A sharp left turn. Will it lead ultimately forward or backward for the Labour Party in the UK?
Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of Britain's Labour Party. Like Bernie Sanders in the US, he's a no-frills politician and a maverick. An MP since 1983, Jeremy Corbyn was the most anti-US and anti-NATO Labour candidate running for the Labour leadership contest, which I find worrying. He submits that he'll win back Scottish Labour votes now inclined towards the Scottish National Party (SNP). I'm not so sure. Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already suggested that that's not likely to occur. Of course, if it were, she'd not admit it.
All the Labour leader candidates ran on anti-austerity platforms to greater or lesser extents.
Perhaps Corbyn will increase enthusiasm and bring in new talent who will help create new, successful narratives for Labour and be competitive as candidates in their constituencies. He's pledged to have shadow cabinet of diverse opinions.
No matter who won the leader contest, he or she will have an unfriendly press to deal with: a weakened BBC and ever-rising control of the media narrative by corporations and monied interests. Also, his election is likely to divide the party—though only time will reveal to what extent. I think Corbyn's win will give Labour a bump in opinion polls now in a way that I don't think any of the other three candidates would have. But, in time, that bump will disappear because voters are fickle and have short political and current affairs memory. Labour will have to have a long-term plan to win.
The Conservatives are sure that the above scenario is unlikely. They are now rubbing their hands with glee. There are council and other elections in May. Those will be among the first tests of the Corbyn-led Labour Party.
Corbyn is unpretentious and principled as politicians go, which are qualities many voters of all and no partly affiliation are looking for. He's brought new members to Labour, he's generating interest in left-of-center policy proposals that the other Labour leader candidates couldn't not have, and he might well make a great leader while Labour is in opposition.
However, it's many political lifetimes till the general election in the UK due to the new fixed term parliaments. That could help or hurt Labour depending on how pear shaped things go (or don't) for the Conservative government in the meantime.
My concern is perhaps less about Corbyn's policies than with the reality that voters have to be able to picture a party leader as a prime minister. Corbyn's a back bencher who's voted against his leaders more than 500 times in his career. He's never been a unifier and he needs to be prime ministerial material at a time when in the UK the prime minister is an increasingly presidential role stylistically—i.e., in the minds of UK voters, it's arguably more important than ever who a party's leader is despite the fact that in a general election voters are directly voting to decide who will be their local MP and not in a direct way who will be the prime minister.
I'm left of center enough that my ideal is that Corbyn's successful and becomes prime minister (though I don't agree with him on everything and would prefer him to be a more moderate PM—I'm far more social democrat than democratic socialist), that under his leadership, Labour wins the hearts and minds of the voters of Britain.
It's just that I think that's highly unlikely.
I think enough Labour members thought that as well, enough so that Andy Burnham ended up with the next most votes. He's a dyed-in-the-wool socialist. But I think quite a few (albeit a minority) Labour members believe that recently lost Labour voters and potential young Labour voters would be more likely to consider Burnham, not Corbyn, prime ministerial during a general election campaign, however much they prefer Corbyn now, when the General Election is years away. While not exactly an electrifying candidate, Burnham's fairly young, attractive, energetic, and yet has experience.
Obviously, the question of Corbyn's electability is unsettled. That's in large part because the question of exactly why Labour lost in the last general election so badly is also still an open question. Or is it?
Andrew Sparrow of The Guardian offered a strong analysis of the question of Corbyn's electability.
But who knows? Corbyn may prove to be a great boon, a likable salesman of Labour ideals who'll inspire electable Labour candidates nationwide. But I doubt it.