The attitude of Tories towards Jeremy Corbyn ranges from amused condescension to an unseemly childlike and profoundly undemocratic glee as they dream of a country with no serious political opposition to hinder them . Blairites respond with poorly disguised incredulity to the probability that a man who does not buy into the NuLabour credo will become the next Labour leader and gnash their teeth and wail that a Corbyn led Labour Party will be at best cast into the wilderness of opposition for a decade or more and at worst rent asunder never to be a serious political force again. In the mainstream media, most of whom have sold their souls to the idea of free markets, free trade and the general paraphernalia of globalism, articles and editorials forecast the end of days if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister.
Interestingly, this hysteria has not diminished Corbyn’s popularity one whit and will probably help fuel his rise to what promises to be victory in the leadership race without the second preferences being counted. Why has Corbyn garnered so much support? The quick answer is he offers an alternative to the free market, free trade religion which has been fed incessantly to the public for decades as the only possible economic system for a modern state.
This immediately gives the man pull with those who have old Labour values, but he has attracted a much wider range of support. The young have flocked to his meetings. Surprising at first glance in view of Corbyn’s age, but readily understandable when it is remembered that British politicians generally have either failed to comprehend or refused to admit that the world they have created over the past 30-40 years is much tougher and more uncertain for today’s young than it was for them when they were young, with housing now hideously expensive, well paid jobs difficult to come by and university education leaving graduates with a debt of £40,000 or more and no suitable jobs to go to. Corbyn is offering concrete policies to help them, not least a huge social housing programme.
But it is not just the young who are suffering. There are millions of older people of working age through to those in retirement who no longer live a life with any real security, as they struggle with ever increasing private rents and zero-hours contracts. Corbyn speaks to them as he speaks to the young.
Finally, there are the huge numbers of people from across the political spectrum who detested the wars which Blair dragged Britain into and have a strong animus towards Blair himself. Corbyn shares their views, going so far as to state that Blair should be tried for war crimes.
Why did the British political class so misread Corbyn’s potential? The Tories as a breed are simply insensitive in their approach to the poorer sections of society. This is epitomised by their inability to understand that to those living lives of great economic uncertainty there is nothing more enraging than to be constantly told the colossal lie “We are all in this together” by rich politicians, as happened in so often Britain after the Lehmann crash in 2008. They simply assumed that those who were not comfortably off and secure in their jobs and housing could be ignored.
The most striking thing about the Corbyn phenomenon is not that he looks as though he will win the leadership election with policies which bear some resemblance to Labour’s old core values. No, the real eye-opener is how out of touch the Labour elite have become with the lives of ordinary people. They either believed they could manipulate the vote to get the result they wanted no matter what the electoral process was or so believed the Blairite gospel of free markets and globalisation that they simply could not conceive of people voting for someone who had the audacity to suggest that Old Labour ideas of state ownership and a disengagement from military adventures were the way forward. Whichever reason it was, the Labour leadership was willing to agree to a new electoral process which chooses the party leader on the basis of a one man one vote with the vote granted to not only existing party members , but also to affiliated union members and every Tom, Dick and Harry who coughed up £3 to register as a supporter..
The potential dangers for the Blairites in such a system (entryism from the left, enemies of the Labour Party voting and so on) should have been obvious, but they would have remained unimportant had Corbyn been unable to get sufficient support from Labour MPs to go on the ballot form. If there was no Corbyn in the race all that would have been left were varieties of Blairite to choose between. The Labour elite’s blind belief in the unshakable dominance of Blairism is shown in the readiness of Labour MPs to give Corbyn enough votes to put him on the ballot. Many who gave him their vote admitted it was simply to ensure there was a left wing candidate in the leadership, race much as Diane Abbott was placed on the ballot for the previous leadership election. When Corbyn entered the race his candidature was treated as a joke by the Tories and as of no more than a sentimental wave to Labour’s past.
But, he offers the only real alternative to the rest…