The Labour leadership contest is approaching its final stage, with ballot papers due to be sent out to the selectorate from the 22nd August. If one thing has become clear over the course of the past 12 months and has been reaffirmed by this leadership challenge, it’s that Jeremy Corbyn has a zero percent chance of winning a general election. Before this leadership contest, I believed he would have had a chance of winning if the country was plunged into major economic turmoil – in a similar way to Syriza in Greece – yet I am now convinced that even this eventuality would struggle to command the will of the electorate. Here are 10 reasons why this is the case:
1. Corbyn consistently talks down Labour’s record in Government
I recently attended a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Derby to see what all the fuss was about. One of the most striking moments of this event was when Corbyn seemed to be trying to make political capital out of the Labour Party’s 13-year record in government. He stated that inequality went up under Labour. In saying this, Corbyn was effectively ignoring the fact that Labour significantly reduced the rates of child and pensioner poverty. It was almost as if Corbyn was running a campaign as part of a rival party to Labour. Having said this, with the amount of Socialist Workers’ Party propaganda floating about at the rally, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t even a Labour-centered event at all. The only highlight of this rally was a pretty ironic one: Corbyn tried to poke fun at George Osborne losing his job, seemingly forgetting that he was Chancellor for six years and his party remains in government. Labour made mistakes whilst in government, but repeatedly talking down the achievements of the party raises questions as to whether such individuals are even in the right party.
2. We live in a parliamentary democracy
172 Labour MPs voted against Jeremy’s leadership in a vote of no confidence. The official opposition should resemble a government-in-waiting. We currently have a situation where Corbyn supporting MPs are filling multiple positions in the shadow cabinet. For instance, Dave Anderson MP is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland AND for Scotland. Surely, geography alone suggests such a situation is untenable. Anderson himself has suggested he is not giving the Scottish remit the attention it deserves. With Labour currently third in the polls in Scotland – behind the Tories – surely this is an area the party should not be side-lining with only half the shadow ministerial attention it currently has. If Scotland thought Labour was a joke in 2015, God only knows what the electorate north of the border thinks now. The fact is, Corbyn cannot come back from this. The Leader of the Opposition has to be able to command a majority of Labour MPs to form a credible opposition. Let’s not forget Labour MPs have a mandate from the electorate and not just party members and supporters.
3. Past Conservative voters will never be convinced by his narrative
Corbyn recently pledged to win over Tory voters. This is about as useful as me pledging to never drink again: it’s just not going to happen. With 2 million people who voted Labour at the last general election now stating they would consider voting Tory if there were an election tomorrow, Corbyn has presented no strategy to address this. There is simply nothing more to say on this – I challenge any Corbyn supporter to bring to my attention any policy point he has targeted at winning over soft Tory voters who may have voted Labour in the past. To win in 2020, or before as the case will probably be, Labour needs to win 100 seats from the Tories: he cannot simply ignore this in his strategy.
4. His hostility towards the mainstream media is backfiring in spectacular fashion
Jeremy’s campaign recently refused to take part in debates organised by Channel 4, the Mirror, the Guardian and the New Statesman, believing these outlets had previously been biased against him. This is only the latest in a long line of incidents in what is increasingly appearing to be a campaign of paranoia against the “mainstream media”. This seems to win him plaudits at rallies, where he is speaking to those already converted to his cause, yet without an effective media strategy moving towards a general election, Corbyn is doomed to fail. I’m not advocating cosying up to The Sun or other Murdoch papers in a similar way that other leaders have in the past, I’m talking about not denouncing the BBC at every corner and retaining the backing of relatively left-wing newspapers (the Mirror and the Guardian, principally). It is undeniable that the electorate digest much of what they believe via various media outlets and Labour’s current failure to effectively command the airwaves makes the future look bleak. From the man who, during the previous leadership election, prided himself on accountability, Labour’s message from the Corbyn wing of the party looks largely to be coming from niche blogging sites such as the Canary. This cannot go on.
