The BBC Radio 4 series and podcast Moral Maze, a panel discussion program recorded live on the morality of current issues and timely topics, has been hosted since its first broadcast in 1990 by Michael Buerk, whose introductory remarks for each episode are nearly always a tour de force. Their shortened, variant version is posted on each episode's webpage, too.
The July 13, 2016 episode is "Policing Offense", when does personal opinion become morally unacceptable? I've edited Buerk's opening remarks and their published version on the webpage:
As the politics of offence, identity and rights become ever more toxic, they become equally hard to navigate, and the price of transgression is ever higher. We've had laws against "hate speech" for many years now, but are we too keen to create whole new categories of "-isms" to which we can take offence?
If morality rests on the ability to distinguish between groups and make judgments about their lifestyles, how do you distinguish between a legitimate verdict and an unjustifiable prejudice?
Why is it acceptable to say "It's good that the President is black" but not to say "It's good that the next President will be white"? Ditto women. Why is the insult "stale, male and pale" OK, but it wouldn't be if you changed gender and race?
Just when you'd learned to call the sexually ambiguous or at least transient "transgender", you're told the concept of gender is unacceptably binary and hence insulting.
There are exploding tripwires of social acceptability everywhere, with a new vocabulary of perceived offensiveness: "micro-aggression", so-called "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings" to protect students from ideas they don't agree with.
It only seems to work one way. Black or brown people can't be racist about whites. Women, if that's not too binary of a description, can't be sexist about men.
Is all this a good thing, stigmatizing and policing prejudice? Is this about defending the powerless against the powerful, or are we stifling debate, making the political personal, limiting people's rights to say what they think, and making identity more important than ideas?
Where do we draw the line between policing the basic principles of equal rights and mutual respect with a capacity to judge people by what lies in their heart? When does personal opinion become morally unacceptable?
Listen to the episode (streaming) or download it as an MP3 here. It's also available on iTunes.
Along with Buerk as chair, the program features four panelists and a series of witnesses. Regular panelists as the time of this writing are Claire Fox, Giles Fraser, Kenan Malik, Anne McElvoy, Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, and Matthew Taylor.
Besides chairing Moral Maze, and co-hosting the ITV program Britain's Secret Treasures, Buerk is best known as the journalist whose October 23, 1984 report on the Ethiopia famine inspired Band Aide and Live Aide.
One of the best opinion pieces in the wake of Brexit—Britain's June 23 referendum vote in which a majority voted in favor of the UK leaving the European Union (EU)— is Simon Jenkins' in the Guardian of the 6th of July, "Ignore the prophets of doom. Brexit will be good for Britain," with a subhead: "A stale leadership class is on the way out and the property bubble will burst. I can’t see the bad news."
Brexit is starting to deliver. British politics was constipated and has now overdosed on laxative. It is experiencing a great evacuation. It has got rid of a prime minister and is about to get rid of a leader of the opposition. It will soon be rid of a chancellor of the exchequer and a lord chancellor. It is also rid of two, if not four, Tory heirs apparent. Across the spectrum the left is on the brink of upheaval and perhaps historic realignment, if only the Liberal Democrats have the guts to engineer it. The Greens and Ukip have both lost their leaders. An entire political class is on the way out. As Oscar Wilde said of the death of Little Nell, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
During the referendum I was persuaded neither by project fear nor by Brexit’s projected sunny uplands. I thought, and still think, time and compromise will eventually stabilise Britain’s relations with the EU as not so different from today. Whether the stabiliser is joining the European Economic Area (within the letter, if not the spirit, of Brexit) or some other arrangement – who knows? I voted remain because I felt Europe’s future to be so precarious as desperately to need Britain’s more forceful presence. I feel that more strongly after the news that the European parliament leader, Martin Schulz, wants to move the EU swiftly to a “one government” federal constitution.
I think most in the leadership class in the UK, as in the USA, are worse than stale.... they're bought and paid for (at times paid off) by monied interests.
But, whither the fresh UK (or USA) leaders?
Jenkins writes provocatively, as it seems to me one must do to be widely read online, that Brexit can't possibly be bad on balance now or later. Surely, the more reasonable position, albeit less provocative, is that Brexit may be a net good for Britain...or it may not be. It's simplistic to assume it'll all work out for the best no matter what, and Jenkins, unless I'm misreading him, comes perilously close to blithely asserting such an opinion.
