“Jeremy Corbyn is a rare politician; he’s putting forward a plan that could benefit everyone in the UK,” said tax expert Richard Murphy today at the leadership contender’s major speech on the economy.
Last night’s poll may have taken people by surprise, but this is where Corbyn’s appeal with party members seems to lie. He has a clear narrative with no mixed messages or negative campaigning: he wants to rebalance power to create a fairer society. That’s it. It’s this clarity that would seem to explain Corbyn’s recent surge in popularity, as last night’s poll evidenced. Many Labour MPs, party members, and journalists might not like it, but this is what seems to be cutting through.
Of course, most Labour politicians – leadership candidates included – would say that creating a fairer society is one of their top priorities as well. But when it comes to Corbyn, even if they disagree with him, few doubt or misunderstand his intentions. He’ll propose seemingly unfashionable policies because he believes in them. And it helps that he speaks in a language people can understand; John Gaffney, Professor of Politics at Aston has deemed Corbyn a “political philosopher” who “has the charisma and language to capture hearts”.
This seemed to be the mood in the room today when he set out his (though he calls it ‘our’, presumably as a nod to the nature of his campaign team, which Kate Osamor MP called a ‘family’) vision for the economy. This includes a minimum wage of £10 an hour; rejecting austerity; Quantitative Easing; huge investment in housing and transport; and scrapping certain corporate subsidies and tax reliefs, which amount to£93bn a year. These are big ideas and they’re transparent. For anyone unsure of his intentions, he offered a clear tagline to his plans: “We need to judge our economy not on the number of billionaires we have, but on whether we can get rid of poverty”. This is a simple message that many Labour members are likely to agree with.
This is kind of politics that appeals to a membership base tired of hearing confused messages from party leadership.
The last election says it all. The Tories outmanoeuvred Labour and then stole their clothes; where Ed Miliband pledged a pitiful £8 minimum wage by 2020, the Government have now said they’ll make it £9. This has been a harsh blow to the party and reminder that timid and confused politics aren’t appealing. Although there’s no guarantee that any of this will prove electorally successful, members want straight talking. Corbyn gives them that.
There’s a high degree of scepticism in the party over Corbyn’s recent success. But he, like each of the other candidates, deserves a fair hearing – calling each other ‘morons’ at this point doesn’t get you anywhere. As Osamor told the room today, Corbyn is a serious contender in the leadership contest, setting out a real plan for Government. Regardless of whether Corbyn becomes leader or not – and it’s by no means certain that he will – he’s doing what he set out to: putting his vision for society on the agenda. He does so unashamedly, and that’s why he’s popular.