Originally osted yesterday on Liberal Democrat Voice
Well, it looks like I’m going to have rivulets of egg yolk running down my face in a couple of hours. I have pretty consistently said through the Labour leadership contest that there’s no way Jeremy Corbyn is going to win. Labour members would flirt a bit with him but when it came to it, would plump for a safer option. They might get their ballot paper out with every intention of voting for him, but when it comes to actually putting that number 1 on the paper, some invisible force would make them bottle out of it at the last minute. It’s a bit like what a friend of mine calls “Ouija board voting.”
Yesterday’s London mayoral selection results show a pretty clear victory for a Sadiq Khan, a candidate backed by Ken Livingstone, so the logical conclusion is that Corbyn benefitted from their votes.
So how should Liberal Democrats react to a Corbyn victory? Well, seriously, we have our own house to put in order so we should get on with doing that. It doesn’t matter who leads the other parties if we can’t explain to the voters what we bring to the political smorgasbord. <!–more–>
Secondly, let’s not be another voice at the back of a long and powerful queue castigating Corbyn and making him out to be the Grim Reaper for all civilisation. It was bad enough when the tabloid press turned on Ed Miliband, the bacon sandwich incident being the finest example of the paucity of political debate in this country. Sure, Corbyn has hung out with some very dodgy people and has made some fairly questionable comments. It’s not like our government has dealings with dodgy dictators or anything, is it? I find it difficult to stomach lowering a flag on the passing of a Saudi king whose country’s record on human rights is appalling. Why are we so cosy with Bahrain?
One of the things that we as liberals should be very wary of is where power lies and we should seek to limit excessive use of power. A powerful media owned by a few rich corporations holds tremendous and disproportionate sway. We need to be pointing that out as a major flaw in the way things work in our country – and on that we actually agree with Corbyn. When the media and the government go too far in having a go at Corbyn, we should call them out for it.
When we oppose Corbyn’s policies, which will be a lot of the time, we should do so in a thoughtful manner that plays the ball not the man. The way we dealt with Labour during the coalition years was ineffective and frustrating, demanding apologies for their economic failures and other such gimmicks. We need to have conversations that interest and stimulate the voters rather than resort to lazy brickbats. We need to articulate our positive liberal vision and show why it rather socialism, laissez-faire, nationalism and isolationism is what this country and the world, in fact, needs. Freedoms face massive challenges from authoritarianism whether from right or left, more so than at any time I can remember, and we need to be there fighting for our values.