Jeremy Corbyn has been a controversial figure since he was elected as leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. He was originally the underdog in that Labour leadership election, many questioning his appeal and later, whether the influx of new members supporting him should be allowed to vote. The biggest question of all is whether he can win a general election. He hasn’t been able to prove that yet, but his leadership has been contested once more.
Corbyn stands in direct opposition to New Labour, to the Blairites, to the politicians willing to become “Tory-Lite” in order to be elected. That might have worked in 2005, but in 2015, in the former Labour stronghold of Scotland, the Scottish National Party overwhelmingly won. In Scotland, it’s clear that voters aren’t just looking for independence – the SNP are very left-wing, and many of their policies are far more than just holding a referendum. If Labour wants to compete with the SNP, New Labour policies are not the way to do that. Jeremy Corbyn is.
The SNP had a massive increase in its popularity before the 2015 election, but it wasn’t the only party that this happened to. Aside from the obvious, UKIP, the Green Party also experienced a huge surge in party membership, in part due to David Cameron’s refusal to debate them. When election day came, they only won a single seat, but the number of votes they received more than quadrupled, totalling over a million for the first time. The average percentage of vote they received per candidate went from 1.81% in the 2010 General Election, where they ran 310 candidates and saved only 6 of their deposits, to a surprising 4.27% in 2015, where they ran 573 and saved an overwhelming 123 deposits, more than 20 times their previous result. Saving a deposit refers to the deposit a candidate puts down in order to run, which is only returned if the candidate receives more than 5% of the vote in the constituency. They also came second place for the first time in four constituencies.
This is yet another clear indicator that catering to the centre and to the right is not the only, or even the best, strategy for Labour to employ. There are voters that lean left and want a real anti-austerity government, which the Green Party and the SNP party both campaigned on.
Another way that heading left with Jeremy Corbyn will aid the Labour party is by demonstrating that between elections, the Labour Party can still provide a real opposition. With the Labour Party leaning to the centre, trying to get voters from the Conservative Party and UKIP, narratives about the poor and migrants go unchallenged. Challenging austerity and putting an end to the government’s relentless pandering to xenophobia should be on the Labour party’s agenda, and in doing so it could appeal to disengaged voters who see only a government intent on saving its own skin.
The leadership coup against Jeremy Corbyn has only harmed Labour. In a time of crisis post-referendum, the Labour party looked inward and started pointing fingers. What the country needed then, and needs now, is a solid opposition party willing to stand up for the rights of those who are suffering most under the hands of Tory austerity. Jeremy Corbyn can deliver that party and that’s what makes him electable.