I feel compelled to add a very short note on Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge for the Labour leadership following the resignation of Ed Miliband. This is mostly driven by some of the political commentators I follow on Twitter (and my failure to successfully summarise my thoughts in 140 characters).
What has annoyed me is the wave of commentators arguing that he shouldn’t stand, that the fact that he is on the ballot paper at all simply demonstrates how unelectable the Labour Party has become. This prompts a couple of thoughts.
First, they may not be a majority but there are definitely people out there who agree with Jeremy Corbyn on at least some things, and aren’t in love with the current narrow consensus around which Labour and Conservative parties orbit. To argue that those alternative views shouldn’t even be allowed a hearing because many (or even most) others don’t agree with them strikes me as a significant denial of plural democracy. It is no wonder that voters might feel disengaged from modern British politics if the acceptable choices are so constrained. Indeed Labour’s assumption that voters broadly on the left would continue to vote for them even though the party no longer represented their beliefs is one of the significant underlying causes of their failure to perform better in the general election.
Second, I don’t buy the argument that Labour’s focus should be on whatever magic formula will make them ‘electable’. Primarily it seems what is suggested is that they work this out by concentrating on the focus group comments of a couple of hundred swing voters in key marginal constituencies. It strikes me that it is thinking like this that has got Labour into the mess it is in at the moment. Instead it should concentrate on building a movement that harnesses the support of the 76% of the population that didn’t vote for the current Conservative government, and gives them an incentive to vote Labour instead. Jeremy Corbyn may or may not be part of that movement. But pretending that he has no right to exist at all is surely unhelpful.
So I may not support Jeremy Corbyn, but political debate must be wide enough to encompass his views or our claim to be a democracy is pretty thin.