12 Sep 2015

Jeremy Corbyn day one: lacking clarity and a clear project


There was some disappointment amongst even folk sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign that he hadn’t taken a little more trouble over his victory speech.

His allies say that’s because he speaks from the heart and isn’t “on message.”

But the speech rambled a bit, sounding very much like the much-repeated hustings addresses slightly adapted, and it didn’t scream  compromise or out-reach to some ears.

The first policy area Mr Corbyn mentioned in his speech was trade union laws and how he intended to take on Tory reforms which flagrantly over-rode ILO conventions.

There was no obvious moment when he had crystallised his project or clarified his approach.

The tyranny of the sound bite is exactly what some of his supporters most dislike about contemporary politics, but there’s only so much time in a news bulletin, and politicians can virtually dictate which bits of a speech are used if they craft their message carefully enough with “must have” sections.

The demographics of those newly registered Labour supporters who delivered 85 per cent of their votes to Mr Corbyn will increasingly come under the microscope. I hear a disproportionate number of them are from London, for instance, where one defeated campaign aide pointed out the party’s done almost as well as it can already on seats and only has about four realistic targets left. They don’t seem to come from the marginals.

But what about the members themselves? They gave nearly 50 per cent support to Mr Corbyn. New members joining after the general election seem to be particularly Corbyn-leaning.

It all matters for what comes next and whether Team Corbyn decides it can go for party reform to entrench the political shift and make sure that when Mr Corbyn goes – very few people I spoke to at the QE2 Centre seem to think he will front Labour’s 2020 election – the Left can get its own choice of replacement safely in.

Some key strategists from the defeated teams meet tomorrow to discuss tactics but you’re struck by how pole-axed both sides are. Power dropped from a stalk into the Left’s lap. It feels to the Centre/Right as if it was stolen in the night. Neither side has advanced planning ready to roll … “embryonic” might even be too flattering.

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