Brighton energy tells of Labour Party under leader’s firm control
Analysis: Corbyn’s conference claim of new centre ground may not be so far-fetched
Oh, Jeremy Corbyn: the leader said the election result had “put the Tories on notice and Labour on the threshold of power”. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
When the cheering, the applause and the chants of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” died down the Labour leader told his party conference that although they did not win June’s UK general election the result had “put the Tories on notice and Labour on the threshold of power”.
It is an analysis shared not only by most of his party’s almost 600,000 members but also by many Conservatives and, increasingly, by Corbyn’s detractors in the media.
Describing the Labour manifesto as one of the two stars of the election campaign (along with the membership), Corbyn credited his party’s success to its decision to make a bold offer to the electorate. By breaking free from the economic policy consensus, Labour had spoken to the needs of millions of people throughout Britain in a way that no party had for decades.
Today’s centre ground is certainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago. A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity
Acknowledging that elections are won in the centre ground, Corbyn argued that the centre had shifted, particularly since the 2008 financial crash.
“Today’s centre ground is certainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago. A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity, when people started to find political voice for their hopes for something different and better,” he said.
Sceptics in his own party and much of the British media doubt that such a dramatic ideological shift is under way, pointing instead to the Conservatives’ disarray as the engine of Labour’s success. But ideologies do move from the margins into the mainstream, as Britain and the United States witnessed when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan came to power.
Monetarism and neoliberalism, which had been viewed almost as eccentric a few years earlier, were suddenly part of the official doctrine of two of the world’s biggest economies. They went on to dominate those two countries and much of the rest of the world for more than 30 years.
The polls suggest that Labour has some way to go, with the Conservatives stubbornly above 40 per cent despite the chaos at the top of government
Could Corbyn lead another ideological revolution in Britain? The polls suggest that Labour has some way to go, with the Conservatives stubbornly above 40 per cent despite the chaos at the top of government. But the energy in Brighton this week tells a different story, of a party now firmly under the control of Corbyn and his allies, brimming with energy and purpose.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, drew sneers from the newspapers this week when he said some supporters were war-gaming the possibility of a run on the pound and capital flight from Britain in response to a Labour victory. Such scenario planning makes sense in view of the experience in France in 1981 of François Mitterand, the last major leader to defy the prevailing economic consensus.
Besides, as Corbyn pointed out, the run on the pound has already happened, triggered by the recklessness of a Conservative government whose main selling point was its economic responsibility.