What’s behind the Corbyn surge? In the country of the wrong, the half-right man might yet turn out to be king
Professor Paul Rogers reflects: “(W)hat if almost all the commentators are wrong about Corbyn and the meaning of his sudden popularity?”
“As one of the few exceptions to this view, Peter Oborne, acknowledged in a perceptive interview with the leader of Unite trade union, Len McCluskey, that: “McCluskey and his ally Jeremy Corbyn are straining to take British politics in an entirely new direction. Who knows, they might succeed. And it might not be such a bad thing if they do” (see “Len McCluskey: ‘This government is like a bully in the schoolyard‘”, Guardian, 18 July 2015).
Like many other observers he sees that the entire neoliberal revolution which has dominated the economic agenda since the early 1980s may now be heading into deep trouble. The following extracts from his article in Open Democracy elaborate on this:
“Within the Labour Party, ward after ward is witnessing the impact of new membership but, more importantly, seeing a remarkable degree of anger at what the government has enacted since the election and the palpable lack of opposition by Labour in the midst of its protracted leadership campaign.
“Many Labour members are angry at the intended review of NHS funding involving accelerated privatisation, the sell-off of housing-association stock, the constant blaming of the “feckless poor”, and the renewed assault on labour rights. At the same time, inheritance tax is reduced, bank bonuses are rising, tax avoidance is the order of the day, and the Financial Conduct Authority looks set to relax even its modest regulatory grip. Among these and many other indicators of a move to the right, no wonder the Tories’ claimed long-term aim of a “living wage” is treated with deep suspicion.
“Though it is little noticed in the rest of the country, in the north of England there is real anger stretching way beyond the Labour Party at the post-election reneging on rail modernisation. Electrification of the trans-Pennine line and the Sheffield-to-London link were pre-election Conservative promises and a foundation of the much-vaunted “northern powerhouse“. Now they are “delayed” and the view across a region with a population of over 10 million is simply that the government lied to win votes.
“There is, in short, deep uncertainty mixed with anger, and all of this a long way from a childish failure to accept defeat. Then, in the middle of this comes Jeremy Corbyn who may be dismissed as an old-fashioned out-of-touch hard-left icon by so many pundits but is increasingly seen by many as the only person making sense of what is happening. He may not have all the answers but he is challenging received wisdom in a way that is entirely unexpected and against the views of all of what used to be called the British establishment.
“Now, though, the neoliberal transformation under Tony Blair is beginning to come apart at the seams and there appear to be more and more people coming to the conclusion that Corbyn is more about the future than the past. He is actually seen by many, especially younger Labour Party members, as the only candidate of the four that is offering them a challenge to the utter insistence on austerity. The only analogy to childishness in all of this might be with the story of the little boy and the “emperor’s new clothes”.
“It is an intriguing situation for political analysts and perhaps calls for more distancing from the mainstream media in seeking to understand what is really happening.
“To put it another way, maybe Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got it all right but, to adapt HG Wells: “in the country of the wrong, the half-right man might yet turn out to be king”.
Ed: I came across this article, written in 2015; the passage of time has verified its insights.