Most people, other than the odd minority of those contending that Labour lost the general election because it was too right-wing, understand what happened in May 2015. Fear won the day. Many of us, buying into the polling until the very day of the election, crushed as a result when that exit poll hit us like a ton of bricks, know exactly what happened. The Tory message regarding what might transpire were a Labour minority government, propped up by the SNP, to come to power, scared the living crap out of a vast number of English voters in key seats. People flocked to the Conservatives in droves, out of terror at a what a Miliband government that rested on Alex Salmond for every Bill would look like.
And in a way, I sort of got it – if a little late. I recall watching Ed Miliband’s concession speech and thinking to myself: “As bad as I feel right at this moment, at least that guy didn’t become prime minister. Otherwise, we’d all be screwed.” The fear factor worked because, actually, it was in tune with reality. Whatever you think about David Cameron, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as I watched that Miliband speech he wouldn’t be as bad as the guy who after having lost almost all of Scotland and his shadow chancellor, thought it was a good idea to reference Milifandom within the first minute of his resignation oration.
Thing is, fear is deep; viscerally deep. Hope has a depth too – but it is much harder to reach. To give people genuine hope is very tricky. To scare them? Not nearly so hard. The world is ultimately a pretty scary place when you stop and think about it. If you have kids, it can be extra terrifying. Hope is also very, very hard to sustain, whereas fear can be kept up indefinitely. I say all of this because this is going to play out for us again and again in British politics for the next decade and a half at the very least.
The ultimate problem with Corbyn, even if you like his policies, is surely you must see what an open target he provides for the Tories in terms of the fear factor. We can all envision the whole thing now, already; even before he’s become leader. His dodgy foreign policy outlook, which his most visible supporters seem intent on defending as opposed to arguing against with a view to saving their greater project: the praising of his description of Saudi Arabia as a horrid dictatorship (which he’s right about), while skimming over his trying to pass the buck for Russian revanchism onto the west, like a dime store Nigel Farage. The worship of his defence of Nelson Mandela at a time when few would (which is commendable), used to brush over the fact that he seems to think the reign of Daesh across swathes of the Middle East is just as bad as western intervention in Syria might have turned out to be.
That’s before we get to his Home Affairs agenda, which has bits of it his supporters understandably point to as being popular – without taking into account the parts of what he wishes to achieve that are seriously unpopular. Actually as it happens, a lot of the parts of what he believes in that happens to not be popular with middle England I quite like (I share a lot of Jeremy’s views on immigration, as a for instance). But arguing for open borders and a libertarian society with a minimal state a la Douglas Carswell makes some sort of intellectually coherent sense, even if you disagree with large parts of it, while trying to make a point of letting everyone into the country while maintaining a massively open welfare state that anyone can tap into is bound to create tension – and pointedly, amongst the very people that Labour need to appeal to who will feel that tension first hand as well.
Anyway, in conclusion, I fear for this country. The thing for the Corbynistas to remember is, so do most other people living here, in one way or another.