Jeremy Corbyn cannot win a general election

I’ve seen quite a lot of rather excitable commentary about Jeremy Corbyn over the past few weeks and, while I don’t want to have a go at Tim Grayson specifically, he does manage to believe everything everything Corbyn’s supporters get wrong.

Starting here

I want to first clarify what I mean by ‘great result’, as results in politics are such subjective things.

Wrong. Results in politics are not subjective, especially when faced with the UK’s winner-takes-all electoral system. Either you’re part of the government or you’re not. And if you are not part of the government, there is pretty much nothing you can do.

Admittedly, an effective Leader of the Opposition could form cross-party alliances and work with government rebels to exert some constraint over the cabinet. But I don’t see an unreconstructed 1980s socialist like Corbyn managing, or even trying, to achieve anything like this. Especially when you take into account the rightward drift of the Tory party over the past few decades.

If Corbyn wins, left-leaning parties like the Greens will likely see a significant drop in votes and membership numbers, while Labour will likely see a surge. However, what many commentators don’t seem to understand is that people on the left/liberal side of the political spectrum care more about enacting positive change than party colours.


Labour’s great purge of supposed entryists has revealed a painfully clunking ‘for us or against us’ mentality. Labour’s strategy at the last election – chasing Green and Lib Dem voters while ignoring the Tories – and their inability to consider that Scotland isn’t obliged to provide them with an unassailable block of seats. All of this reveals a sense of entitlement large enough to lose elections.

Of the UK political parties, Labour is the most tribal and the least able to put positive change ahead of party loyalty.

If he wins, the issues we hold close to our hearts will finally be thrust into the limelight and debated seriously in parliament.

… and then completely ignored by the Government.

That’s the best result the left-leaning Labour voters, Greens and other left-wing parties could hope for

Really? Shouting from the sidelines while the NHS is sold off, the BBC dismantled and every issue you care about is abandoned. That’s the best result left-leaning Labour voters can hope for.

Labour has spent this leadership campaign marching off into irrelevancy. I hadn’t realised that they were aspiring to irrelevancy.

Historically, however, political parties have been unlikely to win without the support of centrists and moderates, but I believe the centre ground has been muddied with self-serving career politicians which have made ordinary people feel powerless and disenfranchised for so long that public apathy and weariness has crept in. I think this is why a third of those registered to vote didn’t even bother in the last election. It’s important to point out that the ‘centre ground’ has also shifted further and further to the right under decades of a prevailing Tory narrative (perpetuated by the Lib Dems and New Labour), which I also believe is leaving a lot of people feeling cold.

Nice analysis, but Grayson’s conclusions are based on wishful thinking rather than data, or any connection to reality, but let’s pick through this paragraph anyway.

Firstly, we have the incoherent canard about “self-serving career politicians”. Because it would obviously be much better if people weren’t able to make a career out of politics but instead had to rely on some sort of external income, like an inheritance or something.

It’s interesting, also, that Grayson’s lazy dismissal of people who have made a career out of representing constituents fails to recognise what the MP for Islington North has been doing for the past 32 years.

As for not voting, it is certainly true that turnouts have been falling and that many people like to claim that mainstream politicians are all the same. But to assume that this is the only reason for voter apathy is naive at best. The question of non-voting is a large one and way beyond the scope of this post, but the fact that most votes under the first past the post system simply don’t matter springs to mind as an alternative explanation for low turnouts.

And, while it is true that the political centre has drifted to the right, no-one is going to win a general election by abandoning this majority of electors to the Tories.

With Corbyn, on the other hand, people actually know what they’re voting for: a principled politician who speaks up for what he genuinely believes will be best for ordinary, vulnerable and excluded people.

There are many on the left that fail to understand the difference between a political principle and ideological purity. Principles are important and politicians should be guided by them. But an unbending refusal to recognise any sort of complexity or deal with any issue that hasn’t already been ideologically pre-digested for you is not a principled stance, it’s an intellectually dishonest one.

We will encounter issues which can put our principles in conflict with each other. To pretend that these issue don’t exist is to adopt the blinkered simplicity of the populist.

This is why I don’t think the 2020 election will be won in Blairite fashion by appealing to the already-voting centre ground, but instead by inspiring the third of registered voters who didn’t vote to get to the polling booths, as well as inspiring the many more who didn’t register to vote to actually sign up in the first place.

Ed Milliband’s 35% strategy failed abysmally. I don’t see Jeremy Corbyn’s 25% strategy doing any better.

If Labour wants to actually win an election, to actually form a government, they need to face up to the fact that they are going to have to take seats off the Conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn cannot do this.

It’s because of this that the prospect of Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party should concern anyone who cares about the democratic health of the UK. It is not good enough to smugly point out that you voted against a policy if, in doing so, you hand unchecked power to the people who are planning to implement it.