We all live in our own bubbles.
Most Labour people that I socialize with are not voting for Jeremy Corbyn. But, at the end of the day, if we are at all the party we claim to be, it won’t be our friends in the Labour membership that we listen to, regardless of their views on Corbyn, but the people in our lives outside the party. That is our duty.
I live in a very Labour area. Also a traditionally working class area. Outside of my university and Labour circles, everyone in my older circles come from a working class background. They are a part of a minority that still vote Labour instinctively. I have been, and still am, influenced by these people more than anyone else. Growing up discovering injustice, and being lucky enough to climb the ladder to University, I have evolved into what my council estate mum and dad always were: a Labour voter. And tribal at that. But I was of an even smaller minority to actively join the party, in the hope I could contribute to it winning in 2015. That prospect kept me excited about politics, faithful in its power to change our lives.
But for me, voting Labour was not really a choice more than it was a necessity, or so I was always told. The Labour party, for friends and family, were always there at every election, a hope to keep or vote the Tories out, the latter of whom were our tribal, mortal enemies.
So, if we were to judge a leader’s and the party’s performance, it is these people that would account for the first hurdle for judgement. The people with whom I grew up not only account for Labour’s rapidly receding core vote, but more importantly, they need and deserve a Labour government, and they -we- have always truly feared the alternative.
Fear of Toryism doesn’t seem to be deeply entrenched in some of the Party’s membership. I would avoid caricatures, but there is nothing more deeply upsetting -coming from where I am from- than seeing fellow members belittle what ‘Tory’ means when they refer to other members and MPs as ‘Red Tories’. Especially those that cannot even nearly be described as Blairite, but have simply determined that Corbyn is too calamitous, too incompetent, to win. They do not fear losing.
Fear drives a lot of communities we seek to serve, but not, it would seem, a lot of members. The fear of Corbyn losing, as all the evidence suggests, a general election is not enough to deter supporters voting for him a second time round. They vote for hope instead. A very valuable thing.
Hope is something we as a party aspire to inspire. It is not unlikely or wrong that many members voted Corbyn in 2015 because he offered them hope. His programme was simply more inspirational and hopeful than his opponents, who offered little more than managing a increasingly malign status quo. Corbyn offered change. Corbyn offered hope. That motive was noble. It is something we should aim to inspire in others.
9 months later, communities like mine do not share in that hope.
Corbyn can no longer claim to be the candidate of hope. If he claims to be the ‘people’s’ candidate, it is no people I recognise.
Corbyn cannot claim these easy, appealing tag lines -for that is all they are- because, 9 months later, it is clear Corbyn cannot win, and Corbyn thus cannot inspire hope. All we have left is fear.
I know this because I ask people around me. When I ask the friends I’ve grown up with, they want Jeremy to go. My mum, for the first time in a leadership contest, will vote via her union affiliation for Owen Smith. For her, it is merely ‘obvious’, common sense, that he cannot win an election. Apparently, her staff room thinks so too. I got a chance to speak to her friend the other day, and the same sentiment is evoked.
This sounds made up, or probably does for those that would like to remain believing the contrary. But the evidence backs me up.
My circle cannot represent everyone. I get this enough when I write on this matter. “I’m working class and I voted Corbyn!”. That’s fine. But my community, rather than them, are reflected more accurately in both canvassing and polling. Not only does polling have the Tories in the lead among C2DE voters, and in every single region bar the North East; not only does Theresa May poll 30 points ahead of her rival; not only has Corbyn got a -40 approval rating; not only does he even poll negatively, by 60:30, among trade union members – but I’ve never quite experienced canvassing as bad as I do now.
In deeply deprived wards, I get people telling me that for the first time in their lives, they cannot vote Labour. It doesn’t offer them hope anymore.
It’d be easier to dismiss our opponents saying this as ‘Red Tories’, except these are the people whom we claim to speak on behalf of. It isn’t a game. They are not careerist MPs with a fetish for extreme Blairism. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? These are our people, or at least, the people we claim as ours. It’s imperative we listen.
And for those listening, it is quite surprising that anyone that simply has the chance to speak to people outside our circles -either in their social lives or while canvassing- would still have faith in Jeremy Corbyn.
By Corbyn’s own standards -to inspire the poor and disenfranchised- he has failed. He has failed to offer them hope. His mission has failed.
It is no secret that I am voting for Owen Smith, as a consequence of the last 9 months and because I have held a torch for him and his politics for a while. But I am also voting for hope, and for hope’s restoration. For the hope that drew me to the party in the first place. Merely getting rid of a leader that only inspires fear -fear of the other side, of a perma-Tory government- will inspire more hope than we have now.
But it is more than that. For Owen simply represents our communities better than Corbyn. There is hope in a man who has feared Tories himself, because the imperative to beat them is stronger. Growing up experiencing the miners’ strike, and the repercussions of the tumultuous 1980s. The desperation of seeking a next Labour government.
A Labour government is both more likely under Smith and would -if his words are anything to go by- deliver the homes and jobs that our communities need. It would be radical in office rather than merely in Parliament Square. Real, genuine hope for real, genuine change.
I urge you all to vote for hope. Not the abstract hope that inspires Corbyn rallies, the ones that many neighbours will not share, but for real hope of a Labour government. For people we seek to serve. Please listen. Recognise the fear, recognise hope has been all but erased, and that soaring rhetoric does not mask the dread. Real hope is that which can genuinely offer the belief that, in the near future, there will be an end to the Tories seemingly perpetual rule. The first step to believing that is voting for Owen Smith.