Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbably Path to Power

My Thoughts After Reading ‘The Candidate’ By Alex Nunns

The book is well written about how Corbyn rose to power and helped his party gain seats for the first time in two decades.

The David Cameron Years

After incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown had lost the 2010 general election to Conservate David Cameron there were two things that happened between this period and the next general election. The first was that trade unions felt that New Labour was becoming less responsive to organized labor after Blair promised he would actively work with them in power. Instead, Blair continued Thatcherism and sought to distance themselves from Labour. This frustration gave rise to new union members taking a more assertive approach and electing boards members who sought to challenge the status quo and bring up a debate on austerity. The second thing that happened was the Labour Leader Ed Miliband from 2010 to 2012 was openly repudiating New Labour politics giving hope to organized labor and some longtime party officials that sought change. But three years in Miliband lurched to the right, embraced austerity, distanced himself from unions, and offered no vision for Great Britain. While several polls showed the parties were nearly even the Labour party ended up losing 26 seats and the Conservatives ended up with an outright majority. Turns out running as Conservative-lite was no longer a winning strategy and that hunger for change brewed outside and within the party. Among both union members and long-time party members.

Labour Leadership Race

While the Blairite faction of the party continued to assert that the Labour party had moved too far left, members within the Labour party indicated the opposite. After the 2015 General Election a poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft said 54% of Labour voters believed that austerity had to end versus 46% indicating a desire for change within the party (Nunns, 52). That combined with no center left candidate splitting the vote and Corbyn advocating for an anti-austerity movement in the UK helped him leapfrog by winning 59.5% of the vote. He had the backing of Univision which was traditionally known for backing more moderate members of the Labour Party.

Summer Coup

Jeremy Corbyn seemed to genuinely believe that he could work with not just people from the Socialist Campaign but the Labour right. His first cabinet was composed of members from people from across the party ranging from the most left-wing like McDonnell to the most right-wing like Angela believing they would work in good faith with them. He appointed over twenty people in his cabinet from the Blairite wing of the party who viewed his leadership win as a fluke. And problems soon began to arise.

UK Election 2017

In late April Prime Minister Theresa May called for the current Parliament to dissolve and to have a snap within six weeks. At the time the Conservatives were ahead of Labour 52% to 25% in opinion polls with many estimating the former winning perhaps as many as 400 seats. Established news organizations from the BBC to newspapers like the Guardian predicted Labour would be decimated in the upcoming elections with no hope for ever winning any seats. However, those same arguments happened in 2015 doubting Corbyn winning the contest and he just won his second leadership race.

Paxman: There is nothing in this manifesto that calls for getting rid of the monarchy which is another thing you believe in isn’t it?

Corbyn: Look, there’s nothing in there because we’re not going to do it.

As millions watched a series of debates like these and his exceptional performances on television, the Labour party enjoyed a groundswell of support and saw their numbers climb from 25% to as high as 38% in the polls. While many were surprised by commentators pointed to the shy Tory effect where the Conservative party overperformed expectations with in 1992 and 2015. May’s attempts to turn two terrorist related incidents into an advantage, gave Corbyn the opening to draw comparison between domestic terrorism and austerity leading to 20,000 less officers on the street.

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