Jeremy Corbyn has taken the British political scene by storm, claiming the Labour leadership with 59.5% of the vote. Britain’s political centre-ground appears to be shifting; but is ‘Corbynmania’ making the other parties on the left obsolete?
Despite the divisive Syria vote and onslaught from some mainstream newspapers criticising everything from Corbyn’s dress sense to his respect for World War veterans, strong support remains for the new Labour leader. Particularly on social media, ‘Corbynmania’ can be seen in Facebook statuses, Buzzfeed stories and selfies.
The group ‘Momentum’ was established to keep the ‘Corbyn affect going post Labour’s leadership ballots and now has over 30,000 likes on Facebook. Momentum were present at the ‘Free Education’ demonstration in London last November.
Niryshan Shyrashana a frontline campaigner for Momentum feels that ‘Corbynmania’ will continue: “There was something in the tens of thousands of new Labour members after Corbyn was elected. According to the media, politics should always be in the centre-ground but more and more people are getting involved. We’re going to have a real opposition to the status quo.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader appears to be part of a move away from centre-ground politics. However recent allegations has suggested that Momentum might be trying to force Labour further to the left. ‘Corbynmania’ has taken Labour in a different direction and its affect is being felt by the other political parties in Britain.
Will the Greens suffer because of Corbyn?
The Guardian’s political blogger Andrew Sparrow believes that a Corbyn-led Labour will cause the Greens to really lose out at the next election: “I think its going to create problems for the Greens; there is already some evidence that tens of thousands of their voters were voting for Corbyn in the leadership election. Corbyn is taking the Labour party into the space that the Green Party was. Labour has a leader that can ask the PM six questions a week and gets a lot more coverage than Natalie Bennett ever did.”
Andrew says Corbyn’s affect can already be seen on the smaller parties: “Some of the various left/fringe parties, like Left Unity are now thinking of packing up business, their space has disappeared and it’s hard to see why you would run a candidate for one of those parties if you had a ‘Corbynite’ standing in your ward. For parties like that it is going to create problems in the short-term.
“Some of the various left/fringe parties, like Left Unity are now thinking of packing up business.”
However, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett feels that Corbyn’s election is sign of a real change: “The election of Jeremy Corbyn is enormously exciting, it shows that politics is shifting in the direction of the Green Party. The party that really looks isolated now is the Conservatives. The thing the election has really done after the whole trend that saw Greens membership more than trebling, the SNP sweeping aside Labour in Scotland, is that people see we can achieve real change in politics. There is a real energy in politics.”
Despite the optimism from the Green Party there continues to be a surge in fresh Labour support following Corbyn’s election and it seems unlikely that at least part of this isn’t coming at the expense of the Green Party.
Martin Houlden, a UKIP parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth West in last year’s General Election, agrees the Greens will suffer in 2020: “The Greens will be the biggest losers, Corbyn is appealing to the hard-left of the party, the Conservatives have their new bogeyman, the Tories will use Corbyn but the Greens will lose out.”
The Greens and Left Unity are not the only ones who may suffer from the ‘Corbyn affect’, The Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) could also be over-shadowed at future elections.
Colin Skelly of the SPGB South West is quick to distinguish Corbyn’s Labour from SPGB and its fundamental values: “The SPGB does not view the Labour Party as a socialist party but as another party of capitalism. Corbyn’s election restores an element of radicalism to the Labour Party after a period of right-wing leadership but this is only returning to the situation historically adopted by the Labour Party before the late 1970s, but with MPs considerably to the right of the leadership.”
“Corbyn’s election restores an element of radicalism to the Labour Party after a period of right-wing leadership but this is only returning to the situation historically adopted by the Labour Party before the late 1970s.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s flagship policies include quantitative easing; while radical to some, it is a different breed to the SPGB’s view of socialism. Colin believes its possible to see Corbyn as simply “at the fringe of the mainstream rather than outside it”.
Corbyn can engage a new audience
Lack of interest among young voters has been a growing problem but movements on the left seem to be enticing new generations to get involved. The Green Party’s support at the General Election was greatly enhanced by the student vote and ‘Corbynmania’ appears to have struck a chord with that audience; a poll of 18-24 year-olds revealed over 40% felt more ‘engaged politically’ because of Jeremy Corbyn.
Jolyon Rubinstein presents the BAFTA award-winning BBC Three television programme, The Revolution Will Be Televised, a satirical series driven by political headlines but aimed at younger viewers.
Much like Colin and the SPGB, Jolyon also questions Corbyn’s ‘socialist’ labelling: “It’s ironic that calling for corporations to pay taxes and workers to be paid fairly is heralded as ‘socialism’ but that is how steadfastly the status quo holds on.” However, both Colin and Jolyon have noted the potential in Corbyn’s ability to bring different values from outside the status quo to the forefront of Parliament while the Greens too are optimistic about changes Corbyn could help bring.
Socialist ideas are sweeping over Europe despite the distinct lack of left-leaning parties in government control. In Britain, Corbyn can bring ideas into the House of Commons which were once more associated with groups like the Greens or SPGB, who often receive less airtime in the mainstream media or electoral polling. While ‘Corbynmania’ may end up being detrimental to these smaller parties when it comes to their vote share, across the left there appears to be a sense of enthusiasm that Corbyn can shift the discussion in their direction.