Talking Politics with David Jones: Numbers not in Corbyn’s favour?

Labour party deputy leader Tom Watson (left) and party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour party deputy leader Tom Watson (left) and party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
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As previously noted on these pages, a week is a long time in politics and is getting longer all the time. With this in mind, a fortnight might as well be an epoch – and rarely has this been more true than in the two weeks since the last edition of this column.

Indeed, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has already changed the political landscape immensely.

He suggests there isn’t a big left wing vote to win back

To say Mr Corbyn has been given a rough ride in the media is an understatement – this column was quick to dismiss him as “Captain Birdseye fronting a Boomtown Rats tribute band” – but the backing of almost 60 per cent of the Labour Party gives him a clear mandate to lead.

In his first week, he has done more to set a clear direction for the party than Ed Miliband did in years.

But far from the Stalinesque reign of terror some predicted, early signs point to a more collaborative leadership style, allowing the party’s rank and file – and its disgruntled centrist MPs – to help shape policy rather than having it imposed on them.

The question remains, however, as it has been throughout: can the Labour Party under Corbyn win the 2020 General Election?

“Maybe,” reckons Sheffield University’s Prof Charles Pattie in an illuminating blog post. “But don’t bet on it, as there are some major obstacles in his way.”

Prof Pattie analyses the political make-up of the UK and concludes that the numbers just don’t stack up: there isn’t a sizeable left wing vote to win back, and even if the Corbyn effect woos back voters who didn’t go to the polls in May, the majority of them are located in seats that Labour won anyway and so won’t help the party win more seats.

And, he writes, economic credibility is still key to electoral victory: “No matter how attractive a party’s policies might be, if voters do not trust that party to manage the proverbial whelk stall, let alone the national economy, it is not going to win the election.”

So the early signs are not promising. But, with four years still to go before the election, plenty could yet change.

n Regular readers will remember the case of lapsed Labour stalwart Winifred Francis, rejected in her application to become a registered supporter of the party. Win’s son Ian has been in touch with the happy news that, thanks to the intervention of Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, she was reinstated in the nick of time and was able to cast her vote in the leadership election with 15 minutes to spare. A Win-win situation!