Throughout Jeremy Corbyn’s political career, and particularly since becoming the leader of the Labour party in 2015, he has come under severe scrutiny in relation to his position on the political spectrum and his viewpoint on key political debates over his time in office. Following the victory in his second Labour leadership election, there is a widespread fear from many Labour MP’s, members of the party and political spectators that a Labour party under his leadership cannot supply a strong opposition to the Conservative government and is an impossible one to elect to office in the near future. But is the man as left wing and as damaging to the party’s image and strength as he is made out to be? In this article I will examine some of the many myths that surround the image of the Labour Leader and tackle the legitimacy of these.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is Unelectable’
This is perhaps Corbyn’s largest criticism. It is believed by many of the Labour leader’s critics that he quite simply is unelectable due to his divisive view on many matters and his opposition believe that he simply cannot unite a nation behind him and gain electoral success. However, his current track record seems to disprove this theory to some extent. From his very election as Labour leader he has shown this electoral success. In the process of winning his initial leadership election, he gained the largest mandate from party members that any other leader, of any party has ever won- receiving 59% of the vote in a 4 horse race. On top of this, since his election, the Labour party has had far from the suggested catastrophic time of it in elections, at all levels of government. Labour has won 4 by elections (Oldham West, Sheffield Brightside, Ogmore and Tooting) since he became leader, gaining increased majorities in 3 of these. Whilst in May 2016, the Labour Party, despite many polls predicting heavy losses, performed relatively well in comparison. Not many new seats were won however they held firm and kept hold of a large amount of their council seats. Also in May 2016, Labour won the London Mayor race with Sadiq Khan. These electoral successes highlight the overdramatised view that Corbyn is completely unelectable. However, during his time in leadership, the Conservatives have overtaken Labour as the second party in Scotland. With this previously being a Labour stronghold critics see this as a worrying statistic.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is too Left Wing’
It is a widespread view shared by many political spectators and Corbyn critics that the Labour leader is too Left wing to be successful in modern day British politics, with many of his views not being relevant to 21st century governance. Corbyn supporters would argue that this claim is severely over exaggerated, with Corbyn merely being a traditional social democrat who believes certain services, such as the NHS, the railways and the police, should be ran by non-profit institutions. These are policies that are popular within the British electorate, with 84% of people polled believing that the NHS should be ran as a non-profit organisation, whilst 66% of the electorate said that they would support his policy of renationalising the railways. This highlights that there is a widespread support for some of Corbyn’s policy and perhaps suggests that the electorate of Britain is still accepting of left wing policies and Corbyn is perhaps not as outdated/out of favour as many would have you believe.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is Incompetent’
Many critics of Corbyn believe that he is incompetent as a leader, and not only is he unable to unite a nation to form a Labour government but he is equally unable to unite his own party and lead it with any success. This is shown through many members of his shadow cabinet defecting from it and effectively giving him a vote of no confidence in doing so. However, this can be argued against with the fact that since his leadership regime began Labour membership has literally doubled. These members have largely come from two demographics which are crucial to the Labour Party’s success: young, educated and highly skilled individuals, and Left wing supporters of the party, returning after years of disillusionment. Corbyn supporters argue that this shows the complete opposite of incompetence in a leader. Corbyn was also criticised by many for keeping quiet during the European Referendum and a lot of the blame for the vote for Brexit was pinned on his shoulders for not galvanising the Labour support in this campaign. However, it is shown through polls since this referendum that 63% of Labour voters voted to Remain in the UK, again suggesting that his competence as a leader and as a vote winner is perhaps underplayed.