Jeremy Corbyn's election is a symptom of the withering of mainstream social democracyby David Goodhart / September 13, 2015 / Leave a comment
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader ends a long period of cross-party consensus at Westminster. It has often been disguised by the noisy clash of adversarial politics but for the past 25 years differences between the two front benches have generally been a matter of nuance and emphasis rather than of underlying principle on economics, social policy and international affairs.
With Labour now led by an old-school socialist and dominated, at least for a while, by the outer fringes of the trade union and globalist left, the political atmosphere will become more shouty and aggressive and Corbyn will give a new lease of life to extra parliamentary protest of all kinds.
But there is no evidence that his election represents any significant shift in political opinion—a British version of Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain is not emerging. Corbyn’s hostility to the very gradual deficit reduction being pursued by this government does have some support in the country as does his support for the renationalisation of some utilities, especially railways, where public opinion remains unusually left-wing.
His worldview is a rare mix of economic statism and radical egalitarianism and a rather extreme version of the metropolitan liberalism that is generally hostile to tradition and suspicious of national borders. These views are shared by a tiny proportion of the voting public. (My own former accountant Richard Murphy is one of them: the tax/economics adviser to Corbyn is a middle class radical in a conservative profession who liked to represent artists and writers.)
And the young people who are flocking to the Corbyn banner seem to be mainly middle class, university educated idealists. They are not representative of British young people in general who are increasingly liberal on race, gender and sexuality but, if anything, shifting to the right on welfare issues and economics. The middle class youth also have very different concerns from the rump of the trade union left, which is Corbyn’s other main support group. This could be an interesting emerging…