Recent surveys of UK public opinion have consistently confirmed that Jeremy Corbyn is increasingly gaining support from most sectors of British society.
Several major political thinktanks have urgently addressed themselves to understanding the reasons behind this surprise phenomenon.
A spokesperson from the influential Centre for UK Political Research summarised the issue that has been perplexing so many: ‘There have always been a hard core of Labour supporters,’ she began. ‘They habitually vote Labour without regard to any factor other than the party’s name – often their fathers voted Labour, their grandfathers voted Labour, their great grandfathers voted Labour, and their great grandfathers’ horses wore the red flag with pride. The word “Labour” is also simpler than the longer and more complicated names of other political parties. It is therefore much easier for many of them to locate the relevant box on a ballot paper.
‘There are, in addition, other groups that base their political choices on factors other than a reasoned appraisal of current party policies,’ she continued. ‘Young people, and particularly students, are a case in point. They tend to vote against the status quo in order to demonstrate their newly acquired independence. Their opinions often align with those of their friends – most of whom wish to portray identical rebellious, individualistic and free-thinking attitudes. Jeremy Corbyn is currently their perfect anti-establishment symbol.
‘Although young people will be most affected by the future consequences of their own political choices, they lack the life experience to profoundly internalise what these choices might mean in real terms. Those who engage with politics tend to view it as a fashionable game, without consequences – like knocking on somebody’s door and running away. As a result, in common with habitual Labour supporters, they give little consideration to the future effects of the political policies for which they vote.
‘For these reasons, habitual Labour voters, students and similar groups would be expected to support Jeremy Corbyn. The very interesting factor about the current surge in personal support for the Labour leader, however, is that it comes from sectors of society who understand perfectly well that Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of simplistic, Marxist ideology cannot be applied to the complex political, social and economic circumstances of the early twenty-first century. They realise that his “back to the future socialist fantasy”, as Philip Hammond described it at the 2017 Tory conference, would lead to economic, political and social meltdown in the UK.
‘The puzzling question has emerged, therefore, about why these people are supporting Jeremy Corbyn. It’s as if the brighter and best informed passengers on the Titanic were cheering-on Captain Edward J. Smith when the iceberg was in plain sight.’
In an attempt to answer this question, the Centre for UK Political Research commissioned Ipsos Mori to interview a representative sample from the sectors of society who traditionally give the most considered and intelligent thought to the future consequences of their choices. Two of the most significant among these are the retired and the younger, professional middle class.
‘If Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister,’ conceded a typical retired respondent who was interviewed by Ipsos Mori, ‘the country will proceed, via the 1970s, back to the stone age. The point, however,’ he emphasised, ‘is that Armageddon won’t happen immediately. Corbyn will have time to hurl sacks stuffed with dosh in all directions.
‘Clearly his relationship with the unions will mean that he won’t be able to object to huge pay rises for all workers – increases that have no connection with productivity. If he tries to stop that, there are loads of wannabe Arthur Scargills in the union movement who’ll relish their opportunities to hold the country to ransom again – we’re starting to see that now with the railways. From what Corbyn says, however, it looks like everyone else will get handouts too – from student loan write-offs to free care for the elderly.
‘I’m not totally clear about the fine details of Corbyn’s policies,’ this respondent continued, ‘but I get the impression that a Labour Party activist will be stationed on every street corner with a wheelbarrow full of fivers, handing them out to anyone who comes past. I’m bound to get some benefit from all that, and it’ll also cheer people up. I’m so fed up with everyone around me being really miserable and depressed due to austerity.
‘Obviously Corbyn’s policies will eventually lead to the country going bankrupt,’ this respondent concluded. ‘I’m seventy-two years old, however. The latest date for the next election will be in 2022. By that time I’ll be seventy-seven. If Corbyn gets in, I can reckon on four great years – and I’ll probably be dead before the shit hits the fan big time.’
Slightly different, though similar, reasoning was expressed by a respondent from the professional middle class – a forty-five year old accountant who is married with two children. She also referred to the “Corbyn Window,” as it has been called – the predicted period of joyous fun and prosperity between the Labour leader’s general election victory and the total economic collapse of the UK.
I know this is irrational,’ this respondent explained to Ipsos Mori, ‘but I just want to feel good for a while. A friend of mine has an alcohol problem,’ she continued by way of analogy. ‘He was dry for months, but then he had a personal crisis and went back on the booze. He told me that he knew it was a stupid thing to do, but he just felt so down that he wanted to do anything to feel better in the here and now, regardless of its future consequences. For me, deciding to support Jeremy Corbyn was like my friend opening that first bottle of scotch. I hate myself for it, and I know I’ll regret it, but it feels so good that I don’t care.
‘Austerity is a very sensible plan,’ she continued, ‘but I’m sick of it. There’s a food bank in my village – the need for food banks is a total bloody disgrace in Britain in the twenty-first century. I saw the film, I Daniel Blake, earlier in the year. That’s not fiction; that’s what the state is really doing to those unlucky people who’ve fallen on hard times – and it could be any of us at any time. Theresa May says she’s listening, although she doesn’t say what she’s listening to. I’m guessing it’s loud rock music through headphones as she, sure as hell, isn’t hearing ordinary people.
‘The other thing about austerity,’ this respondent added, ‘is that it often fails for reasons outside your control. I’ve scrimped and saved at various times in my life, but then, when I’d saved enough money to look forward to buying what I’d planned, the car needed expensive repairs or I got some other unexpected bill that blew the lot. I might as well not have bothered to make the effort in the first place.
‘I bet it’ll be like that with national austerity,’ she concluded. ‘We’ll balance the books and then, the next day, we’ll go to war with North Korea or an asteroid will hit the Earth or something – all that hardship would’ve been for nothing. When I look at it that way, it doesn’t seem so crazy to let Corbyn go bananas and hope against hope that it’ll, somehow, turn out alright in the end.’
Of the social groups sampled by Ipsos Mori, the only one that was predominantly not planning to vote Labour at the next opportunity was the mega-rich. ‘I think the government’s doing a great job,’ said one such respondent from the bridge of his luxury yacht. ‘I’m certainly getting wealthier. Although I do think they’re too soft on the whingeing poor. You never got this level of unrest in my great great grandfather’s day when we used to hang the blighters for stealing a loaf of bread.’
‘Due to the Ipsos Mori survey, we now have a much clearer picture,’ concluded the spokesperson from the Centre for UK Political Research. ‘Most people, whether they understand government policy or not, and whether they agree with government policy or not, don’t like it.
‘This negativity has currently reached such an extent that anything else seems preferable. As an alternative, most of the UK public would willingly vote for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, any of the Telletubbies … or even Jeremy Corbyn.’