The favourite in the Labour party leadership contest, a Mr Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, has caused rather a stir in British politics over the past few weeks. What is intriguing to me, however, is how he has had such a wide, warm welcome among young people. I think I have part of the answer.
Before this frankly bizarre Labour leadership campaign, I would have bet that not many young people like myself had heard of Corbyn, the veteran far-lefty and campaigner against apartheid and nuclear weapons, but why would you? The only way you would have, would have been if you were very interested in British politics, which the vast majority of young people just aren’t. Before this campaign, he was simply an MP with outdated socialist politics that are unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1980s. Now though, he looks very much like the victor, with a YouGov poll putting him on course to win the campaign, 17 points ahead of his rivals.
Corbyn has received so much support from students and young people because he represents something new, exciting and slightly edgy (at face value). This is painfully clichéd. Young people (students especially) traditionally favour liberal, left-leaning politics but there is no correlation between being socially liberal (which most young adults long for) and being left wing. Jeremy Corbyn has postured before the British public on issues such as the NHS, nuclear weapons and even re-introducing clause 4 for the public ownership of industry. Most of his policies sound very good on paper, but then so does Communism until you actually try and implement it as a form of policy, not ideology.
Another reason for Corbyn mania is that he doesn’t succumb to what I call the ‘squabble for the centre’, he is left-wing and that’s an end to it. Tony Blair said that Labour cannot win a general election from a left-wing platform, but Corbyn may well win the leadership from this position; forget about the election for a minute! It has become less of a run of the mill leadership campaign and more of an ideological tear in Labour’s already stained outfit (post-election stains that is).
So where does this leave young people? It leaves most of us baffled but some are besotted by Corbyn’s rhetoric. First, for some reason, he gains respect for spending a lifetime on the far-left, a mysterious place full of hope and promises but no realistic policy (especially economic) Then, he gets praised for bringing something “fresh” to the Labour party, I know what I’d call that something.
He’d like to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour, re-nationalise the railways and have public ownership of the energy companies, scrap tuition fees, scrap Trident and set up a national investment bank. The one question that brings all of these propositions into complete inadequacy is, tell me Mr Corbyn, how on earth are you going to pay for all of this? Please, let’s not fall for this nonsense.