Will Labour have a future under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, or is it time to abandon the Labour project and create something radically different to challenge Tory ideals?
Jeremy Corbyn’s done it again. Despite the best efforts of his opponents who tried to blame him single-handedly for the results of the EU Referendum, who also tried to stop new Labour supporters from voting for him in this election, and despite Owen Smith trying to reinvent himself as the ‘acceptable face’ of Labour’s old socialist values, Jeremy Corbyn was yet again victorious with 61.8 per cent of the vote (an improvement on his 59.5 per cent victory last year).
Some people will be celebrating, some people will be crying, but most people will be thinking one thing: what does this mean for Labour?
The Labour Party’s first crisis
For many Jeremy Corbyn is a breath of fresh air, or rather a breath of the old air we’ve grown to miss. His rejection of Tony Blair’s ‘middle ground’ politics and his commitment to the old Labour ideals of nationalisation and welfare has resonated with many people, who have grown tired of Labour’s confusing image. Labour first suffered a massive identity crisis in the ’70s and spent the next decade or so trying to reinvent themselves and, for a while, they managed to do so under Tony Blair by largely rejecting their socialist principles and attempting to appeal to a broader range of people. This initially worked, but the Iraq War and the 2008 crash didn’t exactly help them win any popularity contests. After the 2008 crash and Gordon Brown’s half-hearted efforts during the 2010 election, Labour yet again had an identity problem. What were they going to do?
What does the Labour Party stand for?
The events of last year’s general election are quite interesting because they really summed up Labour’s identity crisis. Ed Miliband really did try to appeal to the voters. He tried to get on with young people, he tried to appear as normal as his toffee-coated tongue would allow — even appearing on Russell Brand’s show! The problem was that the main selling point of Miliband’s Labour Party was that they weren’t the Tories. They agreed with a lot of things the Tories said (except allowing an EU Referendum, of course) and they were going to follow the same kind of line, but they thought they could still get enough support simply because they weren’t Tories, and people don’t like Tories.
They were wrong. They didn’t win, Ed Miliband resigned, and yet again Labour was having an image problem. Clearly their middle ground Tory-lite image wasn’t working, but what could they do instead?
Enter Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn isn’t popular because he’s new, he’s popular because he’s old. Or rather, he’s popular because his politics is old. Jeremy Corbyn wants to take Labour back to its heyday of the ’40s. He wants to get back to its roots and focus on welfare, nationalisation and other ‘lefty’ things. So rather than doing everything he can to break with Labour’s socialist past, Corbyn actively embraces it. And perhaps that’s a good thing, because whether you agree with what he says or not, at least it’s different to what the Tories are saying. At least he offers another perspective, another side to the debate. The establishment hates him because of the alternative he offers. The newspapers hate him too, even typically Left-wing ones like the Guardian. Even his own party hates him for God’s sake!
Corbyn is a man of the people because the people are all he has, and the results of this election show he has quite a few people on his side.
The future of the Labour Party
I’ll admit it, I like Jeremy Corbyn. I like him a lot, and I want him to stay as leader of the Labour Party for as long as he can. But I like him for the wrong reasons.
I don’t like him for his politics, or his nationalisation, or even for his ‘man of the people’ image (although it is quite impressive). I like him because he’s made the Labour Party interesting again. Because not only has he opened up debate within politics, but he’s opened up debate about his own party.
If the Labour Party can’t win with Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ politics, can’t win with Ed Miliband’s champaign-socialist ‘at least we’re not the Tories’ brand of politics, and now they can’t even win with their own old brand of politics under the kindly face of Jeremy Corbyn … then can they actually win at all? Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn isn’t Labours problem. Perhaps Labour is Labour’s problem.
The Labour Party’s old supporters have changed a lot in the last fifty years or so. The class system has changed a lot, the jobs and lower middle-class people have changed a lot, our way of life is virtually unrecognisable to how it was even thirty years ago. If Jeremy Corbyn can’t get enough support for his old Labour branch of politics it may be because his supporters don’t want that type of politics anymore. Perhaps society has changed and the political parties should change too.
Maybe it’s time for a new party. A party for the modern day, a party that can rival the Tories based on its own ideals and principles. Maybe Labour will split up and we’ll get two smaller parties. Perhaps one branch will merge with another party and create something new, or maybe Jeremy Corbyn will exceed all expectations and take Labour to victory. Anything is possible at this point.