by Samuel Dale
Labour Uncut editor Atul Hatwal recently wrote an excellent blog about how Trump has shifted the Overton window of US politics with his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US.
First came the condemnation.
But now politicians such as Ted Cruz and influential commentators such as Piers Morgan and Rupert Murdoch are already triangulating.
“Yes, Trump has probably gone too far but Obama needs to do more on Muslims. A lot more,” so their argument goes. They triangulate. The sweet spot of political discourse (unless you are Nick Clegg).
The debate is then reframed and policy is made in a different political context, which over time translates into a different nation. That’s what outriders like Trump do.
There are lessons for the UK.
There were outriders in the last parliament. The SNP did it with Scottish independence, Ukip did it with an EU exit and Ed Miliband did it with his focus on inequality.
The SNP have got devo-max, Ukip have a Eurosceptic government & EU renegotiation while Ed Miliband has George Osborne stealing many of his ideas.
Let’s be clear: they are all losers. But they moved debate and that is a form of success.
Jeremy Corbyn is a loser too. He will never be prime minister. He will never come close to be prime minister.
But he can go down in UK history – like the SNP, Ukip and Ed Miliband – as a loser who shifted the debate.
He should take a leaf out of the Trump playbook and pick a position way outside the mainstream that will shock the nation and jolt politicians into occupying the space he leaves behind.
He must be specific. And I have a suggestion for him: be the anti-Trump. Cobryn could and should issue the following statement:
“I, Jeremy Corbyn am today calling for a massive increase in refugees coming to the UK.”
“As prime minister, I would process hundreds of thousands more asylum applications.”
“During the leadership contest, Yvette Cooper called for every town in Britain to provide refuge for 10 families fleeing crises meaning 10,000 could arrive. That was wrong.”
“Angela Merkel has already welcomed 1,000,000 to Germany. We can do at least the same. Every town in Britain should take 1,000 families so we can house 1,000,000 refugees. It could even be more.”
“There is a clear moral imperative to rescue as many desperate individuals fleeing the butchery of Isis and the terror of some areas in Africa.”
“We are a wealthy country and I will present a detailed plan to cope with the extra numbers.”
“It was a Conservative prime minister in Edward Heath who housed 60,000 Ugandan Asian refugees in 1972 feeling Idi Amin’s savagery. Those individuals have contributed enormously to our country.”
“Clearly we must have a tough visa process and verification system in place to stop extremists from slipping through the net. And we will.”
“And let me make a wider point: immigrants enrich us all, whether refugees or not. They contribute millions in extra taxes and boost our culture and country immeasurably. From the Bank of England governor to football stars, plumbers, restaurateurs and others, we should welcome their immense contribution.”
“An incredible 37% of London’s population are now born outside the UK and it is the greatest patch of humanity in the history of the planet. A financial powerhouse, a cultural tour de force and entertainment that is the envy of the world.”
“We should welcome more refugees and we will when I’m prime minister. Let’s Make Britain Great Again.”
This speech, or something similar, would completely reshape the debate on refugees – and even immigration generally – and split the nation right down the middle.
The anti-immigrant brigade would go berserk and Corbyn would be roundly condemned as reckless. But it opens up the space for others.
“Yes, Corbyn has gone too far but Cameron needs to more on refugees. A lot more,” they would say. They could triangulate.
Sure, it is potentially electoral poison but so what? There is literally nothing to lose. Corbyn’s poll ratings are shocking, his policy platform is non-existent and the party is in disarray.
Instead of keeping up his Don Quixote-style quest for Downing Street, he could re-frame the toxic debate on immigration and refugees with a bolt from the blue.
The refugee crisis is one of the most important political debates of our generation. Corbyn could actually – for once – put some meat on the bones of his platitudes to lead an anti-racist, decent, kinder, gentler politics.
Trump is a racist but his shocking actions have political lessons. The world needs outriders.
Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist