Before Jeremy Corbyn entered the race for the Labour leadership, all candidates agreed for the need for Labour to be both compassionate and aspirational. Post Corbyn Mania however, the three ABC (Anyone but Corbyn) candidates have really stepped it up a gear (/s). Each has a whole new message for voters.
Here’s Andy Burnham:
What this contest has shown is that the Labour Party is crying out for change. Members are sick of standing on doorsteps with little to offer voters. They want a radical vision that can inspire and excite, but also one with credibility at its heart. That is what I am offering.
We need to be confident enough not to swallow the Tory myths and to set out a strong, radical alternative instead. But it also has to be credible – credible enough to be delivered, and to build public confidence in Labour’s economic approach so we can win, and change Britain’s economic policy in practice.
The most radical political ideas often begin with the simplest of beliefs. I believe that every single person in our society has potential and should be given the opportunity and power to realise their potential, and live the life they choose.
…And giving young people, who’ve been hit so hard since the global crash, credible hope for the future – by working with businesses to revolutionise skills and lead the world in new clean energy jobs.
This is the conversation I imagine they might have had:
AB: “Jeremy is winning because he’s radical. We need to be radical”.
YC: “Jeremy is not credible though. We must be”.
YC: “Just say we are radical and credible but importantly, we must never spell out what that means.”
AB: “But surely if we all say that, no one will be able to tell us apart?”
YC: “Well you say you are radical and credible, I’ll say I am credible but radical, and you say you want a radical vision that offers credibility.”
LK: “Great idea.”
AB: “I can see no flaws in this plan.”
Is it any wonder Corbyn is wiping the floor with all of them?
If you are on social media, then it’s clear, Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership in a landslide and then go on to win the keys to Downing Street in 2020. On social media though, it was also clear that in May, Ed Miliband would be entering Downing Street after Labour became the largest party in Parliament. It didn’t quite work out that way. So away from Twitter, what do people actually think of the man?
In the run-up to the last election, there were numerous polls each week on where the parties stood. They didn’t turn out to be very accurate, but millions of words were written about what the polls said. Given that, there have been surprisingly few polls done about how the Labour leadership contenders are viewed among the wider public. The ones that have been done have shown mixed results for Corbyn fans.
First there was a poll carried out by Survation which showed that Corbyn was most popular of the four leadership contenders amongst those polled and scored highest when asked which candidate would make them more likely to vote Labour. This poll was released just after a string of New Labour’s men of yesterday lined up to warn of Corbyn’s ‘unelectability’.
The Survation poll was follwed up a day later by a Comres poll that contradicted the first. In this one, respondents were asked if Corbyn would worsen or improve Labour’s chances. 31% said worsen vs 21% improve. Less positive then.
How much weight should we place on these polls however. My personal experience of people ‘offline’ is that the majority of people I interact with on a day to day basis have either never or only vaguely heard of any of the Labour leadership candidates, and those that do don’t really care enough to have a firm view. Amongst my friends and colleagues I am a bit of an oddity, the sort of person who would pick three pointless answers on politics in the final round of Pointless. My experience is that most people just aren’t paying attention. From this I conclude that the 2020 election is still very much up for grabs, but Corbyn (or another candidate if he doesn’t win) will need to grab people early and hang onto them with a consistent message.
What do people in your circles think of Corbyn. Is it the same as mine or have your detected a more widespread whiff of Corbyn-mania then me?
I thought this might be a good topic for discussion. To me, there are three possible strategies Labour could adopt in an attempt to win the next election:
- Try and say as little as possible, but make noises about credibility and stability with a healthy dose of fiscal responsibility, to ‘win trust’, then if and when you win, implement your programme without much regard to what you said before.
- Lay out a long shopping list of policies you and your supporters want to see implemented and make you case for them to the electorate over the course of the Parliament.
- Offer new ideas, but try and sell them in the language of your opponents.
It seems to me 1 has been done rather successfully by George Osborne and the Tories at the last election. They made rather vague promises, then when they one, promptly nicked some of Labour’s manifesto and whacked a couple of million people with previously unmentioned tax credit cuts. The ABC (Anyone but Corbyn) candidates also seem to want to be as vague as possible, using words like aspiration and compassion without ever explaining what that means. They also drop in the word ‘radical’ every now and again as if to try and convince us they have big plans should they win.
Strategy 2 seems to be being adopted by the Corbyn campaign. It has been incredibly successful in firing up the left and looks likely to take him over the line to become Labour leader. Can this same strategy continue to work after the leadership election though.
Strategy 3 would involve taking concepts like ‘fiscal responsibility’, ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘something for nothing culture’ and reframing them to fit the vision you want to present. I think Corbyn has weakly tried this already on the deficit, but rather unsuccessfully.
What do you think? Which strategy is best, or is there another strategy that could work?
I had thought about writing something in response to this article by Labour MP and Corbyn supporter John McDonnell about Corbyn’s economic plans. I was going to disagree with the way he felt the need to talk about how Corbyn would aim to “clear the deficit”. I was going to do that, but then someone else did the job for me and much better than I could. Economist Bill Mitchell wrote this blog yesterday. Here is Bill’s conclusion with which I wholeheartedly agree:
I am very excited about the Corbyn challenge. There is a chance to clear out the New Labour crust that has welded neo-liberal narratives onto the Party and restricted its capacity to offer a progressive alternative to Britain.
But, increasingly, the attempts by his support base to appear to be ‘fiscally responsible’ tells me that he will not succeed in altering the debate if he continues to promote ideas that equate fiscal responsibility with deficit elimination.
Fiscal responsibility is equated with achieving full employment with price stability – and in the current climate that would require a fiscal deficit some percent of GDP larger than what it is at present.
Corbyn’s camp should be talking about that rather than deficit elimination, which is a ridiculous policy target to aspire to.
Excitingly, Bill is speaking at a free event in London on 27th August alongside Richard Murphy and Ann Pettifor. Here are the details. Annoyingly, I can’t make it, but if you can, I think it would be well worth it. If any of you do go, do let me know what you thought.