A quick disclaimer: I am a socialist and I share much of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics. I believe that austerity is unjustifiable ideological warfare; I believe in renationalising the railways, I believe in Clause IV, I believe in strong trade unions, and I believe in nuclear disarmament. I also believe that Corbyn should be commended for his unwavering parliamentary record, and that the media’s sniping attacks on the man are often facetious and usually motivated by clandestine political agendas.
I clarify all of this to appease the claws of ‘Camp Corbyn’. In fact I am willing to admit that when this drawn-out election begun I initially supported the MP for Islington North. My reasons for doing so can be summarised as follows:
However, as this election has progressed, I’ve become disenfranchised with the Corbynite cause. Perhaps ironic, given that he is idolised by many as the antidote to disenfranchisement. There is a straightforward reason for my shift, however, and that is this: Jeremy Corbyn will not win a general election.
Here’s why. Firstly, Labour must take votes from the Tories. Secondly, the primary reasons people gave for not voting Labour in May (a belief that the economy was being fixed and a lack of faith in Labour’s economic policy) will not be solved by a more left-wing leader. His views may be popular at his own rallies, on the left-wing echo chamber that is social media, and in the cosmopolitan bleeding-heart bars of North London, but they are not so popular elsewhere. One just has to accept that he cannot win in 2020.
Strangely, I'm yet to encounter any rationale or evidence to the contrary which is surprising given the fervour and numbers his campaign has generated. Where are those arguing Corbyn can win in 2020? Do his supporters even believe that this is possible? It seems that amongst the passion and the sanctimony there is an elephant at the rally, so to speak: This man will not become Prime Minister.
Moreover, his supporters don’t even care. They can’t do. This is because Corbynites must be one of two things: either ignorant to the fact that he is unlikely to become Prime Minister, or apathetic about the electability of the Labour Party. The former have nothing at their disposal besides an argumentum ad ignorantiam (that is, he might win, how can we know yet?) which is easily countered by the reasons given above. And so, we come to those who repeat ‘principles over power’ ad infinitum and are totally disinterested in whether Corbyn can actually win or not.
In blunter terms, the sanctimonious silver-spooners who don’t need a Labour government; they’d just prefer one.
These are the worst and most indefensible group. I have to agree with John McTernan who recently commented on Channel 4 News: I don’t think that there is anybody who is backing Jeremy Corbyn who seriously believes that he is the next Prime Minister...What the country needs is a Labour government because only a Labour government can make change.
It’s difficult to refute. The reality is that without power, principles of any kind are meaningless. How many policies have been enacted in opposition? How many schools built? Mouths fed? Homes heated? The sanctimony of the Corbynites is driven by one claim, that they are representing ‘true’ Labour, but in supporting an unelectable party-rebel they are actually abandoning those who the party was founded to protect.
Corbyn’s supporters, the cosmopolitan and bohemian left, the middle-class young and so on, can all afford to value principles over power. They can afford to doom Labour to perpetual opposition at little to no personal cost. The hungry, the sick and the poor cannot. After all, aren't these the exact people that socialists should be prioritising? Instead, we are witnessing the absurd ordering of ideals, of utopia, of piousness, above pragmatic realism. And by extension, above the people who so desperately need a Labour government.
This is the great paradox of Corbynism - it is actually un-socialist to support him. If he is elected, and it looks likely that he will be, it will leave millions of our most vulnerable in the unrepentant hands of an increasingly malevolent Tory regime. It is time Corbynites asked themselves whether they’re comfortable with that, because as a socialist, I know that I’m certainly not.