Diane Abbott: There is no alternative to Corbynism – not if we want to win

12th March, 2018 6:00 am

Political commentators remain obdurately wrong about the main trends in British politics. Having written off Corbyn ahead of June 2017, they now begrudgingly accept that he is leader for as long as he likes.

But they have no explanation as to how that happened. And they continue to repeat their mistaken analysis when it comes to everything from the state of the parties to the thorny issues of Brexit.

Outside of wartime, the most fundamental issue facing all voters is who they believe will make them better off. Other issues matter, of course they do. Anyone who knows anything about my politics knows I believe that.

But getting voters to actually shift party, or to encourage the formerly disillusioned to vote, overwhelmingly depends on their perceptions of who is going to be best for their living standards.

That is why the addition of 3.5 million votes in 2017 was such a huge advance for Labour, for Jeremy and for Corbynism. To put this in context, no Labour leader added so many votes at a general election since Clement Attlee in 1945. Tony Blair certainly didn’t. His gain of 2 million new votes in 1997 was the basis for Labour’s landslide. But he lost 4 million votes over the next two elections. Public spending restraint followed by illegal wars is not electorally popular.

It is only possible to add that level of support if a sea-change has occurred in the perceptions of any political party. That is what a Corbyn-led Labour achieved.

First, on living standards, millions of voters believe we have an alternative to austerity by investing in our economy and restoring our public services. Secondly, scapegoating of migrants and others is only necessary if you are trying to distract from a lack of real policies to raise living standards. We have no need for those politics and reject them outright on principle. Thirdly, the population is heartily sick of supporting US wars that destroy countries and create new threats to our own security. People want peace and security.

Bizarrely, we often hear voices, some close to home, which argue that this is all very well, but if only we accepted some cuts or we were a little bit more anti-immigration or we took a more flexible approach to US warmongering, we would be even higher in the polls. In sight of the summit, we are advised to go back down the mountain.

Our perspective also applies to the vexed issues of Brexit. In line with its principles, Labour’s consistent approach is to prioritise jobs. This means we will vote down anything that threatens jobs and prosperity in this country. A majority voted to Leave, but no-one voted to be worse off. Our commitment to a customs union shows we are putting living standards first.

The pundits are fixated on the minority of Labour voters who voted Leave. They ignore the far greater number of Tory voters who voted Remain. In both cases, voters put their view of who would defend their living standards ahead of their view on Brexit. This is because living standards are the paramount issue. Similarly, the pundits are at a loss to explain the Lib Dems’ weakness in the polls. But the reality is that austerity in the EU, the Lib Dem platform, is not popular.

Labour is now preparing for government. That means addressing the real problems facing people, building on the success of our manifesto and developing our policies.

Under this leadership, and with these policies, we will win.

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