Labour can be a movement again under Jeremy Corbyn

by Jon Bounds

Despite derision from all corners of the media, and anger from the only corner of the Labour party that the media listens to, Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting crowds most politicians and even most pop stars can only dream about.

We live in a small town in Oxfordshire — Cameron country — where Labour are a distant third in all elections, and the Conservative social club is a signposted landmark and a social hub. My wife Libby is never one to shy away from a political discussion, despite being the daughter of a sometime Liberal Democrat councillor. At least once she has stopped to engage those having a fag outside ‘the Con club’ as it’s known and asked them their opinions on matters of the day.

Most of the time it happens with more respect and decorum than PMQs, even though, leaving aside the Chancellor, participants in these impromptu street exchanges are likely to be more intoxicated.

But do you know what? These proud Tories haven’t got a clue what is going on: they have no inkling that there has even been a Health and Social Care Act, let alone what  its impacts are. But these are the people, working class in the true economic sense and ‘aspirational’ — if that means that they are happy to work hard, desire have nice things and want look after their families and friends — and most of all they are the people that we have been told that the Labour party needs to win over in 2020.

Truth is, it probably is possible for a Labour party to bring these people along: but it’s not going to happen by nodding assent to the direction of Tory policies and then just arguing with the nuance. We have essentially been agreeing that we all have to stand in a lake of excrement, but we’re saying we should have socks on as well as our sandals. We can offer a different, hopeful, fair, path: and that means an alternative to austerity. Out of the Labour leadership contenders I only see Jeremy Corbyn articulating anything like that. The halls across the country, bursting like a boyband concert, are testament to just how many people see the same thing: and that feels fantastic.

I’ll admit to not having been too aware of him before this campaign, but I’ve been more and more impressed by his stature, attitude and messages. He’s being painted as further left than Lenin, but there’s nothing in his policies that sounds outlandish.

Let’s get ‘electable’ out of the way: the ravaging the press gave Ed Miliband is the new standard that every Labour leader can expect from here on in. Pandering to it is not going to work: changing the debate is the only way. Consistency of thought and message, and yes being “a signpost rather than a weather vane”. I can’t say that any of the other candidates have improved my opinion of their abilities in this spotlight.

Corbyn is leading the internal party polls, they say, but there are a lot of shy Tories.

No, that’s unfair: every Labour member I’ve ever met is committed to social justice. It used to be that the destination was the same, but members had different ideas about how to go there: now it seems that the ambition and the drive to move beyond small changes are missing from the usual suspects.

The upper tiers seem to be surprised by the support for more socialist ideas in the membership, and that’s part of the problem. At the very least it shows a lack of their supposed electoral nous: who’d have thought that there were a load of left wingers in the Labour party? There may have been four million conversations on the doorstep, but how many internal conversations about policy?

It’s a shame that the leadership seems to hold the steering wheel, the map and the gas money, but at the moment it does and that’s why getting someone going in the right direction is so important. It’s why we need signposts. Deputy leader candidates (especially Tom Watson and the very impressive Stella Creasy) have spent a lot of time talking about the need for Labour to be a movement — and that’s true, I hope whoever wins that contest they can both work towards it. But that means a leader that also wants that.

Movements have to have leaders, it’s what drives momentum, passion and commitment. Far better they are the reluctant type driven by principle personal ambition, for they are most likely to do what is right — and listen to their movement — rather than only opinion polls.

The movement can be big enough, the momentum can be big enough, the membership can be big enough to win in 2020. But we’ve got to offer people a direction, and Jeremy Corbyn is the only one going anywhere.

Jon Bounds is a writer, on culture and the internet especially. He is co-author of Pier Review, a book about memory & the seaside

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13 Responses to “Labour can be a movement again under Jeremy Corbyn”

  1. John R says:

    What’s the point of being a “Movement” if you can’t be a Government?

