Is Jeremy Corbyn the Donald Trump of the British left?

It's one thing to galvinise the base, quite another to win over the general electorate. And it's hard to see a strategy which Jeremy Corbyn can use to achieve that

As a favour for a mate, I penned (keyboarded?) a few lines for The SpinOff on Jeremy Corbyn's election to the Labour leadership in Britain. And a bunch of other commentators did the same. Here are my views:


One thing we know for sure is that he’ll be different. Possibly very different. But we know little else. Can the ideals of civility, internet-driven grassroots activism and “sticking to policy” handle the stress test of modern political realities? Will they translate to middle Britain? Can he overcome the mostly mocking media and the sense he’s from a bygone era? Or will he look like what Bill English might call a “nice to have, rather than a necessity”, even for the left?

Capturing the imagination of activists is very different from lighting a flame under a busy and bored general electorate; while getting thousands of volunteers is impressive, that’s barely a decimal point when it comes to actual voters. The fear for Labour is that this is a reaction vote – and a reaction to a particular moment in time, at that.

And when that moment passes, the party will be left with an, er, “quirky” leader and a divided party.

For Corbyn to succeed it will take a massive swing to the left and an effort of political will and skill not seen a long time (arguably harder than Tony Blair’s push away from these very policies).

So if he triumphs, it will be fascinating and phenomenal. But the reality is that centre-left and social democratic parties have long won elections in the centre; we’ve all heard promise of new social movements, reconnecting with disillusioned voters and about being unashamedly left (most recently in NZ from David Cunliffe), but it’s hard to remember when it last resulted in victory.

...I'd add one other thought from this morning. Is Corbyn the Donald Trump of the British left? Of course he's a more substantial politician. But it's hard to avoid the strikingly similar conclusion that while he can speak about issues and in a language that resonates with his party's base, many leading the party are dismayed at him and are agitating against him... and it's hard to believe he can move – or even win – the centre.