The Conservatives Still Need Corbyn

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The Conservatives Still Need Corbyn

Hector Drummond believes Jeremy Corbyn remains the greatest asset for the Tories’ at the next election. He believes the near Marxist policies pursued by the Labour leader and his shadow cabinet will repulse the moderate Left into Tory hands.  

The conventional thinking around the Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn seems to be this:

The Conservatives originally thought the taking over of Labour by Jeremy Corbyn and his band of hard leftists was a Godsend to them, because they thought Britain would never elect a bunch of near-Communists, so it would be huge majorities for the Conservatives as long as the hard left were in charge of Labour. Corbyn is good for us, they thought, so they went easy on him. But then it turned out that lots of British people, especially young people, do like aggressive, old-style socialism, and now Labour have soared in the polls, polling much more than they ever did under the drippy Ed Milliband, and are threatening to win an election. So Corbyn turns out not to be so good for the Conservatives after all.

There’s a lot of truth in this, and it’s true that Corbyn’s Labour are threatening to win the next general election. But the fact is that the current Conservatives line-up still desperately need Corbyn and his cronies to stay in control of Labour to have any chance of victory. A great many people – including many who had previously voted UKIP, and even many (especially in the North and Midlands) who had previously voted Labour – voted for the Conservatives at the last election because they were the party of Brexit. But there is now widespread disillusionment with the Conservatives on the right, and amongst the traditional working-class, which in the last few weeks has turned to outright anger.

One reason for this is the sense, whether well-founded or not, that Theresa May has ‘sold out’ on Brexit, particularly in regard to continued migration during the transition period, and fishing rights. And in recent weeks we have had plenty of other incidents that have inflamed social media: the banning of three right-wing speakers and journalists from entering the UK, the revelations that another town, Telford, has seen the mass rape of underage children by Islamic men, the BBC’s suppression of the Telford news, Tommy Robinson being banned from Twitter, the internet comedian Count Dankula being found guilty of a hate crime for his joke video where his girlfriend’s dog does a Hitler salute, rapists and murderers being let out of jail after serving short sentences, police harassment of people who criticise transgenderism, and so on.

(Not all of these can be directly blamed upon the government, of course, particularly Robinson’s Twitter ban, but the ‘traditionalists’, reasonably enough, are incensed that Christian bakers are forced to bake cakes with gay messages on them, but Twitter is free to refuse any content it wants to refuse.)

So support for the current Conservatives is once again collapsing amongst traditionalists, who see the Tories, not entirely inaccurately, as a soft left party. There is really very little in the Conservatives’ current practices that would entice such people to vote for them, and plenty that repels them, and once Brexit has happened then there will be even less reason for the Brexiteers who voted Tory for the first time in 2017 to vote for them again.

Thus the Tories are threatened with a complete electoral wipeout at the next general election, whether that happens in 2022, or earlier, assuming the same team remains in place until then. (And there’s a fair chance of that happening, for despite the widespread unhappiness with Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd on the right, the Tories appear to be terrified of changing anything lest their current tenuous grip on government dissolves.)

But there is one large life-ring floating right in front of them, and it bears the name ‘Corbyn’. This is what will keep them afloat for the next few years, and into the next election, presuming Corbyn is still in place. The traditionalists hate May’s Conservatives, but they’re terrified of Corbyn’s Labour. Some of them have suggested, in a Peter Hitchens-like spirit, that Labour needs to be allowed a term in power so that the UK can see how bad the hard left is, and so the Conservatives can be destroyed, and replaced with a new right-wing party, or a reborn Conservative party. But most traditionalists know how risky that is. They know that if a hard-left Labour gets into power they’ll rig the system as much as possible to keep themselves, or at least their ideas and their placemen, in power. In five years they can do an enormous amount of damage to the country, far more than Blair and Brown ever did. Also, there’s no guarantee that a reborn right-wing party will emerge, The Conservatives may be broken beyond repair. Or the right may splinter into two opposing factions, and neither will be able to win power.

So when it comes to polling day, you can expect many people who hate Theresa May and think the Conservative are bringing about the slow death of the UK to hold their nose and vote for their local Conservative candidate, simply to stop the keys of the country being handed over to Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Seamus Milne, who would all bring about the quick death of the UK. That is what will keep the Conservatives afloat: the fear of a hard-left Britain under Corbyn. A Blairite Labour party, on the other hand, would not produce the same fear, and the traditionalists would stay home. That doesn’t necessarily mean a more centrist Labour party would win an election – we don’t know how many on the left would also stay at home rather than vote for New Labour Mark II. But we do know that Labour under Corbyn will win if the right refuse to vote Conservative on election day. That is why the Conservatives still need Corbyn: he’s the one bringing out their base.

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  • Hector Drummond
    Hector Drummond
    Hector Drummond is a former University lecturer turned author. His first novel, The Biscuit Factory Vol. I: Days of Wine and Cheese, a campus satire, is out now. He blogs at http://hectordrummond.com, and tweets at https://twitter.com/hector_drummond
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