Brexit will be good only to the extent that there's vision and leadership to navigate the UK's way into sufficiently beneficial treaties and other formal and informal relationships, including with the EU, in the coming years. But at this time—and it's still admittedly early days!—my biggest concern is that I don't see nascent vision or new leadership such as may be required.
Hopefully, such things will emerge. To the extent that that leadership could be Parliamentary, having a General Election before negotiations get substantially underway might be wise insofar as it could allow challenges to sitting MPs who many voters may consider to be in that stale leadership class.
However, I'm not sure the needed leadership will emerge from Members of Parliament (MPs). Can up-and-coming, perhaps even somewhat revolutionary or, to use a trendy term, "disruptive" new politicians unseat incumbent MPs when the stale leadership class includes party leaders who control much of the candidate-selection process. And wouldn't challengers more than likely be young, that is, of the age demographic that was Remain, i.e. most in favor of the UK staying in the EU. If so, could they possibly hope to win enough seats to make a difference when a majority of UK voters seem to not share the political priorities of the younger generation?
Maybe from the ranks of business leaders or expert diplomats and negotiators will arise new leadership. But, surely a majority of them would be considered by Brexit voters—i.e., a majority of Britons—as also part of that stale leadership class.
I'm temperamentally conservative and risk-averse, albeit politically left of center, so I believed with some reluctance and caveats that on balance Remain was the best option. Here in February, I outlined my concerns about both the UK's continued EU membership and Brexit.
I want what's best for the UK relative to the Brexit situation. That may sounds strange, even suspect, given that I'm an American. Why would I even care? The interests of my own republic take precedence over the interests of the UK, of course, but—to be honest—the interests of the UK are of far more concern to me than the interests of the EU, despite the fact that the EU is in part a humanitarian, high-minded, and progressive endeavor, born of a morally laudable desire to reduce the likelihood of conflict in Europe.
But, the EU seems also to be an increasingly cold, technocratic and undemocratic endeavor, too, with leadership that is quite possibly too unaccountable to the European demos and too out of touch with Europeans who globalization has left behind. It might be noted that there were left-of-center voices for Brexit during the debate, such as Giles Fraser, not just nationalist ones or nativist ones focused on stirring up resentment against immigrants, and the lack of democratic accountability on the part of the EU's leaders was among their complaints.
I guess I should declare my interest, such as it is, or perhaps it's best termed a rank bias, maybe sentimentality, or even what some might term retrograde over-emphasis on notions of national sovereignty. But, I'm not an absolute relativist; I don't think all nations are equal, and since the mid-1990s when I was a Research Assistant in the House of Commons and then an assistant to the Bishop of London's Chaplain to the Homeless (Church of England), I've had great affection for and felt gratitude towards the UK, and my circle of friends and associates there has only grown larger in the years since.
So, I'm very interested to see what kind of UK leadership emerges. That doesn't mean I care nothing for the EU or its nations. I hope for new EU leadership, too, because the project is, I think, still worthwhile but needs reform.
And I am also eager to see who among the allies of the UK will reach out, too.
For instance, President Obama said that Brexit would put the UK at the back of the queue in terms of trade negotiations with the US and others. But, President Obama has only five months left in office. Then a new administration will arise and set its own agendas. I think a Trump or Clinton administration would be unwise to put at the back of the queue either the Special Relationship or, more practically speaking, our nation's relationship with the world's fifth largest national economy and third largest national military budget.
In terms of other trading partners's relationships to the UK, I cannot say—China, African nations, Commonwealth nations, what will they do? Can, should they send the UK to the back of queue?
Illustration by Eve Bee.
See also "The beauty beneath Brexit's bedwetting" by Irvine Welsh in the Guardian.
Two-hundred-forty years ago this day, the Second Continental Congress (May 10, 1775 March 1, 1781), assembled in Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania Statehouse (now Independence Hall), formally ratified the United States Declaration of Independence, which declared that the Thirteen Colonies of Great Britain in the North America were a new nation wholly divorced from the British Empire.
Three boys dressed as a patriotic band celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, in the 1940s. (Bert Garai/Keystone View/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
July 4, Independence Day, is an annual federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration.
