Recently re-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn still needs another 11 million votes to wrest 10 Downing Street away from the Tories. But his leftist policies do not gel with voters attracted to UKIP or the Brexit Conservatives, writes Melanie Sully.
Dr Melanie Sully is a British political scientist and head of the Vienna-based Institute for Go-Governance.
Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservative Party was divided into “wets” and drys. The “wets” were critics of her radical right-wing policies. A war on the trade unions and high unemployment, so argued the “wets”, could never win an election. But Thatcher won three general elections in a row.
Now, voters have become fed up with generic lookalikes who talk the same and mouth empty soundbites for the media. “Slim-fit” smart politicians, like Blair or Miliband, are on another planet, in the eyes of many voters. Miliband’s efforts to eat a bacon sandwich with his hands are legendary and journalists struggled to decipher his awkward sentences.
Corbyn by contrast speaks a clear, consistent language. He has for decades taken an interest in the less well off, the underdogs, minorities and the homeless away from the glare of the media. But is he electable?
Just over a year ago the bookmakers regarded Corbyn’s chances of winning the Labour leadership as more or less zero. A donkey on the beach had more chance of winning the Grand National horse race. Corbyn’s strengths are on social and educational policies, the National Health Service and provision of decent, affordable homes. Many in the party and voters could support such a programme.
Corbyn’s Labour has succeeded in mobilising young and new members for what is now the fastest growing left of centre party in Europe. It has used social media and modern technology to promote a new kind of Socialism through social media. By contrast, the rebels in his team have been left by the wayside in the parliamentary bubble. Now they will have to take their campaign out on to the streets and workers clubs.
But the Achilles heel of Corbyn’s politics is immigration. His “welcome foreigners” slogan will not please workers sympathetic to UKIP or the Tory right. Corbyn firmly believes building more hospitals is the answer but voters will want to see results first.
Corbyn could face another leadership challenge if he fails to score in parliamentary debates or if Labour loses by-elections or local elections next spring. Changes to electoral districts in 2018 could benefit the Tories at the expense of Labour.
It could well be in the interest of Corbyn to trigger an early election. Theresa May’s Brexit plans could provide the opportunity. In the ensuing battle either Comrade Corbyn will be in No 10 or back on the backbenches in the political wilderness.