5. His passion for the EU is pretty much non-existent
Jeremy constantly states that his constituency voted Remain in the EU whilst Owen Smith’s voted to leave. This is, of course, true. The issue is, the Leader of the Opposition is not meant to be preparing to the Prime Minister of Islington. Just because he’s a sitting MP in a metropolitan London constituency does not give weight to the assertion that his efforts within the referendum campaign were anything but lacklustre. Would you bet your house that Corbyn actually voted remain on June 23rd? I certainly wouldn’t. The negotiation strategy for Brexit is likely to be the most dominant issue over the course of this parliament and is likely to go on long into the next. Remain voters are unlikely to put their trust in a leader who stated that he was only “7 out of 10” convinced that membership of the EU was a good thing. This parliament, whether Labour likes it or not, will be defined by Brexit – the party needs a leader who will defend its long-established pro-European stance.
6. His comments on NATO are out-of-step with the country
The defence of the nation is the first priority of government. During the third Labour-organised leadership hustings, Corbyn suggested that he would not aid a NATO member militarily if they were attacked by Russia. Putin must be having a field day. There is a difference between being pro-peace and being a full-blown pacifist. Like it or not, the electorate prides defence highly when voting in general elections: Labour cannot ignore this. The Labour Party is also an internationalist party – we cannot stand by on the other side of the road when our allies are being attacked. Corbyn’s defence policy appears to be “no military action under any circumstances”. This alone just asks for trouble. The enemies of the UK will not resist attacking the country or our national interests if a UK Prime Minister were to take this stance. Rest assured, the electorate will not vote for the message this would send to the world and the Tories will expose this painfully in a general election campaign.
7. People don’t vote at general elections on Trident
Within this leadership contest, a key policy difference between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn is their stance on Trident. Whilst this is an important moral issue, support for Trident has a strong parliamentary majority and shows no sign of being reversed before work on the renewal of the nuclear deterrent gets underway. When polled, the electorate is largely in favour of renewing Trident and when this policy is twinned with Corbyn’s stance on having no military action of any kind, the public as a whole are unlikely to get behind him. Labour is, of course, worried about foreign military action following the Iraq war, but the party must not use this as a way of reneging on its international responsibilities.
8. His policies are not clearly costed
Thanks to Owen Smith, we now appear to have a bit of policy direction from Corbyn, other than “re-nationalise the railways” (which is a good idea, I hasten to add). He recently sent out a leaflet to the selectorate containing “ten pledges to rebuild and transform Britain”. Many of these pledges, for example, “the progressive restoration of free education for all”, and investing “£500bn in infrastructure” are hugely expensive and his campaign does not yet seem to have outline exactly where the tax receipts to pay for such policies will come from. Owen Smith has, however, fully costed his 20 pledges for change. Jeremy’s policies are largely shared by Owen, but unless Labour can demonstrate how the party would manage the economy successfully, Corbyn will fail to win an election in the same way Ed Miliband was unable to shake off the “Labour caused the global economic crash” myth.
9. His integrity has been deeply damaged
Shami Chakrabarti deserves a peerage for her brilliant work on human rights with Liberty. The timing of this peerage, however, is a PR disaster for Labour. Chakrabarti led the “independent” inquiry into antisemitism within the Labour Party. During the previous leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to not appoint anybody to the House of Lords under his premiership. Whilst Chakrabarti’s appointment may be totally innocent, the timing of this move stinks of corruption. This echoes Corbyn’s poor media strategy – why were his office unable to see the backlash which would ensue from this decision? This appointment majorly brings into question Corbyn’s integrity. Along with his open lying within Labour leadership hustings when he said he did not state Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty should be triggered immediately, this supposed man of principle looks more dishonest by the day.
10. Labour is meant to be a part of government, not a sect
Tony Blair’s logic of winning elections from the centre ground of British politics may be seen by some as outdated but the science of this remains blindingly true. The Tories are currently trying to straddle the right of politics and those who are in the centre in order to maintain a parliamentary majority. Labour must do the same with the left and the centre. Whilst the policies to achieve this have undoubtedly changed since Blair’s landslide in 1997, the science has not. Currently, the party finds itself in a situation where it is talking to a large number of people, but as a proportion of the electorate as a whole, this proportion of people can never win a general election. Speaking at rallies is fantastic for energising the troops, but ask yourself: the Tories have a party membership of 150,000, did they need rallies in every city to win the 2015 general election? Corbyn is a highly principled and decent man, but his policies will never reach the levers of power to make meaningful change. Any Labour leader has a mountain to climb at the next general election and Corbyn has barely reached the foothills.