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The Establishment is undone. The party’s “milquetoast defence of its economic record, its lack of direction … its bland, sputtering lack of passion” opened the door, and an utterly non-traditional politician walked through: outspoken, controversial, occasionally bizarre, willing to rip up long-held assumptions. Radical change has come – with 60 percent of the vote.
“I voted for a new kind of politics,” proclaimed Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters today as they made him leader of the British Labour Party. Corbyn’s appeal is anti-establishment, and leadership’s desperate pleas have gone completely unheeded. After the self-admitted folly of a few put him on the ballot, nearly every Labour MP opposed him. A drove of shadow cabinet members resigned today and say they will not serve under Corbyn. Tony Blair – the only Labour leader since the 1970s to actually win elections – urgently opposed him:
It’s a revolution but within a hermetically sealed bubble – not the Westminster one they despise, but one just as remote from actual reality … They’re making all those “in authority” feel their anger and their power. There is a sense of real change because of course the impact on politics is indeed real …
However, it doesn’t alter the “real” reality. It provides a refuge from it.
The once overwhelmingly popular leader begged the party to step back from the edge: If your “heart” is with Corbyn, Blair suggested, “get a transplant.” This didn’t work.
The far left and the unions are overjoyed. Sinn Fein is congratulatory. One of the few Labour politicians enthusiastic about Corbyn is the new Scottish Labour leader:
Today shows politics has changed. People are calling for radical change and straight talk … I’ve said I want my leadership to be about shaking up the establishment in Scotland, and Jeremy wants to do the same across the UK. What people want is real change – not just in their politics, but in their lives. Today offers the chance for that change.
She is right. People in the UK – and across the Atlantic – are desperate for straight talk and for change that really matters. But she is wrong, because the hope Corbyn is offering is a false promise.
What does this man want to do? He promotes a far-left wish list of socialist policies Labour abandoned years ago. Rent controls, printing money to “invest” in the economy, tax increases, ending what little private enterprise there is in healthcare, re-nationalization of whatever he can, maybe bringing back Clause IV, Labour’s pre-Blair commitment to public ownership of industry, and more. He wants to withdraw from NATO. He has not avoided anti-semitic associations, and has used the word “friends” of Hamas and Hezbollah. He wants unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Corbyn has a few flip-flops in his record and is decidedly fuzzy on EU membership: With a referendum looming, you’d think that would have been an important question in a leadership election, but at a certain fever-pitch of politics even matters of vital national importance are overlooked. He has a few other outside-the-box ideas: let’s consider all-female train cars!
Corbyn’s appeal is easy to see: He is no traditional Establishment politician. And, let it be perfectly clear, he fights.
The disenchantment that produced Corbyn is real, it transcends parties, and it exists on our side of the Atlantic. Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump are very different manifestations of the same phenomenon: a bitter disillusionment with established politics, a passionate rejection of old leadership, an enthusiastic embrace of something that seems new in pursuit of change. Their policies are of course different and their personal styles are not that alike, other than a certain curmudgeonly pleasure in shattering long-held presumptions. But both speak less to specific ideological issues than to a disconnect between the people and the ruling class. The only answer, of course, is true leadership, which Labour cannot provide. We are better off: We have conservatives who can — if they can communicate and will be heard and accepted.
There is nothing new under the sun. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters think they voted for “a new kind of politics.” They did not. They voted for a barely repackaged set of old, dangerous, unpopular ideas.
I remember when Tony Blair was the fresh inspiring figure whose new kind of politics swept the nation before him. Today, Labour voters can see that he was a politician like any other. The bubble is burst; his triumph rings hollow. Someday in retrospect, the excitement swirling around Corbyn today will ring just as false and perhaps worse, the beginning of a greater disaster for party or country. Corbyn’s supporters forgot that any office-seeker, however different his style and promises, is another mere human politician. Very probably, they will face crushing electoral defeat and learn again why the Labour establishment and all those old tired politicians rejected outright socialism and fought Corbyn’s rise. If not – if, as is just possible, the Tories fail to hold their own coalition together – Britain will reap the whirlwind.
I can appreciate the despair of the Labour establishment; they deserved their loss. Corbyn and his “new” politics may inspire thousands and be fun to watch if not taken seriously. But he is now Britain’s Leader of the Opposition, and those who put him there will feel the effect, one way or another, of the false promises they believed and the things they did not think mattered.