The Corb Delusion

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

          - Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll



The scale of wishful thinking in British politics in 2016 is truly terrifying. On one side, the Tories are claiming we can have caps on EU immigration alongside full access to the single market. On the other, there are a significant minority of Corbyn supporters who believe Labour can win a General Election with him at the helm.

Meanwhile there's no sign of that unicorn I asked for.

Given that the belief that Corbyn can win General Election flies in the face of all the available evidence it's difficult to describe this view as anything other than a delusion. 

Fundamentally, under First Past the Post a party wins an election on two basic tests. First, by convincing enough people in a few key marginal seats that they and their family will be better off under your party than the other ones. Second, by convincing people you have a credible Prime Minister and government in waiting.

That might not sound as inspiring as “building a social movement”, but we don't live in the world that you or I would like to live in. Yet. Before you can change the world you have to accept the realities and constraints of the world as it is. 

Cry about the unfair electoral system all you like (and I do) but you can't change that electoral system until you win an election under it. Howl about the “right wing press”, but remember that an awful lot of people get their news from the Daily Mail and The Sun, so perhaps try and build some bridges with journalists and work to get some positive stories. Remember that many journalists at right-wing papers have left-wing sympathies. Tweeting “#WeAreHisMedia” might make you feel warm inside but it won't persuade one marginal voter to back Labour.

So let's examine how Corbyn stands up on the two key election winning metrics. On the first, Corbyn has demonstrated himself consistently unable to reach out beyond Labour's core vote. Worse even, he's managing to alienate lifelong Labour supporters. By opposing Trident renewal and having expressed sympathy with organisations like the IRA it's not even a question of whether or not families would feel better or worse off financially, but whether they would even feel safe under a Corbyn government.

As for being a credible Prime Minister in charge of a credible government, if you can't even convince your Parliamentary colleagues that you can form a credible government then what hope is there of him convincing the public?

It's not looking good for victory under Corbyn in 2020 so far.

Some have taken attacks on Corbyn in the press as proof that media magnates are terrified of him because he is electable. Let's address this head on: the idea that the media and the “establishment” view Corbyn and the hard left as a threat is a laughable nonsense. The hard left are so unlikely to ever achieve power that attacks on Corbyn are more for pleasure than business.

It's the soft left, or centre left of the party that is much more threatening to a banker or a newspaper proprietor. Despite generating far less juicy material with which to attack him (Ed Stone vs IRA sympathising) Ed Miliband was excoriated in the media. They excoriated him because they knew he might win. Corbyn condemns himself by his own words and associations. The media barely need to expend any effort at all. And remember, it's not a “smear” if it's true. 

Just like the White Queen, one can convince oneself to believe any number of impossible things if one tries hard enough. But to convince yourself that Corbyn can win in the face of all the evidence betrays those who are being impoverished by Tory austerity and who need a Labour government. Are you really going to risk labour being reduced to 150 seats in parliament just because Corbs makes you feel good about yourself? This may sound harsh, but after all we do live in the age of “straight talking, honest politics”.


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