With the local elections fast approaching, Jeremy Corbyn will be under scrutiny once more. Does he provide the principled voice that students want, or would the left-leaning amongst them prefer a more ‘electable’, centrist leader like David Miliband?

 

The local elections are fast approaching, and with them the first public vote on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. For the first time since his election as leader of the opposition, the public will be able to reveal their view on his new direction.

He is, from one point of view, a principled voice and a breath of fresh air to an otherwise centralised politics. The left, who for many years have been sidelined in British politics, are finally represented in mainstream politics. However for others, his views make him too idealistic and ultimately unelectable, leading to him alienating much of the public, as well as members of his own party. Many of those on the right of his party argue that a less radical, centrist leader like David Miliband is the only way for Labour to achieve election success.

It cannot be denied however that Corbyn has had successes during his year in opposition. His criticism of the Government’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia arguably impacted on their decision to cancel the Saudi prisons contract which they had previously made. Furthermore, his party won the highly contested Oldham by-election, fighting off strong competition from UKIP. He has shown himself to be principled and has stood up for students on multiple occasions. Not only has he held the Government to account over the abolition of maintenance grants for less affluent students, but he has also been critical of the fact that the UK has the highest university tuition fees in the industrialised world. These are just not the achievements of an incapable or unelectable leader.

However, his critics have been quick to show that he is in many ways a controversial leader of the opposition who divides opinion. Opinion polls show that although he has more support than Ed Miliband had at the same stage of his leadership, there are more people with a negative impression. It is argued that he is too idealistic and radical, something which can alienate not only much of the public but also members of his own party. The party is also arguably more divided than ever before.

All this, has caused people to question whether a more centrist leader is needed, and with previous candidate David Miliband hinting at a return to UK politics, many see him as a more mellow, electable leader of the opposition. However, these points are not only grossly exaggerated by critics, but also highly unfair. Corbyn has been a strong and principled leader of the opposition who has held the Government to account and supported students against unfair actions towards them. His presence has been a welcome change to the centrist parties of the last few decades, bringing back the adversarial politics that is crucially needed in Parliament.

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