Jeremy Corbyn‘s Labour leadership campaign has re-ignited an old flame that had almost expired. All over the old Labour heartlands , everywhere he goes, he delivers eloquent and powerful speeches to packed audiences. Standing ovations in the big halls are followed by calm and convincing informal interviews which impress by their honesty and apparent reasonableness. Bright-eyed young followers proclaim that he is giving them hope at last. Old Labour veterans feel rejuvenated. It’s an extraordinary performance for a man of 66, who has been an isolated left-wing figure in the Labour Party for most of his life.
[envoke_twitter_link]Will Corbyn win the leadership? [/envoke_twitter_link] The poll companies don’t have access to the Labour voters list, but one of them –Yougov – has half a million voters on its panel and has been able to poll sufficiently large samples of those known to be eligible. Yougov’s latest poll shows that 53% of those eligible to vote for the Labour leader would give Corbyn their first preference vote. In a final round straight vote between the best two, Corbyn gets 60% against Burnham or 62% against Cooper So on the basis of the Yougov research, It seems likely that Corbyn will win. This impression is confirmed by the large number of last-minute sign-ups, which seem likely to favour Corbyn. Disregarding unexpected events, Corbyn is probably going to win.
If this happens, he will be Leader of the Labour Party, but he will have got there against the strongly expressed wishes of most Labour MPs and in theory might never become Leader of the Opposition. Much will depend on his tact and political skill. A few Labour members may continue to oppose him on grounds of principle; others because they believe that he will make Labour unelectable in 2020. But 2020 is a long way off and their seats are probably safe until then. They may well wonder whether Corbyn will survive as leader anyway until 2020. My guess is that if Corbyn conciliates the existing Shadow Cabinet, he will not have too much trouble with the rank and file.
Actually Corbyn is personally electable. Recent Survation research showed a sample of all electors one-minute clips of each of the candidates being interviewed by Andrew Marr to help them to make up their minds. They judged that Corbyn would make the best leader of the Labour Party, with Andy Burnham second. The best of a bad bunch, you may say – and certainly none of the other three is very inspiring. But this leaves out of account the extraordinary enthusiasm which Corbyn seems able to generate at his meetings, particularly among the young. If you are in any doubt, listen to him speaking in London.
There are a lot more Youtube videos of equally remarkable meetings in all parts of the country and of impressive interviews at the informal level.
What about the media and the powers that be? We in UKIP know what opposition from those quarters can mean. Journalists love him because he makes news. But the big guns feel very differently, because he has for many years been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and a bitter opponent of the Iraq War, the other Wars on Terror and NATO provocation of Russia. There will be some very serious attempts to unseat him in one way or another well before 2020. From across the Atlantic, he looks a completely unacceptable Prime Minister of Britain, and the pressure for Labour Party regime change will build up if Cameron starts to sink in the polls and perhaps lose some by-elections.
There are two big issues in British politics which need to be resolved in the next five years. The first issue is of course our EU membership. Corbyn has refused to commit himself definitively on the EU. Basically he says he would be in favour of an EU if it was the EU he would like it to be. This won’t happen, but he will not commit himself to backing the No campaign. In one interview he said thoughtfully that there was much to be said for following Harold Wilson’s line in the 1975 referendum. Wilson’s line was detachment – he would not commit himself either way. He knew which way the 1975 vote would go and he was determined to remain leader of a united Labour Party. He let the vote take its course. He got the vote he wanted without personal commitment and he avoided making enemies. Corbyn will inherit a very divided party and his first priority after his election will be to achieve unity under his leadership – a united front in Opposition. He will probably not commit himself in the referendum campaign. [envoke_twitter_link]With Labour undecided, No is more likely to win[/envoke_twitter_link]; and Corbyn will probably have things how he wants them; for many of his policies cannot be enacted within the straightjacket of the EU.
The second issue we have to resolve is Scotland. It is a related issue, because if England votes to leave the EU and Scotland to stay in, the SNP will cause trouble. The issue of Scotland cannot be resolved by the Conservatives and not easily by UKIP. If Scotland is to feel comfortable again in the Union, the Scottish Labour Party must revive. Corbyn has already extended the hand of friendship to the new Scottish Labour leadership. He believes that if his magic will work in England and Wales, it will work in Scotland too. And so it appears – Corbyn’s appearances in Scotland have aroused the same kind of enthusiasm as in England and Wales. With an SNP government increasingly judged by its policies in practice rather than by its fair words, the chances for Scottish Labour and Scottish Unionism may look brighter again.
What are the implications for UKIP? Our first priority is of course the referendum, and a Labour Party leadership unexpectedly noncommittal on EU membership will make a No vote significantly more likely. But a burst of renewed enthusiasm for the old Labour values, if he can maintain it, will make it less easy for UKIP as a party to attract the Labour vote. The people who cheer at those meetings are the very people UKIP needs.