  2. Mike says:

    Jon, I think you are on the wrong blog.
    Actually I think the Tories would like Burnham to be the leader since he has, to his existing list of deficiencies, added flip flopping and moving to the left. He is a career politician and did the Oxbridge-SPAD route. At least Corbyn comes across as principled and consistent (even if they are 1970’s policies).

  3. notme says:

    still 24 hours to save the nhs??

    You need another slogan.

  4. To pretend to know the future is rather silly as Atul is proving with his Corbyn predictions, but I think we can hope for two outcomes of a Corbyn victory, and I don’t think that’s in the bag by any means.

    First he could bring more internal democracy to the party which it badly needs. For whatever reasons, and I know it could be argued it was needed during the Militant entryism, the party under Blair and Brown has become very top down with the NEC controlling candidate shortlists and members having very little say in policy. The PLP in particular has not been a defender of either the members rights or their voice inside the party and parliament.

    Second it may be the only way the party can avoid the fate of other European social democratic parties from an external left insurgency. This is what our boy historian, Tristram, called Pasokification if I’m not mistaken.

    Apart from Corbyn, the only other candidate talking about reducing the power of the centre is Kendall, but as to whether she is talking about the country alone, or the party also I have my doubts.

  5. Madasafish says:

    Consistency of thought and message, and yes being “a signpost rather than a weather vane”.


    So no need for economic credibility then..

    It’s a shame that the leadership seems to hold the steering wheel, the map and the gas money

    Gas money? We pay our gas by Direct Debit…

    I assume the writer means petrol money . Either he’s American or just copied the phrase verbatim from another article written by an American.

    Which shows the level of thought and care attached to the article.

  6. David Walker says:

    I voted Tory at the last election. I felt that I had no choice. They were the only party that had a coherent message. They said they were going to spend less on the public sector and welfare, in order to bring down the debt. I didn’t think that was the best strategy, but it was at least a creditable one. Several of my friends also came to this conclusion, mostly with reluctance.

    Miliband’s Labour had no credibility. They were claiming to bring down the debt, while making no cast-iron pledges to reduce spending at all.

    Corbyn’s strategy seems straight-forward enough to me. Increase public-spending drastically, while restructuring our debt payments over a much longer period. Like many, I have little interest in foreign policy although I would like us to stop bombing poor brown people. I don’t see what good that ever does, other than make them hate us even more.

    Labour would get my vote, with Corbyn in charge, although I would not rule out voting Tory again in the future if I was presented with no other alternative.

    I don’t think in terms of left or right. I want a coherent plan and a leader who I can trust. I also accept that any leader is going to make some mistakes. Every government makes bad mistakes.

    My mother is from a poor working-class family, although she has done well and owns several properties. After years of being politically disengaged, she has paid he three quid and has voted for Corbyn.

    She expects to be financially worse off, under a Corbyn-led government and that we as a family will one day be hit with an expensive inheritance tax bill. She accepts that, in return for living in a country that is moving in a better direction – under a leader who holds genuine principles.

    She voted Tory in May, as well. After graduating, in her early-40s, she became a teacher in an inner-city comprehensive school. My father marched with the miners, in the mid-80s, but hasn’t voted for 20 years. He would vote for Labour under Corbyn, too.

    We all just wantt to see something decisive and exciting. Jeremy Corbyn excites us. We would not only support Labour, under Corbyn, we would donate money to the party (not a lot, but whatever we felt we could afford).

    Nobody in my family will ever require a food bank, we are just comfortably off. However, life in Britain has become joyless. It is a nasty place to live and there is no incentive to do anything other than look after yourself and shun your neighbours who are doing exactly the same thing.

    I think that families across the country are having the same conversation about Jeremy Corbyn. He is a brave and inspiring figure. I want to see him succeed and genuinely change the lives of ordinary people. In any situation, I would trust him to at least try and do what is right.

    Once again, I urge Labour-Uncut to get behind him and to understand that something seismic has taken place this Summer. This is worth fighting for.

