In the past, where partisan alignment was strong and class was the determining factor in voting behaviour, Labour could rely on the working-class ‘many’ to bolster their numbers. Now, the reliable many have transformed into a swing band of de-aligned valence voters.
Labour has targeted the youth vote to remain afloat: sick of outrageous tuition fees and homeownership being made a distant dream, young people rallied behind Jeremy Corbyn. I wish I could chant ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ with as much conviction as my friends, but I see ‘Jezza’ as an obstacle to Labour victory: how can we secure a majority and implement the change this country so desperately needs if a massive seventy-five per cent of people are unsatisfied with our party leader?
Voters are becoming increasingly likely to vote for a party based on issues rather than a strong sense of party loyalty, so Jeremy Corbyn should have captivated a nation of normal people who want the Brexit problem solved and their NHS protected from privatisation. The December general election could have been Labour’s chance to regain control after nearly a decade of Tory cuts and failure to deliver departure from the European Union. But Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of popularity is putting the party in serious jeopardy, whether Mr Corbyn cares to admit it or not.
Unfortunately, I think the 2019 general election will amount in nothing more than a wasted opportunity for Labour.
Its history of strong economic policy and unshaken stability meant that the Conservative party gained a reputation of being the ‘safe party’. When there was the occasional slip-up in the Conservative camp, Labour would swoop in to offer an idealistic alternative whilst the Conservatives regained composure. Conservative economic policy has come under fire as merciless cuts to public services since 2010 have caused unmitigated suffering. A 2015 Financial Times analysis of austerity measures found that local government budgets will have been cut by around £30 billion by 2020. As well as creating economic uncertainty, since David Cameron called the Brexit referendum in 2016, the Tories have torn themselves apart over the European Union, leading to two leader resignations and two leadership elections. Boris Johnson’s failure to deliver Brexit on October 31st has called his party’s ‘safe’ reputation into further question. Labour’s opportunity to save the day should have arrived with the announcement of a general election on December 12th.
This is Labour’s chance to prove that sometimes taking a risk on red does pay off, but a recent Ipsos-Mori poll has found that only 15 per cent of people are satisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s performance as Labour party leader. Corbyn himself attempted to dismiss the results as unimportant, saying that we are not in a ‘presidential election’.
Despite his rousing election launch speech at Battersea Arts Centre causing a small spike in ratings, Jeremy Corbyn remains wildly unpopular with voters. Corbyn cannot deny that we are living in highly personalised political times: the adoption of televised debates in the UK is obvious proof of a shift in focus towards party leaders over local representatives. Corbyn has been faced with the facts: he is seen as an even more unsatisfactory leader than Johnson, which spells potential disaster in December for Labour.
Jeremy Corbyn hopes to overcome Conservative-biased media reporting and personality politics by generating “the biggest people-powered campaign in history”, but it’s hard to generate this power when the people do not like him. YouGov data shows that only thirty-four per cent of British people have a positive opinion of Boris Johnson, but this uninspiring rating seems sky-high when compared to only twenty-three per cent having a positive opinion of Jeremy Corbyn.
I cannot deny the success that Corbyn has had in harnessing people power in the past; he was incredibly successful in engaging and mobilising young voters in the 2017 general election. However, in that same election, sixty-one per cent of voters aged over sixty-four still voted Conservative. We need to acknowledge that a significant part of the older electorate refuses to vote Labour, partially because they cannot relate to Corbyn’s brand of radical democratic socialism.
I do not hate Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not seeking to brand him a chicken, or a Communist. I admire his conviction and agree with most policies outlined in his campaign launch speech. What concerns me about Corbyn as a leader is his refusal to compromise. His stubbornness is comparable to a certain lady who was not for turning. Corbyn has tried to unite his MPs on the far left of the spectrum but has left many unconvinced: Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips admitted she could not see the general election resulting in a majority for Labour.
In June 2017, the opposition leader sacked three members of his shadow cabinet for defying the party whip on a Brexit amendment vote. The resignation of senior policy adviser Andrew Fisher in September 2019 is also a significant indicator that the atmosphere in the Labour party has become unbearable, even for Corbyn’s most loyal servants. Like most political leaders, Corbyn has created his own personal echo chamber, choosing to surround himself with un-scrutinizing yes-men-and-women in order to create an illusion of unity.
Overall, I find something unsettlingly insincere about Jeremy Corbyn. I think there is an element of selfishness to his actions- keeping hold of the leadership as we await a crucial general election suggests he is either entirely unaware of his own divisiveness or that he simply does not care. Jeremy Corbyn refuses to play the political game as if it were something to be applauded when we all know that those who refuse to play the game will never win.