Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Responding to Corbyn part 2: Equal and Opposite errors.

My circle of friends includes both someone who resigned from the Labour party within hours of Jeremy Corbyn's election as party leader and one or two people who actually support him.

It would be a very boring world if everyone had the same opinions.

But both those who like the new Leader of the Opposition and those who don't need to avoid getting carried away and recognise that not everyone shares their views.

Indeed, I think it likely that the majority of British voters not only fail to identify with the more extreme supporters and the more hysterical opponents of Jeremy Corbyn: they probably think both are a bit weird.

Both the "Corbynistas" and the "Corbynphobics" need to avoid overestimating their support.

The extreme example of this error in one direction is the idea that Conservatives are criticising Jeremy Corbyn because we're afraid of him. That view is so completely divorced from reality, so "lock me up under section two of the mental health act" bonkers delusional that even Owen Jones rowed back from it, changing the title of  this article from "The Right are mocking Jeremy Corbyn because secretly they fear him."

As Taylor Parkes put it in an excellent article in The Quietus which you can read here, describing about the time he spent following the Corbyn campaign trail,

"Some of Corbyn's fans have even managed to convince themselves the Right are scared of him – 'Ooh, he's got them rattled!' – when they are in fact bouncing up and down on their beds and whooping.

While it is crystal clear that there is a groundswell of support for Jeremy Corbyn among some parts of the electorate, and capturing the Labour party in the way that they have was a real achievement, some of them do not appear to have grasped how many more millions of people they will need to get on side even to post a serious threat in the general election.

"But, but, but and again but ..." (to quote Ian Fleming)

It is one thing to believe that Jeremy Corbyn is much less likely to win a general election than a more centrist Labour candidate would have been. I think that myself, as do the overwhelming majority of people with whom I have discussed the issue, which is why the "The Tories are afraid of Corbyn" line is nonsense.

It is another matter entirely to believe that, in a country where politics is so fluid, anything is impossible.

If Conservatives, and particularly Conservative MPs, make the mistake of thinking that Jeremy Corbyn's becoming leader of the Labour party guarantees us victory in the next two elections, that could be a truly disastrous miscalculation both for the Conservatives and for Britain.

Indeed, the survival of the UK as a nation, given the current strength of the SNP, is one of the potential casualties if the Conservatives were daft enough to think we can now get away with anything.

One of the comparatively few things about Corbyn which I've seen written in the past few days by those of my friends who support him and which I agree with was this point:

Isn't it just a tad overconfident to write off one of Britain's longest serving MPs, who has just won a stunning victory in an election when he was originally supposed to be the hundred to one outsider, as "unelectable?"

David Cameron's majority is just twelve. The Conservatives were not elected this year because people love us, or because our record was perfect, or because people share all our beliefs.

The Conservatives won because we successfully persuaded a plurality of voters to be so completely petrified of the alternatives that they would rather have amputated their own arms with a rusty saw than risk any of those alternatives getting elected.

(For the avoidance of doubt, I regard those who dreaded the possibility of a Miliband government as entirely justified, and was one of them.)

Because Jeremy Corbyn makes Ed Miliband look like Winston Churchill, there is a pretty good chance, as long as the Conservatives do not screw up, that the same thing will happen in 2020.

But nobody should ever take the British electorate for granted. 

And they love an underdog.

The 2020 election is still nearly five years away and an awful lot could happen in that time. If we hand the next election to Corbyn on a silver platter he might not be unelectable after all.

The Conservatives must work to address as many as possible of the problems of as many as possible of the people of this country. We must be careful not to get so wrapped up in our own opinions that we stop listening.

Both sides in the EU membership referendum must be given their say on a fair and equal basis, and after the result, whichever way it goes (and it could be either) people must accept it and work together afterwards.

Nobody can assume that the result of the next general election, let alone the one after that, is already decided. We need to get working to win them.

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