‘For the many, not the few’. The simple phrase which helped Jeremy Corbyn to achieve something of a victory at the last general election. Though the Corbyn hype ultimately fell short of giving the Labour party a majority, they saw an increase of 30 seats, despite pre-election predictions suggesting they would be taken to the cleaners.
Though the Conservatives lost the overall majority, Theresa May was able to return to Number 10 Downing Street after negotiations with the DUP allowed for a majority government to be formed. However, Corbyn is joint 2nd favourite to become the next Prime Minister, with only Boris Johnson ahead of him in political betting. So, is Jeremy Corbyn really a man of the people?
Shift to The Left
Corbyn has returned the party to its socialist roots, in a move to shake off the tarnished “New Labour”. The “New Labour” policies, mostly associated with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, were traditionally in the centre ground of the political spectrum, with Corbyn striving to move the Labour back to the left.
In the 2015 Labour leadership contest, Corbyn stormed to success, winning 59.5% of the votes from Labour party members, defeating Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. Despite his popularity amongst party members, Corbyn’s inability to win the 2017 general election raises a major question for the Labour party; is Corbyn a man of the people? Or simply a man of the party’s people?
Looking at his election pledges from 2017, Jeremy Corbyn, on the face of it, appears to be the one politician who is fighting for the common man’s interests.
Party of the People
The Labour party produced a manifesto which appealed to the many, not the few, with policies to scrap tuition fees, guarantee a triple lock on pensions and increase the amount of free childcare for parents.
There were a number of policies reminiscent of the Labour party of old, all regarding the renationalisation of some of Britain’s most vital services. Mr Corbyn’s ambition is to nationalise England’s nine water companies as well as the energy sector. Railways, which have in recent years suffered from damaging negative press, particularly Southern Rail, are also on the Labour leader’s list of things to bring back under public ownership. The Royal Mail, which was sold off in 2015 after 499 years under public ownership, would have its privatisation reversed at the earliest opportunity.
These policies were designed to persuade the British public to join the Corbyn revolution, and it so nearly worked. Labour saw an increase of over 3.5 million votes in the 2017 general election, less than a million fewer than the Conservatives received, but nonetheless, they remained over 50 seats behind. It wasn’t a total rejection of Corbyn by the British public, but with the state the Conservative party were in, it’s surprising that Labour were unable to inflict a more severe blow on their vote and seat numbers.
The Brexit Affect
Brexit remains a constant headache for every person in the UK. If you’re not fiercely debating for one side of the other, then you’re just sick and tired of hearing about it. The progress from the Conservative party in negotiating the deal with the EU has been minimal, and this is where the Labour party failed to pick up votes. Their stance on Brexit was something of an enigma. They seemed to be neither here nor there, they wanted to respect the vote, refuse to hold a second referendum and stay in the single market all at the same time, something that is seemingly impossible, after all, out means out right?
At the Labour party conference, held at the end of September this year in Liverpool, the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, informed the conference that if a general election is not called before the end of the year, then they will campaign for a public vote on Brexit, in which the option to remain in the EU mustn’t be ruled out. Starmer was greeted with a standing ovation by the conference, a clear indication that while Mr Corbyn may be a Eurosceptic, the members of his party are certainly Europhiles.
Future Prime Minister?
If he is to secure the keys to No. 10, a change in stance on Brexit and some policies more relatable to the centre ground might just see their vote share increase. Pro-EU party the Liberal Democrats suffered heavily after their decision to form a coalition government with the Tories in 2010 and their voters might just be willing to switch their allegiance if they believe Labour can prevent a no-deal Brexit and offer the chance to remain.
At the present time, Corbyn is a man of the party, but with a few tweaks here and there, he can increase his support, become Prime Minister and be labelled a “man of the people”.