The Congress, two days before, on July 2, 1776, had unanimously voted for independence. The Declaration was drafted by a committee of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman, but, largely at the insistence of John Adams, a delegate from Massachusetts and later second President of the United States, the large portion of the task fell to Thomas Jefferson, a delegate from Virginia and later third President of the United States. It is one of the most revered and famous political documents of the modern era. From the Declaration:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The Grand Union Flag or Continental Colors; a.k.a. Congress Flag; Cambridge Flag; First Navy Ensign; adopted January 2, 1776.
The Brexit fallout continues. See the bullet points below. Meanwhile, some seek exit-from-Brexit scenarios....
Some have speculated that by resigning as Prime Minister, David Cameron may have in effect annulled the UK's referendum result of a 51% majority voting for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) after more than 40 years of membership?
It's a political lifetime between now and the Conservative party conference the 2nd – 5th of October when a new leader (and thus UK Prime Minister) will be determined officially.
Denmark in 1992 voted by 51% to not join the EU, were granted carve-outs/exemption by the EU, and then put it up to a second vote in 1993 that passed with 56.7% and a huge, 86% voter turnout.
Things were very different then in 1992, and Denmark's was a vote to join not a vote on whether or not to leave. Then it was not nearly as much a time of globalization; it certainly was not a time of migrant crises or the depressing, disruptive wake of the Great Recession that sees banks get bailouts, billionaires get tax breaks, the middle class get squeezed worse than ever, and the working class get ignored.
Regardless, the EU's leaders are more scared now than they care to let on about possible exit movements in other nations, including France and the Netherlands, so they might be willing to grant the UK carve-outs as an inducement to stay.
Or not. They're very angry. Anyway, Cameron said the EU Referendum was a once-in-a-generation vote. On the other hand, it's not going to be his Government leading the negotiations. But, that's yet a further complication: it's not clear who will be at the helm in the UK during negotiations. Those at the helm might end up being the true-believers, the deeply Euroskeptic voices who aren't interested in carve-outs but only in being totally out. Whoever is at the helm, they may simply work toward the best sort of EEA (European Economic Area) bi-lateral arrangement they can get, which would put the UK in the category of Norway and Iceland, non-EU nations nonetheless tightly bound to EU requirements.
For the short term at least, the UK is still the world's 5th or 6th largest economy, 4th or 5th largest military power (it depends on how one measures these things), gateway to Europe, and home to the profoundly important financial services and banking city that is London. If those things start quite quickly to look to be in real jeopardy because of Brexit, something (probably quite messy) might get worked out that's almost "membership lite," even if it doesn't involve a 2nd referendum. Who knows?
The emerging mess that may be hard to clean up:
Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty
Happy Saint George's Day. Three hundred forty years ago, the progenitor of my maternal ancestors in America, Richard Buffington, left Marlow, Buckinghamshire, aboard the Griffin and crossed the Atlantic. A Quaker, he settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There's a village remnant of Buffington, PA and a Buffington Island in the Ohio River. If you're in the Big Apple today, swing by the England Day NYC free garden party (music, activities for kids, a costume contest), enjoy a pint of Old Speckled Hen USA at a participating pub, and help benefit The Queen Elizabeth II Garden and the charitable Saint George's Society of New York.
On June 23 this year, the voters of the UK and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar will decide whether or not the United Kingdom should kiss the European Union goodbye—a so-called "Brexit" (British exit) from the EU.
The EU is a 28-nation political and economic union that more or less evolved from the European Economic Community (EEC), which was founded in 1957 by its "Inner Six" nations. A key purpose of the EEC was to prevent another war in Europe by making its countries more economically interdependent.
Britain joined the EEC in 1975.
In 1993, the EEC was replaced by the European Union (EU). The EU goes beyond the economic interdependence of the EEC to include some political interdependence—a reality at the heart of the Brexit debate. There is even a European Parliament.
Since 1993, but especially in recent years, complaints in the UK about the EU, principally about immigration to Britain from both EU and non-EU nations and the loss of too much British sovereignty to the EU, have grown loud and politically organized and significant enough to strengthen calls for a British referendum on continued EU membership. Those opposing EU membership are often referred to as Euroskeptics.
In the 2015 General Election, in part to halt the rise of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage (photo above), Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned on a promise to first negotiate a better deal for the UK within the EU and second to hold an "in or out" nationwide referendum.
Prime Minister Cameron (photo below) has since negotiated a set of UK special rights and exceptions within the EU. Here are some of the UK-EU deal's key points outlined by the BBC.
