With each passing day, the likelihood of Jeremy Corbyn being elected Labour leader becomes yet greater. And with the chance of the unreconstructed Marxist dinosaur becoming Leader of the Opposition rising, the spirits of Conservatives everywhere have risen too.
But I’m not one of these #ToriesForCorbyn. Toby Young et al make a good point – a Corbyn victory would be a disaster for the Labour Party, and by Jove, who wouldn’t want that? Well, I would, except it would also be a disaster for the country and for conservatism. That’s why I coined the hashtag #ToriesAgainstCorbyn, and here’s why you should oppose Corbyn becoming Labour leader, too.
A government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be unthinkably bad for the UK. “A-ha, but he could never get into government!” I hear #ToriesForCorbyn say. But an official opposition led by him would hardly be good. No matter how incredible or ludicrous, Corbyn would still have six questions at PMQs. His frontbench would still have a representative on Question Time and Newsnight. His party’s policy announcements and press releases would get just as much news coverage as a credible opposition.
In short, Labour being Labour, they’ll still have the same platform, no matter how bizarre their leader’s views. The only difference is Corbyn’s views will be more left-wing, so will shift the entire political debate to the left. Long-term, so long as Labour and the Conservatives remain the two major parties in the UK, the only way to make progress is to persuade Labour to accept our position. Our ideas don’t win just when our party does, but when the other party advocates our ideas, too.
Instead, a Corbyn victory would lend credibility to the far-left’s rejection of reality: giving a megaphone to their already over-blown and bombastic politics of fear and envy. Inevitably, this would skew the discourse, letting Corbyn’s ideas become the default alternative to the Conservatives. Corbyn’s brand of socialism would poison the groundwater of British politics for a generation: influencing people, particularly young people, across the political spectrum.
But even if you agreed with that, a Corbyn victory also offers a platform to even nastier views. His leadership would legitimise tolerance of Hezbollah and Hamas, whom he calls his ‘friends’: as he did the IRA just two weeks after they almost killed Margaret Thatcher. And with a global struggle against extremism, the stakes are far too high to have a Leader of the Opposition that considers terrorists to be his friends.
All of the above applies if he loses the general election. Although that’s made more likely by Corbyn’s longing to be back in the USSR, it’s not a foregone conclusion. Indeed, in 1975, Margaret Thatcher was widely portrayed as ‘unelectable’. Her election as party leader was cheered by Labour as playing to the Conservative base and guaranteeing yet another Conservative defeat. Three general election landslides later, nobody was left worrying about her electability.
Jeremy Corbyn – to say the least – is no Margaret Thatcher. But as Harold Macmillan said, governments can always be undermined by “Events, dear boy, events.” And if he were leader, it would take just one event – from the collapse of the Eurozone to a domestic political scandal – to put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10. For the sake of the country and for the innumerable Conservative achievements he’d unwind, it is important that that option be taken off the table.
I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn would win the 2020 election – but then I don’t Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, or Liz Kendall would either. Their party – divided, in denial, and wholly owned by the unions – is no match for a competent Conservative government overseeing a growing economy. But there’s always that risk of the unexpected. So while Corbyn doesn’t reduce the risk of Labour winning, he does raise the stakes. And the danger of bringing socialism back to the UK under Jeremy Corbyn is all too real a threat for #ToriesAgainstCorbyn to risk.
Oliver Cooper is a councillor in Hampstead and the Chairman of the Conservative Way Forward Organising Committee.
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