Last year I voted for Jeremy Corbyn. I was angry after Labour’s general election defeat and, despite my cursor hovering for some time over Yvette Cooper’s name as I voted online, the anger got the better of me. In the past year I have come to deeply regret the choice that I, along with so many others, made last summer.
There are three reasons for this.
Firstly, I have been disappointed by Corbyn’s lack of strategy in terms of taking the fight to the Tories; he seems more interested in holding increasingly narcissistic rallies for his adoring fans than in taking his message to the wider public. His messages are therefore communicated to those who already support him in seats Labour already holds, rather than being spread more widely either in the media or directly by spending time in target seats we need to win to beat the Tories. Of course, the media is hostile to him but without a plan to cut through that hostility his approach simply can’t work. Corbyn’s supporters often insist that his message would be resonating far more effectively if it weren’t for the recent so-called “coup” by Labour MPs, conveniently ignoring that Labour were already 8% behind the Tories in the latest poll of polls conducted before said coup. So unwilling are many of Corbyn’s supporters to acknowledge their idol’s lack of support among his own MPs, that talk of deselecting them has become commonplace. The idea that splitting the Labour vote in this way could benefit anyone other than the Tories under the First Past the Post system is ludicrous.
Secondly, Corbyn’s policy platform is completely uninteresting, and in places totally anathema to the majority of the voting public and the idea that Labour can win an election without any compromise at all is absurd. There is an extent to which a party leader should nail their colours to the mast and change the conversation but to start out by declaring oneself at odds with the electorate on so many issues and refusing even to acknowledge people’s concerns does nothing to improve things; it simply makes people stop listening. The response to this is often “better to lose being principled than to win by copying the Tories” as though we have a binary choice between those two extremes. Even if you think the latter is what Blair did (and I don’t personally think that’s particularly fair) then look at Labour’s other two election-winning post-war prime ministers. Neither Atlee nor Wilson copied the Tories, but both were willing to compromise to a significant extent with the electorate’s existing views and secured radical, positive change as a consequence.
Thirdly, I have become extremely uncomfortable about the cult-like following that surrounds Corbyn. He has three or four hundred thousand supporters who repeatedly insist that the strength of feeling they have about him demonstrates that he is capable of leading Labour to a general election victory. When faced with any sort of evidence that this may not be true their first instinct is to concoct a conspiracy theory to explain away the evidence, often egged on in this regard by the likes of Len McCluskey and The Canary. In all too many cases, they quickly resort to name-calling, insisting that anyone presenting such evidence must be a Blairite, a traitor or a red Tory. Clearly, a movement that is obsessed above all else with including the right people rather than trying to make room for the majority of the public isn’t going to be a movement that forms the next government.
That cult mentality is something I particularly want to challenge because I find that sort of thinking very frustrating. The philosopher Karl Popper developed the “falsification principle,” the idea that any given proposition was only useful if one could identify how, in theory, it could be proved false. This idea forms the basis of modern science- a scientific theory is merely a falsifiable proposition which, try as they might, its opponents have as yet been unable to disprove. If I made a proposition that couldn’t be falsified even in theory (e.g. “I have an imaginary friend but no one else can see or hear them and they leave no tangible trace on the physical world and no, I won’t go and see a doctor”) it would be somewhat meaningless. Belief in Corbyn appears, on the part of his many supporters, to be becoming an unfalsifiable proposition. Whatever evidence is produced, the rules are changed so that the evidence cannot be applied to the blessed St. Jeremy. Any criticism whatsoever is condemned as a stitch-up by any one of three acronyms: the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party), the MSM (Main-Stream Media) or, and I can’t believe I’m actually having to type this, MI5. At least we now know what they did with their time once they’d finished sneaking all the pencils into the polling booths during the EU referendum…
My own opposition to Corbyn is completely falsifiable. What follows is a list of ten pieces of evidence that would convince me I was wrong. If faced with any of these pieces of evidence, I would change my mind and support him.
1.) Labour led the Conservatives in headline voter intention polls consistently for three months.
2.) Consistent polling over three months showed that Jeremy Corbyn’s personal popularity with voters in Labour target seats was significantly higher than the Prime Minister.
3.) Corbyn unveiled a strategy for getting his and the party’s voice heard more effectively through the media, he stuck to this strategy for three months and it began to work.
4.) Labour won a by-election in a target Conservative-held seat.
5.) Robust independent evidence of any sort emerged that more than a million non-voters from 2015 now intended to vote Labour.
6.) Robust independent evidence of any sort emerged that substantial numbers of people (let’s say more than 10%) were attending his rallies who voted Conservative or UKIP in 2015.
7.) Polling evidence was published indicating that de-selecting Labour MPs and replacing them with Corbyn supporters would make constituents who voted Labour in 2015 more likely to vote Labour again in a majority of Labour-held seats.
8.) Polling evidence was published that the public’s views were shifting significantly in favour of Corbyn’s preferred approaches to Trident, foreign policy, welfare and immigration- that he was winning those arguments.
9.) A significant number of MPs (let’s say 7) who served either in his original shadow cabinet and then resigned or served in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet or Gordon Brown’s cabinet, developed confidence in him and either returned to his shadow cabinet or indicated a willingness to serve.
10.) The Sun backed Jeremy Corbyn on its front page (Murdoch manipulates things for as long as he can but in the end he backs winners; if he genuinely thought Corbyn was going to win, this would be the consequence.)
I don’t believe any of these things are going to happen and that is why I no longer support Corbyn, not because I don’t want to make the country fairer and more equal but precisely because I do. If any of these pieces of evidence presents itself, I will hold my hands up and admit I was wrong.
I would be interested to read a Corbyn supporter’s list of evidence that would prove that their experiment had failed and a new approach was required.