Meanwhile, debate regarding staying in or leaving will dominate public discourse in the UK until the 23rd of June referendum. A good example of the debate can be heard on the February 19 edition of the topical panel program on BBC Radio 4, Any Questions.
Below is a chart from The Economist outlining just a few oft-stated argument for and against Brexit.
The referendum vote could be close, as you can see in the below chart. (Click any image below for an enlarged view in a separate window.)
The Conservative Party is divided on the question of EU membership. A pro-Brexit voice countering Cameron within his own party is the Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson. (Some say that "BoJo" covets the leadership of the Conservative Party, though he denies it and remarked, "My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.")
Johnson cites the loss of too much UK sovereignty to the EU. Perhaps he also believes that greater autonomy from EU regulations means that London's already impressive financial services and banking sectors could prosper further, help greater London's economic might, and allow a greater share of the taxes on that wealth to go to the UK and less to Brussels. ("Brussels" is a common metonym for the EU because several significant EU-related institutions are there. However, key EU institutions are also in Frankfurt, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.)
The UK's always had a conflicted relationship with continental Europe and so not surprisingly with the EEC and then the EU. Here's a 2014 overview by Sam Wilson of the BBC on the rocky relationship between Britain and EU.
The UK was not an original EEC member. It didn't apply till 1961 following the Suez Crisis—a successful British-French-Israeli military invasion of the Suez Canal zone, which Egypt had seized and nationalized.
Largely due to the remarkable occurrence of the United States and the USSR working together against France, Britain, and Israel, the Suez Crisis ended in a profound political and diplomatic defeat for the UK, which most historians agree marked the effective end of the British Empire. (The US cited its commitment to "anti-colonialism" while not exactly rigorously applying a similar commitment regarding the Panama Canal or Guantanamo Bay.) Photo: British tanks in Egypt during the Suez Crisis.
Aware of its diminishing global stature, the UK knocked on the EEC's door hoping to enjoy the anticipated economic benefits. (Denmark and Ireland did so that year, too.) But in 1963, saying "l'Angleterre, ce n'est plus grand chose" ("England is not much anymore"), French President Charles de Gaulle (depicted below), who also saw British membership as a Trojan horse for US influence (Wikipedia), vetoed UK membership, and the application was suspended.
After de Gaulle left power in France, the UK, under Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, applied again in 1973 for EEC membership. The application was accepted, and a British referendum was held in 1975 with more than 67% of British voters casting ballots in favor of EEC membership.
The UK-EEC relationship soured in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, though she and most Conservative MPs had supported the UK's entry into the EEC in the 1970s as an advancement for free trade. However, by the Thatcher era the new concept of a European Union successor to the EEC was under serious consideration, and Thatcher saw the EU as a potentially dangerous threat to British sovereignty.
On 1 November 1993, the European Union came into existence via the Maastricht Treaty, with Britain as a member but its electorate never having a direct referendum vote. In Denmark, a referendum actually failed, and in France a referendum passed with only 51% in favor.
Later, many nations of the EU adopted a common currency, the euro (€ / EUR), but the UK (and Denmark) were granted exemptions, and Britain kept its own currency, the pound sterling (£ / GBP). Thus the UK is an EU member but not a member of the so-called Eurozone.
The EU-UK relationship at first was strengthened under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, but worsened when his government disagreed with other EU nations over the invasion of Iraq, a US project to which the UK provided more military and diplomatic support than any other US ally.
Then the EU began facing a Euro debt crisis and other problems.
The BBC's Sam Wilson:
In December 2011, as EU leaders tried to tackle their problems through a treaty setting new budget rules, David Cameron demanded exemptions for the UK and then vetoed the pact. To critics, this cut Britain adrift. But it delighted British Eurosceptics and encouraged them to demand more. Soon enough, the prime minister promised a referendum on British membership. Britain's most poisonous political issue was back centre stage.
Globalization is a significant factor in the Brexit versus Remain debate. Pro-Brexit voices argue that the EU is increasingly irrelevant in a world with a more connected global economy, especially after the rise of the Internet, as well as one in which China and other new large national economies are growing at a feverish pace. In 1980, the EU represented 30% of the world economy but, Euroskeptics point out, it now represents only 17% even as its membership has grown.
The Remain voices point to the same realities as reasons to stay in the EU, arguing that membership is more vital than ever as a vehicle for amplifying Britain's voice and heft economically and politically and for better coordinating security measures relative to jihadist terrorism.
