Labour Conference: A 21st Century Socialist Speech

I listened with intrigue to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech this afternoon. I really was not sure what to expect. A habitual poor performer on the big stage, I had low anticipations. But ultimately, as a non-affiliated voter and a political enthusiast I was looking for someone who had put the leadership election behind them, taken confidence from their increased mandate and wanted to move forward and pull his party together.

The speech ebbed and flowed. At times Corbyn sounded a bit bored, and at times extremely fired up. He is not a polished performer like other politicians, but when he talks about issues close to his heart he does speak with great conviction. He wasn’t bad overall, but did he look like a Prime Minister in waiting capable of healing wounds and leading his party into Government?

As I listened to a speech designed to bring the curtain down on a conference over-shadowed with infighting and mixed messages I was unsurprised. This was Corbyn making it very clear to the Parliamentary Party, membership at large and frankly anyone else taking an hour out of their Wednesday afternoon to listen to him that he was not for turning. Corbyn is a socialist and this dogma will govern how he runs the Labour Party, who sits around the Shadow Cabinet table and what fights he chooses to take to the Tories. At the end of his speech, there was a member of the choir on stage wearing a T shirt with the slogan ‘proud to be a socialist’. Since the era of John Smith, the Labour Party have been distancing themselves further and further from the ‘S’ word and now it appears to be back in the mix.

And on campaigns fighting against inequality, the introduction of new grammar schools and the end of zero hours contracts the rhetoric could win them support up and down the country. The problem I perceive is that the basis of Corbyn’s political ideas does not chime with vast swathes of the population. If he tries to move forward with this philosophy, he will continue to court open crit犀利士
icism from backbenchers and other well-known Labour figures like Alastair Campbell and Lord Mandelson; a divide that the media will undoubtedly seize upon.

Ultimately, the question the Labour Party has to ask itself, is whether we live in a left leaning socialist democracy any more. And if not, is Sadiq Kahn correct in stating that Labour are fighting to win the next General Election? Or perhaps in the era of post-austerity living, more of the electorate than we think will line up behind Jeremy Corbyn.

Ultimately, Governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them, and Theresa May will have to negotiate a dreadful Brexit deal combined with a host of other unfortunate events to be leaving Number 10 in 2020. It is not about the policies; the perception and Corbyn, McDonnell, Thornberry et al just doesn’t cut the mustard.

21st century socialism – it’s not a starter for 10.