• Could a man you suspect might knit his own jumpers become Prime Minister?

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    21 August 2015

    The Labour MP, Gerald Kaufman once famously dismissed his party’s 1983 General Election Manifesto as ‘the longest suicide note in history’. That fateful document committed Labour to re-nationalisations, swingeing new taxes and unilateral nuclear disarmament. Kaufman was proven right. Labour, who had already been out of office for 4 years were to be in opposition for another 14 after its 1983 debacle. It was not until Tony Blair dragged it towards the centre that it was able to break virtually two decades of Conservative rule. All of this is substantially in line with the conventional wisdom that it is from the centre that elections are won - which brings me onto the Labour Party leadership contest. What would otherwise have been a long dreary slog has been electrified by the inclusion of veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn who has turned the race upside down with polls marking him out as the unstoppable runaway victor. Jezza was only let into the contest by Labour MPs nominating him with no intention of voting for him but to ensure that a broad range of views were heard. And he is hardly exciting – he’s the kind of man you suspect might knit his own jumpers – except that in a world in which many have decided that virtually all politicians are slick insiders who live in a spin-driven bubble entirely devoid of reality, jumper-knitters have come of age – they have star appeal it seems. His very ordinariness (along with his image as an outsider) seems to have propelled him, in some quarters, to near messiah-status. Just like in 1983, Corby is offering re-nationalisation (railways and utilities), eye-watering new taxes, unilateral nuclear disarmament, a sharp exit from NATO and for all I know subsidised Michael Foot donkey jackets. But if Comrade Corby does become Labour’s new Great Leader what will this mean for his party and the country? Most suggest that if a victorious Corbyn survives the various threatened putsches from within then the Labour Party could facture with a moderate section drifting off to form a new party leaving his lefties more firmly in command but of an entirely unelectable enterprise. The 1983 scenario if you like. But then there is another possibility – that Corbyn manages to hold it together and, in line with experience in other EU countries the country decides that he is indeed the counter-establishment arriviste for whom they have waited so long. Like Syriza in Greece – he drags the far left out of oblivion and blinking into the bright light of government. I much doubt this latter scenario but it’s not impossible – politics has become ever more fractured, volatile and uncertain in recent years and it seems to me that, when it comes to political predictions, there are no more ‘noes’ anymore. It is just possible that Jeremy Corbyn might yet have many of us eating our words. For the sake of the country though, I do hope not.