Not surprisingly, Euroskeptics point to the security weaknesses of many continental nations as a reason to leave the EU, fully confident that British security services, already considered the best in Europe, are sufficient to the task, especially as members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.
Illustration: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (of Luxembourg) aboard an ill-fated European Union being abandoned in the nick of time by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister.
I share Euroskeptics' doubt about the significance of the EU concessions that Cameron achieved for Britain. I agree that Britain has lost too much sovereignty to the EU. Also, I think EU regulations are particularly onerous on British small businesses. It seems odd to me that due to EU membership, Britain must disadvantage foreign workers from places like India, Canada, or the US compared to those from other EU countries. However, I think that Brexit could threaten the unity of the UK itself by inflaming Scottish nationalism. A majority of Scottish voters value EU membership. Also, I think the vision of the EU as a mechanism to prevent war among its members is too significant to be jettisoned altogether by Britain or any EU member.
I think Britain will vote to stay in the EU, and I think that the Prime Minister has done the right thing: winning concessions for Britain and remaining committed to keeping the UK in the EU for the foreseeable future. But, Britain should be vigilant against ways the EU could entangle it in other member nations' problems or significantly weaken the liberties of the sceptered isle that gave the world the Magna Carta, a common law tradition stressing individual rights, and the modern parliamentary system.
They have brought gold and spices to my King,
Incense and precious stuffs and ivory;
O holy Mother mine, what can I bring
That so my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
All crowned and glorified exceedingly:
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing,–
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
Spake to my heart, yea answered in my heart:
'Sing, saith He to the heavens, to earth, Rejoice:
Thou also lift thy heart to Him above:
He seeks not thine, but thee such as thou art,
For lo His banner over thee is Love.'
- 20 January 1852
Labour Party candidate Jim McMahon won the Oldham West and Royton by-election in the UK, the first parliamentary electoral contest in the nation since old-school socialist Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party following his decisive September 2015 win with nearly 60% of the vote of participating Labour Party members.
The by-election was closely watched. Given the unpopularity of Mr. Corbyn among a surprisingly large number of Labour Members of Parliament (MPs), and given the rather broad but highly speculative consensus among political commentators that Labour under Mr. Corbyn could not win a General Election because Corbyn's views are too left-wing, UK politicos thought McMahon would likely fail to increase Labour's majority in the constituency. Some predicted he would lose it. The results were otherwise, as The Independent summarized:
Despite widespread speculation that Labour’s more socially conservative, white working-class base would defect to Ukip [the UK Independence Party] because of Mr Corbyn’s peacenik policy positions, candidate Jim McMahon increased the party’s share of the vote to a commanding 62.1 percent – a majority of 10,722.
Does the Oldham West result mean Corbyn is not a liability to Labour's nationwide electoral chances?
Some say yes. Some say no. I say it doesn't speak to such a question either way. It's simply too soon after Corbyn's victory and too much an isolated electoral result.
But those who see in McMahon's victory a ringing endorsement of Mr. Corbyn read too much into the victory, I believe.
McMahon's win was a victory for McMahon.
Mr. Corbyn went virtually unmentioned by McMahon's campaign. McMahon is a local lad, well liked and proven as leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council to which he was elected in 2003 at the age of 28. He's an OBE, appointed for "services to the community in Oldham" (and will be invested by The Queen on the 18th of December). Also, he's to Corbyn's right on various issues; he's generally seen as a moderately pro-business Labourite.
The most that can be said relative to Corbyn and the Oldham West win is that he did McMahon less harm than many suspected he would. But even the left-leaning Guardian reported:
Canvassers reported voters slamming doors in their faces, angry after Corbyn suggested the US military was wrong to kill Isis terrorist Mohammed Emwazi (he should have faced trial, said Corbyn) and then, three days after the Paris attacks, saying UK police should not have a “shoot to kill” policy for known terrorists.
Was Corbyn an energizing influence on Labour voters? Perhaps. But it is also possible that John Bickley and James Daly, the UKIP and Conservative candidates, underwhelmed their parties' loyalists, thereby dampening their turnout slightly. (The other three candidates in the race even with combined vote totals failed to achieve 5%.)
To say Corbyn did Jim McMahon no great harm is not necessarily faint praise given some of the dire predictions for Labour's performance. But, I believe that no one should see the Oldham by-election result as conclusive evidence that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership did Mr. McMahon any great favor, either.
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.