Why an obscure left-wing MP won the UK Labour leadership by the biggest margin in history


#1

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#2

I think it could be nearly identical reasons to why Trump is polling so well now. You have that many voters who are tired of the Politician™ and are seeking alternates who may not be able to fix the system, but can give it a right kick in the nuts.

I’ll still posit that Trump is a red herring candidate who will step out or pull a flashy public meltdown so the heir apparent RNC candidate can sound nuanced and look somewhat sane. Without Trump, those candidates wouldn’t have that chance of a positive image to those core voters.

In fact, can we trade him for Trump? Please?


#3

Proof-reading niggles: It’s “dyed-in-the-wool”, not “died-in-the-wool”, and I think there’s something missing from the sentence beginning “The British left is sick of being told …” As it stands, it’s not grammatical (to me at least).

Watching the reaction to Corbyn has been instructive, to say the least. On the one hand, all the usual suspects practically fell over each other in their rush to declare him a grave threat to life, liberty and property, with an eagerness and vehemence we haven’t seen for years. That alone was enough to make me suspect that he might be a good thing. On the other, the comfortable middle-ground of the British left was also quick to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt, no doubt worried that their own sinecures might be endangered. It made me think of an old Steve Bell cartoon in which a journalist is trying to sell himself to Robert Maxwell, and describes himself as “sensible Labour”. When Maxwell asks what he means by that, he explains “I’ve voted Tory at the last five elections.” Today, ‘sensible Labour’ is horrified by Corbyn and what he represents (not least because one of the things he represents is their own irrelevance).

Cynically, I suspect that - at the end of the day - vested interests will make sure that Corbyn can’t actually accomplish anything. Should he, by some accident, ever find himself in a position of any power, the ultima ratio pecuniam, economic sabotage, will be deployed to undermine him. Still, some idealistic part of me likes to think that he might lead the Labour party back towards its original principles, and away from the Blairite Conservative-in-all-but-name chimera it has become. And that that might actually be a good thing for us all.


#4

One theory I’ve seen suggests that Trump is a stalking horse not for any of the Republican candidates – who, let’s face it, are a sorry lot – but for Hillary Clinton. The suggestion is that fielding a candidate as venal, egocentric and manifestly unfit for the job as Trump can only make Clinton look like the sensible choice. Given Clinton’s charisma shortfall, it’s true that she could use the help.

On the other hand, that theory most likely originated with the ‘mainstream’ Republican candidates who are struggling to explain why a know-nothing billionaire blowhard with a bad haircut is trashing them in the polls, so we should probably take it with a pinch of salt.


#5

“win the party leadership election by the most decisive landslide in British history?”

That this keeps getting trotted out annoys me. Yes, he won clearly, but 60% isn’t the “most decisive landslide in British history”. Not even of Labour leaders. Hugh Gaitskell got 67% of the vote in 1960, and 74% in 1961 (and never became Prime Minister). Neil Kinnock got 71% in 1983, 88% in 1988 (and also never became Prime Minister). John Smith got 91% in 1992 (and again never became Prime Minister).

Looks to me that it’s national electoral suicide to get elected in a party leadership election landslide…


#6

The confusion of the British media and political establishment would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. They obviously know nothing about the people they are supposed to inform and represent. “Electable” to them seems to mean whatever Rupert Murdoch won’t ridicule on the front page of the Sun and Daily Mail. That might have been true for an while, but only because there was no alternative for people who disagreed, and those people then ended up not voting at all. Corbyn will hopefully help change that.


#7

Corbyn has me interested in politics again for the first time in 20 years.
Parliament’s been ran by psychopaths in suits for so long, I’d lost all interest and hope. It was always about banks and business, and this atmosphere has turned the UK into a society obsessed with personal gain, with a distinct lack of social empathy.
Now we finally have someone who’s willing to talk about politics in terms other than money, maybe we’ll start caring about each-other again.


#8

The difference is that Trump supporters may be upset with the status quo, but they don’t actually know what they’re upset about. They have a general dissatisfaction and are happy to find a politician (who isn’t one) who also expresses general dissatisfaction. They don’t mind that he offers no policy suggestions other than scapegoating a group, because they don’t have many shared, concrete notions of what they think is wrong (and any notions they do have are almost guaranteed not to be the actual causes of their unease). It’s just a know-nothing “politicians got us into this mess, we need a not-politician to get us out” response.


#9

To be fair, John Smith did die before his first general election.


#10

True. As excuses go for not winning an election, that one’s difficult to refute


#11

To have died once before being voted in could be regarded as misfortune. To have done it twice to looks like carelessness.

The foundation of conspiracy theory!


#12

Not really, they’re almost polar opposites.

Trump is an enormously wealthy rightwing businessman ruthlessly exploiting people’s fear of ‘the other’ (especially towards immigrants, but also via racism) to get himself elected to enrich himself (and the wealthy elite) further.

For a UK equivalent to Trump, UKIP’s Farage is a much closer match: a wealthy ex-finance rightwinger blaming all the country’s ills on whatever scapegoats he can find (again immigrants and race especially) to enrich himself (and the wealthy elite) further.

Corbyn is not out to find scapegoats to blame the country’s problems on, he’s out to fix the actual problems themselves for the benefit of all not the wealthy few only.


#13

It’s “dyed in the wool”, not “died in the wool” which would suggest he got trampled by a herd of sheep.

“Dyed in the wool” means that the fibre itself was dyed before being knitted, rather than the finished article being dyed, do the dye is more permanent and doesn’t miss anything.


