In recent constituency nominations, Jeremy Corbyn has won the backing of 152 constituency parties while Andy Burnham has won 111, Yvette Cooper has won 106 and Liz Kendall has only 18. Although this bears no weight in the actual leadership election, it is a useful indicator of Corbyn’s rapid rise in popularity. One should remember that Corbyn was a only periphery figure in the party before Labour’s failure at the last general election, but now he appears to be leading the way and this is further shown by securing the backing of the UK’s two top trade unions; UNITE and UNISON.
So, what is it that makes Corbyn, out of the four candidates, so appealing? One view is that it is Corbyn’s pledge to move the Labour Party back to its politically left roots that explains Corbyn’s support. However, I would hesitate to argue that it is the fact that he is taking the party more left of centre that explains this rise, because there is nothing inherently good or bad about left wing politics.Rather, the appeal may come from Corbyn simply being the only candidate in recent years, let alone this Labour election, to be offering something different; Burnham, Cooper and Kendall all have similar agendas. Another reason may be Corbyn’s straight talking nature as well as his ability to communicate with the common citizen; he has delivered convincing speeches about the state of rail infrastructure and the failures of Labour at the last election, as well as number of good performances on several news programmes.
In a move to perhaps distance himself completely from the Labour party we saw at the last general election, Corbyn has attacked Miliband’s economic policy which he calls ‘austerity-lite’, and advocates an economic plan which would end austerity.
Corbyn, as well as gaining support, has also been a divisive figure in the Labour Party. The leader of Britain’s third largest trade union, the CWU, has labelled Corbyn as the cure to the ‘Blairites’ in the Labour Party. This statement has been criticised by Jack Straw who sees it a disruptive, and goes on to claim there are no such problems with ‘Blairites’ regardless. Though this did come from a member of Blair’s cabinet, who worked as Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Irrespective of who does win the Labour Leadership vote, the Labour Party does need to undergo change. This is not only for their chances of winning the 2020 election, but also because Britain desperately needs a return to the traditional adversarial political system. For too long the political boundaries between the Conservatives and Labour have been blurred, leaving very little to distinguish the two. In the end, it became a contest of personality considering the policies were very much alike and Cameron obviously endeared himself to the public more successfully than Miliband.
It appears then that Corbyn, if elected, has the job of providing the Labour Party with a thicker skin than Miliband, and Brown before him. If his media appearances and speeches are anything to go by, he will be more successful in doing this than his predecessors. Voting begins on the 14th August and, out of all the candidates, it looks like Corbyn will take the Labour Party in a new direction, and one which will take Britain back towards adversarial politics which have worked best for this country.