April 22, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
I met Jeremy Corbyn once. It was at my wife’s Auntie Angela’s 90th birthday party. It was a Sunday in June a few years ago. Angela has passed away now but she was a doughty campaigner for mostly left wing causes. She lived in Corbyn’s constituency too, so he was there and gave a lovely speech about her. That’s the thing about Jeremy Corbyn, however much the mainstream media try to discredit him they have never once dug up any complaints about his work as a constituency MP. Not hypocrisy in his personal lifestyle. He seems morally unimpeachable. That’s why the strategy he tried at the start of this week’s General Electiom campaign won’t work. You can’t be a populist if you won’t compromise your morality. Successful populism has to involve appealing to the baser instincts of a population. Saying what needs to be said to win. Corbyn won’t do that. He can’t. He’s a good man with deeply held convictions unable to compromise. So, basically all he can be going down that route is an unpopular populist.
This is a compliment to the man. It really is. Both his speech to a packed hall of supporters yesterday and the words of his political ‘outriders’ in the media yesterday were full of deeply felt passion. But they decided to use Trump and Farage language and it was just not becoming of them. Using the word ‘rigged’ – particularly to describe the election as Dawn Butler decided to run with on the radio yesterday raised one little alarm. Then Corbyn decided to pitch his campaign as being against the ‘establishment’. These are supposed to be trigger words for a popular uprising. They are supposed to raise the consciousness of those who are losing out to this ‘rigged’ system (which Corbyn later clarified was that about the powerful and wealthy elites stealing from the poor). Those people will then come out and vote. The problem is that Corbyn is not Farage and he certainly isn’t Trump. So it won’t work.
Farage was so successful in politics because he went into it to DO something, not to be someone. Which, to be fair, you could also say about Corbyn and his commitment to his public service, which no-one has questioned. But Farage was prepared to say ANYTHING to achieve his aim. It didn’t entirely matter if it were true, or fair, it was just important that he achieved what he was attempting, which was to get a referendum called on leaving the EU and then to win it. Which he did.
Trump was so successful in his campaign to be President because he also was prepared to say ANYTHING to achieve his aim. He worked out what would get the people he needed to vote for him out to vote for him and said it. He appealed to the basest instincts of people who needed change in their lives, saying things even he didn’t believe (or hadn’t believed when he was funding the Democratic party), and it worked.
Jeremy Corbyn won’t, almost physically can’t do that. He’s not going to renounce his view that talking and negotiation are more effective in the long term than violence to resolve conflict. He will not renounce the views he has had on the Irish Republican issue. He will not give up on his view that in almost all cases state provision is better than private provision. He will not shy away from the need for higher taxes on the wealthy. He won’t do any of that because it is not what he believes.
That’s why trying to win an election using populist approaches saying it is about the people and the establishment and that the system is rigged might rabble rouse but in the end it won’t win him many votes, because he can’t and won’t follow it through to the kind of strategy that would win him an election.
Because if there is one thing I know about Jeremy Corbyn, it is that he is the type of person who refuses to put himself in a position where he has to flinch when he looks himself in the mirror at night. That, for me, is a good thing about him.