appear to be suffering under the delusion that their man can deliver the elusive ‘progressive majority’, the notion that with the right candidate and sufficient ideological purity, Labour will be swept to victory on a wave of public euphoria. Instead of asking themselves why they keep losing, the Labour left have retreated back into the bubble.
The meteoric rise of Jeremy Corbyn is proof (if it were needed) that the bright young things have learned nothing. Why should they? The election result was the voters fault! Labour needs to emulate the SNP and move left!
To the corbistas I have this to say. Voters do not share the convictions and prejudices of Labour activists. Don’t delude yourselves into thinking that they do. Whoever wins the Labour leadership election will have to face the public in 2020.
Nothing would make me happier than watching the Labour Party going into the next general election on a hard socialist platform. The electorate will destroy you. That’s why I’m cheering on the march of #jezwecan. ‘Hasta la victoria siempre!’ and all that.
Of course, there’s always the possibility I might be wrong (I’m not). If you genuinely believe your man can win, I urge you to vote for him. Put your money where your mouth is. Plenty of us will be joining you.
Go on, I dare you.