The Labour Leadership Contest has taken an unexpected turn. Supporters of other political parties have attempted to join Labour at alarming rates in order to cast their vote, for better or for worse, in favour of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour party has responded by banning 1,200 people from voting in the contest including members of the Green Party, the Conservatives, the Trade Unionist and Social Coalition and UKIP. This strange phenomena has fascinated me and I spoke to one Conservative supporter who told me why he is thinking of backing Corbyn as leader.
My Conservative friend is a West-Yorkshire pensioner who has voted Tory all his life. However, as he isn’t currently a member of the Conservative party, he is eligible to join the Labour Party and vote for a leader. He described that voting for Corbyn had “crossed [his] mind”. When I enquired why, he claimed that “Labour would be out… for the next decade”. It’s no wonder that the Labour Party are so keen to prevent supporters of opposing parties from voting. In an effort to sabotage Labour’s prospects, they would join ranks as a ‘registered supporter’ and vote for what many of them deem to be an unelectable leader.
Corbyn dramatically shifted from being a fringe, far-left outsider candidate to having serious prospects as a potential leader when he gained the support of about 30,000 Unite members. Even with union support, Tony Blair himself agrees with my friend. In a cutting line, Blair said “if your heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant’ and claimed that Labour would be out of power for 20 years.
My friend said he does not think that Corbyn’s policies would work for a modern Great Britain. It could hark back to the 1970s. My friend cited mass strikes, people out of work, nationalisation and inflation as failures of the 70s Labour government. The Winter of Discontent string of strikes and the catastrophic mess caused by Labour eventually led to the Commons passing a vote of no confidence which forced a general election in 1979 and banished the Labour Party to near-political exile for the next eighteen years. Corbyn vows to re-focus the Labour Party Manifesto including re-stating a commitment to nationalisation. He also wants to cut tuition fees, instate a living wage and rent controls on landlords.
Even with a surprising parallel with many – arguably disastrous – 1970s Labour ‘Bennite’ policies, Corbyn still has a solid amount of support from the unions, Green Party members and students. A Green Party member and Vanbrugh student had this to say about him:
“I quite like him, he’s what I feel Labour’s candidates should be, rather than Tories in disguise that a lot of the current lot seem to be! Would definitely vote labour should he be elected. My only issue really is that people might not see him as a leader visually.”
Corbyn has shaken up the Labour leadership race for power. For some, he’s a fresh alternative and for others, he’s a familiar Labour nostalgic relic. For the Labour opposition, he’s a liability waiting to happen. A liability that could just win.