Most people I speak to either love Jeremy Corbyn for his politics or hate Jeremy Corbyn for his politics. I previously found myself in the rarer group of being strongly in favour of his policies, whilst having severe reservations about his political skills and his ability to cut through to the public. Before the campaign of the recent UK election when Labour was languishing in the polls I despaired of Labour ever gaining ground.
How much can change in a short space of time. I was overjoyed when the election campaign transformed Labour’s fortunes, proving wrong my pessimistic predictions. Labour didn’t win, but with 40% of the vote nobody can now say that the party is ‘unelectable’ with Corbyn as leader. And with May adopting Labour policies previously denounced as communist by the Tories, such as an energy price cap, the political centre of gravity has certainly shifted leftwards.
Whilst I doubted Corbyn’s ability to pull it off, I certainly never doubted the importance of a more radical economic agenda. Globalisation is no longer working for ordinary people in UK. The Thatcherism of the 1980s was savage on working class communities and massively increased inequality, but it co-existed with increasing wealth for a fairly large proportion of the electorate. But since the crash of 2008 the vast majority have suffered the worst squeeze on living standards since the 1750s. In contrast the wealthiest have seen their net worth double. We now live in an economy shaped by and for the interests of the top 1%.
People in Europe and the US are seeking radical alternatives, from both right (Trump, Le Pen, PIS in Poland) and left (Podemos, Sanders, Corbyn). If the left can’t persuade the public that a radical reshaping of the economic model is the solution to their woes, I fear that we’re going to find more fascists in parliaments.