@Lady_MacBeth96 and @SamBright_Ltd
Those who have tuned-in to the Labour leadership debate in recent weeks will have heard a common refrain from Corbyn supporters: if the party wasn’t fighting Corbyn, it would be holding the government to account – winning seismic victories in Parliament. As the tale goes, Labour showed it could force the Tories to back down over tax credits, and only united under Corbyn would it be able to do the same again.
Yet, those on the other side of Labour’s gargantuan divide know this to be wishful thinking. Labour has not led an iron-fisted charge against savage Tory cuts. Instead, it has merely taken credit for the gallantry of the House of Lords and Tory backbenchers. And when Corbyn hasn’t been able to rely on the success of others, wasted opportunities have littered his premiership.
Junior Doctors’ Strikes
Corbyn has a unique attitude towards PMQs – highlighted by VICE’s recent fly-on-the-wall documentary. The Labour leader held back from embarrassing the government over the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith because it “wasn’t his place”.
Likewise, the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS, on 26th April, was not mentioned in the subsequent Prime Minister’s Questions by a single MP. Corbyn raised education, the economy, and child poverty, but failed to criticise the government’s atrocious handling of the junior doctors' strikes.
Labour’s presence was almost non-existent outside social media and a smattering of street protests. Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell joined a demo through Whitehall, to show their solidarity with the strikers, but their message was ambiguous, saying that, “The government has an opportunity to settle this. They should get on and do so”.
Junior doctors represent approximately a third of the medical workforce and an all-out strike was supported by 57% of the public, despite 13,000 operations and more than 100,000 appointments having to be postponed. This was a palpable opportunity for Labour to oppose a bungled Tory policy and stand on the side of public sector workers. Instead, the party was marginalised from the debate, and gained no political capital from its outcome.
“I did all I could” was the response of Corbyn after he was heckled by a frustrated Remain campaigner in the wake of the EU referendum result.
Many in the Labour Party felt let-down by Corbyn’s half-hearted efforts to keep Britain in the EU. By refusing to share a platform with Tory politicians, it seemed as though the Labour leader was prioritising his own political loathing above the national interest.
Even if Corbyn had campaigned with passion and vigour for Britain to remain in the EU, the result may not have changed. But a more forceful, energetic campaign would surely have provided the impetus for party unity. If Labour MPs were encouraged to stand side-by-side with their leader, preaching the same philosophies, a party split could have been throttled. In actuality, Corbyn’s office allegedly ignored speaking invitations from Labour MPs, and the party is more divided than ever before.
Whilst Corbyn has made good use of social media during the past two leadership elections, his icy attitude towards the broadcast media will surely backfire at a general election. Indeed Labour’s polling is calamitous amongst older voters, who rely on traditional sources of news.
When a general election is called, and if he is still leader, Corbyn will be pitching to a mass audience of 50 million – not a rally of 50,000 nor a membership of 500,000. This will involve using the media – in all its forms – to get Labour’s message across.
Corbyn has inspired those within his self-constructed echo chamber, while the nation remains sceptical. Theresa May comfortably beats Corbyn in every head-to-head poll, and even Labour voters believe she would make a better Prime Minister. Corbyn’s allies have accused the mainstream media of being one-sided, but unless they are willing to appear on the evening news and defend his policies, they are equally to blame.
Labour had an opportunity to reform its image following the gaffe-ridden Miliband years. The party is now stuck in a social media bubble; one that will surely soon burst.
Black Lives Matter
If Labour seeks to represent a genuine alternative to the status quo, then it should focus on those who are disproportionately affected by inequality and destitution. Black people are far more likely to be living in overcrowded housing, and to be subject to in poverty in general. According to the Institute of Race Relations, as of March 2015, while 5% of white people in Britain were unemployed, the figure for black people was 13%.
This issue is rarely discussed in any detail, but it epitomises the vastly unfair and unequal outcomes of people in British society. The Black Lives Matter movement staged several marches across the capital in July, but Labour remained remarkably quiet on the issue. For Corbyn’s message of redistribution and equality to resonate with the public, he must redefine how people view the debate. Without engaging with the most powerful examples of discrimination in our society, there is no way an electorate educated in the glory of the free market will embrace a radical alternative.