  7. Daniel Sutton says:

    I think Blairs opposition to JC is simply because he fancies himself as another Asquith. He has sunk the Labour Party and he wants to be nostalgically regarded as the last elected prime minister of it for future generations.

  8. john P Reid says:

    But do you know what? These proud Tories haven’t got a clue what is going on: they have no inkling that there has even been a Health and Social Care Act.

    and hes another thing,they don’t care either when it comes to voting in the election in 2020 they’ll be more intrested in strong eladership and a good economy

    the Tories givng Ed milband a hard time, the criticism of him that he was out of touch with the concerns of the elctorate was well founded and the fact His dad didn’t like the UK backfired on the press, if you think the Criticism Ed had was worse than before you can’t recall the John Smith sits back does nothing commnets, Bliar Stalin, Hitler Bambi,or brown a liar and comments directed towards Kinnock were worse than any of them

    there’s nothing in his policies that sounds outlandish.
    Apart from the fact finically they don’t add up

    RE: tories voting fro Corbyn :every Labour member I’ve ever met is committed to social ,what’s that got to do with Corbyn actually getting in on labour supporters, all candidates aqre dedicated to social justice, you get it by winning and Corbyn is unalectable

    Truth is, it probably is possible for a Labour party to bring these people along, even 1997 when some people voted Labour for the first time in their life who’d previously voted tory, there was getting the Libdems then too, or hoping some tory voters switched to the ,libdems but its not only them there are those who voted Tory in2010 who didn’t vote for either of the two main parties this time,who we need.

    Labour to be a movement ,But just saying it what does that mean, Creasy is full of we helped control Wonga get rid of Page 3 girls, what has that got to do with energising canvassing and Watson doesn’t understand that members are volunteers, just because he thinks he know’s best it come across as bullying, a point that’s missed on him

    the fact that David walker voted tory last time and is backing Corbyn tells us all we need to know about what kind of vote labour expects to get if Corbyn wins,

    and Mark yes Burnham has swung to the left,but he was always loyal to rBwn who’s too the right of him he may have changed his views but it’s not flip flopping at least he’s giving a answer to a Question unlike Corbyn asked 3 times did he condemn the IRA and wouldn’t answer

  9. Will says:

    When Thatcher was elected leader after Heath, many Tory’s were horrorfied, her abrasive persona and extreme policies would make it impossible for a Conservative government to be elected

  10. Forlornehope says:

    The deciding factor for me was when Corbyn said that he wanted to reopen coal mines and ban fracking. There are only two possibilities: he is an idiot or he is just another dishonest politician pandering to the ignorant prejudices of his supporters.

  11. Tafia says:

    We live in fairly revolutionary times politically. There’s no reason why Corbyn can’t end up as PM. Think back 12 months ago.

    Would you have predicted that 45% of Scots would vote for independence in a massive turn-out.

    That the tories would win with a majority.

    That Labour would be annihalated in Scotland.

    That Corbyn would even be a leadership candidate let alone looking like a first round knock out.

    No. So how exactly do you quantify any claim that he will never be PM.

  12. Madasafish says:

    No. So how exactly do you quantify any claim that he will never be PM.

    Look at the past as a guide:

    If elected in 2020 at 72 years old, he would be the oldest to be elected for over a century
    The last PM to be elected with a beard was The Most Honourable
    Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury elected in 1895.

    I cannot at present see the UK voters electing a 72 year old bearded PM.

  13. John P Reid says:

    Will ,
    are you saying that if there a Tory equivalent of the winter of discontent, and Corbyn can win because the change he could bring us to tame anarchy, by being the left wing equivalent of abrasive ness, Tories weren’t sure of thatcher Because she was up against two leaders who’d been at the Top of politics for 30 years,but as Cameron pointe do it in 2009 , he was an amateur,but the public were prepared to give a new person a chance

    Forlornelope,good one

    Tafia, in all fairness Charles Kennedy was predicting the referendum would right don the line in 1988 there were polls saying half Ecotland wanted independence.

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