Jeremy Corbyn as a leader? What could it mean for the Labour Party

Read few comments.

1. How would you evaluate the chances of Jeremy Corbyn of becoming the next Labour leader?

2. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and many others have warned that with Corbyn Labour Party will hardly become a ruling party. Do you agree, or not and why?

Answers:

Peter Snowdon, Contemporary Historian and Journalist

1. The polls suggest that he is ahead of his rivals and he has the advantage of being the underdog. Whether he can appeal beyond the left of the party, including those who have joined or re-joined in recent weeks, remains to be seen. He lacks the frontline experience of the others, but his lack of baggage is something that Labour supporters may find refreshing. If he does win, it will be a huge moment for the Labour Party.

2.  I think serious figures in the party may ask themselves whether the party can present a united front in the next few years. A number of senior figures have said they will not serve in his shadow cabinet and supporters of Liz Kendall, the most Blairite of the candidates, will wonder whether the party can recover in time for the next general election in 2020. What is certainly the case is that this has been a divisive leadership contest, which may take years to heal.

Robin Pettitt, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Kingston University

1. Well, based  on the few opinion polls we have available on this, he is far ahead of his opponents. The polling agencies do not have a lot of experience in polling on a leadership contest, but even so, the polls show that Corbyn is more than 30 points ahead of his nearest competitor. The polls would have to be extremely wrong for that not to be a winning lead.

2. Normal political wisdom would say that Corbyn is far to left wing to be able to reach to the all important election winning centre of politics. At the same time, normal political wisdom also says that Corbyn would have no chance of even getting near the leadership, and now he is in pole position. So, maybe something is happening to British politics that means someone like Corbyn could actually win. However, more likely is that the Labour Party members are fed up with leaders who are much to the right of the bulk of the party, or who seem to accept Conservative policy. This seems to be a reaction to everything that Tony Blair stood for. It, as is likely, this is a shift in the party rather than the population at large, then  one would expect the Labour Party under Corbyn to struggle to win an election. Also, he may struggle to find MPs who are willing to work with him.

See also my blog post on this.

Victoria Honeyman, Lecturer in Politics, POLIS, University of Leeds

1. At the beginning of the campaign, no-one would have given Corbyn a chance. However, there is now a real chance he will become leader. It depends on several factors. Firstly, how many people have become ‘supporters’ of the Labour Party simply to vote for Corbyn. Secondly, can one of the other three candidates appeal to Corbyn’s supporters to join them, as Andy Burnham is trying to do. Thirdly, when push comes to shove, will party members really vote for Corbyn. By doing so, they know that they are substantially damaging their chances in the next general election. Will they take the chance? Possibly. Fourthly, will voting for the deputy leader impact on the votes for leader, as some people look at the whole leadership package rather than at individuals.

2. Blair might be hugely unpopular in some quarters, but he did win three general elections for the Labour Party and is considered to be their most electorally successful leader, perhaps ever, but certainly for a generation. People like Blair, Campbell, Brown etc. are almost certainly accurate for several reasons (it’s never one reason, is it!) Firstly, a message of ‘ending austerity’ is easy to sell, after all, who likes austerity really? However, the inevitable question is who will pay for this? The answer will almost certainly not be the rich, as many of them are rich enough to move their money or lock it away with the help of accountants. Therefore, the group who almost always pay are the middle classes. No political party in Britain can win a general election without the Middle classes, and therefore Labour do need to appeal to the middle classes as well as their more traditional voter base. How can they do this with an anti-austerity package if there is even a hint that the middle classes tax burden will rise? Secondly, while Corbyn is increasingly popular as he is viewed as a conviction politician, which the public claim to want in response to the more media-savvy politicians we currently have, will they actually want this at a general election? Thirdly, in times of financial hardship the electorate tend to be more conservative, with a small c, often leading them to be Conservative with a big C. What will be the economic circumstances in 2020? Who will be the Conservative party leader, and how popular will they be? Lots of variables.

Jonathan Tonge, Professor of Politics, University of Liverpool

1. Very strong. He’ll almost certainly win. He won’t get many second preference votes, so might need to get 50%+1 of theft vote in the first round to win outright. This is achievable.

2. Yes. He has very little chance of becoming Prime Minister. It is inconceivable that any of the 11.9 voters who chose the Conservative Party in the 2015 election will switch to a Corbyn-led Labour Party and UKIP and Lib Dem voters won’t do so either. So he would have to retain ALL of Labour’s current support, capture a large part of the SNP’s support AND mobilise lots of new voters – unlikely.

 

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