#14

What is making Trump successful, though (apart from his celebrity status) is his authenticity. Now, he may be totally inauthentic, I have no idea. But what his supporters see when they look at him is a man who isn’t letting political correctness get in the way of saying all the racist, sexist things that they believe. Corbyn appears to break through the more meaningful “political correctness” barrier in that he says bad things about the financiers of politicians, a group who is genuinely shielded from criticism from mainstream politicians. Bernie Sanders seems to fill the same role. When I hear Sanders talk about money in politics I probably feel the same way a Trump supporter feels when they hear him say something about Mexicans. We both have this bulb go on and think, “Finally, someone is telling the truth.” My truth (we need to end the corrupting influence of money) isn’t their truth (mexicans are lazy, muslims are terrorists, and all those black people deserved to be shot by the police), but I think my emotional reaction and theirs is probably similar.

Trump’s honestly racist, sexist and stupid. Corbyn is honestly progressive. I think Farage (and I’ll admit I don’t know much about him) is too transparently part of the elite. Trump’s magic is that he’s too stupid and egotistical to get that he is rich because of his birth and his associations - I think he probably honestly thinks he’s rich by virtue of being so smart, and that he’d make it just fine during the revolution.


#15

The economic sabotage will start before the election, with government contracts for big business that will have poison pill clauses and extend beyond the life of the Parliament.

Good thinking on the Steve Bell quote.

Farage is a creation of the media and a couple of rich guys who want to control politics and think UKIP is a cheap way to do it, because they haven’t got the money to buy newspapers.
Here’s a simple fact: he went to Dulwich and he didn’t go to university. The standard of teaching at Dulwich is such that any child remotely capable of getting a degree would be expected to do so, so his leaving school at 16 suggests that he simply wasn’t interested. (Corbyn didn’t go to university either but that seems to be because he was too busy working on the downfall of capitalism. Nor did John Major, one of the more sensible recent Conservative PMs.)


#16

I have a serious, sincere request. Could you please explain how this would work?

From my side of the pond, The British Left currently sounds oddly like the American Right: “we lost the last national election because we didn’t put up a candidate that was (blank) enough”.

Several large factions of the US Republican party think the key to winning a national election is to field a presidential candidate to the right of George “W” Bush. McCain and Romney weren’t “conservative” enough.

The issues are different, but to this faraway Yank, Corbyn’s supporters sound as if they are making an analogous argument. “Miliband wasn’t really one of us. We need someone closer to our views to carry the national message.”

Miliband was the most liberal Liberal candidate in a generation. He got trounced. He underperformed his poll numbers, which were weak to begin with.

How will moving left from Ed Miliband improve national prospects?

This is an honest question. I do forecasting, and I think I understand the key dynamic that gave the Tories their unexpected win. Corbyn, to my knowledge, hasn’t addressed that key dynamic. Rather, he has done what in the US we call “Rallying the Base.” But you are there and engaged, so I genuinely want to know why you think w Corbyn “will hopefully help change that.”

Thank You.


#17

From PD James’s "The Murder Room.

"Nellie said only yesterday that we never see you. You’re too busy heading that innocuously-named squad set up to take over murders of a sensitive nature. 'Sensitive Nature sounds oddly bureaucratic-- how does one define a murder of an insensitive nature? Still, we all know what it means. If the Lord Chancellor is found in his robes and wig, brutally battered to death on the Woolsack, call in Adam Dalgliesh.


#18

Your comments are fair but I think are missing a point. The Conservatives have money on their side, Labour had its organisation. But Blair threw it away by (a) being as right wing as Thatcher and (b) not only invading Iraq but being blatantly in the pocket of Bush. As a result, Labour lost its members - the people who knock on doors and persuade other people.
Miliband had to obey the Blairites to a considerable degree, and did not re-engage the members. Corbyn has comprehensively stuffed the Blairites and the members are rejoining.
I think it will take 10 years for Labour to recover, and that Corbyn won’t be PM. But I think any of the other candidates would have prevented any recovery at all - they would have ensured that their coterie of right wingers would have stayed in Parliament and drawn their salaries, they would have continued to benefit from the investments they made following Blair’s support for PFI and buy-for-let, but they would have been completely content to provide the same sort of opposition that the Nationalist parties provide in Russia’s Duma.


#19

The elections you cited were under completely different rules and are not comparable (though I agree that the hyperbole is silly.)

Had he lived, Smith would have won an election. But after 18 years of Thatcherism and Thatcherism-light, if the Labour Party had been headed up by Lenin with Karl Marx as potential Chancellor and Rosa Luxembourg expected to be Home Secretary, they would still have had a landslide. It’s the British way; put up with things until the worst is over, then rebel (like the 1945 election.)


#21

Labour made some gains from the Conservatives, but they lost votes to their Left (SNP, Greens) - and also to UKIP. Their utter collapse in Scotland was what made the results look really bad.

They lost because the LD vote collapsed and went largely to the Tories.

Corbyn is more like Sanders than anything. Lots of people are sick of Blair’s Third Way - traditional Labour voters aren’t interested in being paid lip service too and getting their votes taken for granted.

Miliband was just not a very good candidate.

I do suspect that Corbyn will end up like IDS - a leader popular with the grass roots who can’t win an election, but he might move the party a little away from the Tories, which would be nice. The LDs can play centrist if they like. There’s no way that Burnham, Cooper or (especially) Kendall would have achieved anything at all. All utterly uninspiring.