The shifting centre: is Corbyn now setting the agenda?

By Max Jeffery

“We are now the political mainstream,” he spoke, nodding nervously, as if trying to justify the comment to himself. As with every sentence of Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech, it was met with an elated applause.

His recent success is less the consequence of his party’s support than the appalling failure of the Conservative Government to govern with gusto, and to reinvent itself after a terrible election result. Jeremy Corbyn is not the mainstream.

His recent success is less the consequence of his party’s support than the appalling failure of the Conservative Government to govern with gusto

The Conservative’s own party conference gave them this opportunity. People hoped for a revolutionary housing policy, a commitment to confident foreign policy, and to cutting-edge industrial strategy. Instead it was marred by hollow platitudes and embarrassing politicking.

This was just the opening Corbyn’s Labour needed – attacks on all fronts.

The next battle lines were drawn over Universal Credit. It is a genuinely good policy that should’ve sailed through Parliament. Again, it has become marred. This time, over a 55p-a-minute call charge that should never have been included.

Another opening for Corbyn’s Labour: an embarrassing climbdown was followed by a unanimous passing of a motion to pause the policy.

Over time, unless addressed, the Conservative’s failures will indeed allow the centre-ground of British politics to creep to the left.

Yet, luckily for the Government, support from the country seems to be holding relatively steadfast. Polling has dipped and jumped a couple of percent each week. There should be no complacency however – they teeter on the edge of a bunged-up Government, one that would struggle to pass key legislation. If they forget these failures, Corbyn’s opportunism will become the agenda, and people will listen. Their failures give him the chance to advocate re-nationalisation, to push for a National Investment Bank, to force a massive increase in government spending. Over time, unless addressed, the Conservative’s failures will indeed allow the centre-ground of British politics to creep to the left.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is not yet the mainstream, they are a loud and dangerous voice against the Conservatives, yanking the rope in the political tug-of-war a little closer to the left.

Image: Collective voice via Flickr

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