The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as the ‘front runner’ in the Labour leadership contest should tell you everything you need to know as to why Labour need him to win. They’re disconnected from reality, from the electorate, and from their own members. Neither Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, nor Liz Kendall will lead the Labour party away from these labels. And here we have the least inspiring, but no less impractical reason why the 66 year-old is the only credible candidate – and why the other three are just more of the same.
Labour is dying, and quickly. In one, maybe two general elections’ time it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re no longer the main opposition to the Conservatives. There is a general mistrust of Labour throughout the country and more than a whiff of incompetence lingers over them like a bad smell. They come across as weak. People blame them for the Iraq war, for mass immigration and for the recession. They abandoned Wales and Scotland and presided over the grooming gangs in Rotherham for fear of getting called racist. Bunham, Cooper and Kendall are all associated with these failings and have, at one time or another, been in positions of authority while all of this was going on. Burnham, in particular, was number two at the Treasury while Labour was last in government and admitted that the way they treated Wales “wasn’t fair” and that they were receiving a poor deal. The socialist’s opposition candidates cannot get rid of these bad smells, no matter how much they try to cleanse themselves. Corbyn however, has never really been in a position of authority within the Labour party and while this could be seen to be a weakness in his campaign, it is a blessing in disguise. The public cannot blame him for the previous Government’s failures.
Another distinguishing factor is that Corbyn is the only one of the candidates who cannot be associated with the elite core of Westminster. Andy Burnham went to Cambridge University, Yvette Cooper went to Oxford, and Liz Kendall went to Cambridge. This does not help with voter apathy. The new front runner on the other hand left school at 18. If the Labour party want to prevent their demise, then they must re-invent themselves. They cannot carry on down the same path. Only the oldest, yet least experienced candidate can change the public’s perceptions and re-invent the party. Indeed, the suggestions that the leadership has been infiltrated by left-wing militants and should be thus put on hold shows that a considerable portion of the Labour party are unhappy with someone challenging the status quo.
Labour however, must distinguish itself from the Conservative party. At the moment, they are just too similar, and don’t provide a credible opposition. Corbyn would provide this opposition. People are not happy with British politics at the moment, they think all the parties are too similar. We created NOTA Network specifically because all of the parties are the same! Look at the surge in popularity for Russell Brand’s political musings. There is no real diversity in Parliament. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that the Harriet Harman led Labour Party refused to vote against the Tories’ planned welfare cuts. Only Corbyn stuck to his guns. If the Labour party cannot even bring itself to stick to its founding principles and protect those who need it, is there any wonder that they are so lost? They are neither here nor there, they try to cater for too many people and cast their net too wide and so they have no idea what they stand for.
Mr Corbyn will bring a vestige of identity back to the Labour party. He’ll bring it back to its roots, he’ll focus on the reasons it sprang into existence in the first place. The other candidate’s continuation of New Labour will just continue to erode the Labour Party’s identity. They’ve let the Tories get away with claiming to represent ‘the working man’, so who does that leave Labour with? I wonder, when people say “I’m Labour through and through” what does that mean? Because condoning extra welfare cuts is not a Labour thing to do.
In the obsession to get power, how many of their principles will they sacrifice? If you want political power to implement your philosophy, but can’t implement your philosophy because it will be unpopular then where does that leave you? Power or principles? Burnham, Cooper and Kendall don’t seem to think you can have both. That’s the refreshing thing about Corbyn, he sticks to principles, and always has, no matter what. People will respect that and see it as a breath of fresh air. None of this wamby bamby, wishy washy, tip-toeing around the question sort of politics we have these days. Corbyn resents personality politics and says it how he sees it while the other candidates continue to underestimate the popularity and effectiveness of this ability. That is why Labour lost so many voters to UKIP. Corbyn could be their Farage, straight talking and principled.
Jeremy Corbyn is, without a doubt, the most Labour leadership candidate out of the four. Perhaps the other Blairites need to trust the public more, trust that Labour can be influential while sticking to its core values. Now, whether Corbyn would be a good Prime Minister is another question. At the moment though, Labour is fighting for its life. Labour, and British politics in general, needs Corbyn, and needs a strong opposition.