Anyone who reads this blog regularly will have guessed that I am backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. I am on the left of Labour Party and his views most accurate represent my own. I think it is time that Labour put forward a genuine left-wing alternative in mainstream politics.
At first the rest of the Labour Party dismissed Corbyn as either a dinosaur or a crank. Now there is a chance he might do well in the ballot, perhaps even coming top in terms of first preferences. Now the concerned voices are being raised in the Guardian, the Independent and by former leader Tony Blair, that he is too leftwing to win a general election.
The argument that these articles and others are putting forward is that choosing Corbyn as a leader would be a mistake as he would drive the centre of the electorate into the hands of the Tories. All these articles take it as read that Labour lost this year's general election because the platform they stood on was too leftwing. Personally I don’t think that a manifesto that contains austerity and controls on immigration can be described as especially leftwing. The commentators overlook this and claim that the election was an endorsement for the centre right.
These articles are quick to point out southern English voters did not trust Labour with the economy and thus voted Conservative. Although they never mention the voters Labour lost to the SNP, or the Greens, who stood on an anti-austerity platform similar to Corbyn's. These articles also seem to claim wide electoral support for austerity. The truth is that the voters were given little alternative to austerity, which is not endorsing it. Many chose to reject austerity, especially in Scotland, and these are the voters that Corbyn can win back to the Labour Party.
Articles which proclaim the unelectability of Corbyn also do not mention all the people who did not vote at all in the last election. The convergence of the two main parties on a narrower and narrower section of the centre have alienated many people whose views lie outside this thin section. Many of these people are poor or from monitories and are completely disaffected by mainstream politics. In the last election 34% of people did not vote, enough to profoundly alter the result. This represents a huge pool of voters a candidate of principle, whom a candidate outside the narrow centre ground of politics like Corbyn could appeal to.
Many voters are put off Labour because the party is seen as indistinguishable from the Tories, a problem which is not helped by Labour failing to stand up to Tory welfare cuts, their use of anti-immigration rhetoric and their support for austerity. As a Labour Party supporter I find it hard to see how an Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall government would be different from a David Cameron or George Osborne government is any meaningful way. Undoing Ed Miliband’s minuscule step to the left will not win back all the voters who are put off by how similar to the two main parties are. Having Corbyn as a leader will differentiate Labour, there is no point being an opposition if you are not seen as different.
The articles also fail to mention the significant UKIP vote in the general election. On paper Corbyn is unlikely to appeal to UKIP voters, however UKIP were effective at stealing voters from Labour with rhetoric against the "Westminster bubble". Burnham or Yvette Cooper will not be able to connect to the voters alienated by how distant Westminster politics appears from their lives. Corbyn talks with conviction about the problems people are facing in their lives. He is also clearly outside the Westminster bubble and not another cardboard cut out politician. Corbyn's politics are very different to that of UKIP, but he could win over people who distrust mainstream politicians.
The reason Labour lost the election was because they tried to retake the centre ground of politics which the Tories occupy. Supporting austerity, benefit cuts and controls on immigration do not make you appealing to centre voters if they Tories are offering the same thing and are already in a position to deliver it. The centre does not like change, so if they are satisfied with their government it will not change.
The Tories are unlikely to lose this centre ground over the next five years and it is clear that Labour needs to change direction if they want to win in 2020. Running the same campaign as Miliband ran with some minor adjustments, as Burnham will most likely do, will result in another Tory victory.
Corbyn offers a genuine change in direction and thus a chance of winning in 2020. Kendall does offer a change of direction but it is towards the centre which the Tories will most likely keep control off. If Labour want to win then they need to start thinking about the voters they lost to the SNP and the Greens and the people who voted UKIP or did not vote at all because of their dissatisfaction with mainstream politics.
The chance of Corbyn winning in 2020 is small, but the chances of Burnham, Cooper or Kendall winning in 2020 are also small. There is not a winning candidate amongst the alternatives to Corbyn; this is why he is ahead in the polls. If Labour cannot win then they should at least offer a genuine alternative to the Tories, which will attract more support for the future.
A change of direction towards those disaffected by Labour offers the only chance of success in 2020 or post 2020. Aiming for the centre again will only repeat the 2015 outcome. Labour need to broaden their appeal to those put off mainstream politics, the marginalised and the angry; Corbyn can achieve this. It may not be what the centre of the party wants but if we listen to the centre of the party we will lose in 2020.
One of the reasons I support Corbyn is the way the political establishment has their knickers in a twist over him. They are shocked to see a leftwing politician speaking his mind and applled that people are actually agreeing with him. It makes them question all the certainties the Labour establishment thinks it learned in the 2015 defeat. It shows that 2015 was not the triumph of the centre right. The Labour establishment and their centrism have not been threatened like this in a long time. They genuinely frightened that the left of the party might get what they want and might be popular, all those compromises of Blair will be for nothing.
Chasing the centre, following austerity, being bland, none of this will help Labour win in 2020. Being different will help Labour win, reaching out to new people will help Labour win, showing they care will help. Not being like every other party will help. Corbyn can do all of these things; Corbyn can expand the appeal of the Labour Patrty. The other leadership candidates cannot. That is why we need Corbyn as a party leader if we are going to start winning again.