As a working class member of the Labour Party, a minority of its membership which is mostly white and middle class, I have no time for the Corbyn Experiment and fact free comment pieces arguing for it. When I studied economics we theorised with data rather than not:
Currently, Corbyn and his supporters are at the denial and isolation stage of the five stages of grief. Their reaction, their grasping of a comfort blanket is understandable. However, the Labour Party’s Leadership electorate members are like the members of any party not the same as party voters.
Post-election research by Tim Bale and Paul Webb (Just who are these Labour Party members who will be choosing the new leader? ) into the party’s membership found the typical member was white, middle-class, left of where SNP supporters say they are and further left of the Lib Dems, but sharing many Lib Dem-ish preoccupations. They are pro-Europe, pro-immigration and libertarian on matters such as controls of speech and the media. They are also disproportionately, 40%, employed in the public sector. This is not the profile of the average Labour voter, and even less so of the people who need to vote Labour if it is ever to form another government.
Only someone completely out of touch with the wider electorate would think that paying for the offspring of mostly middle and higher income earners to go to university for free would resonate with the voters lost in May 2015. Labour did not lose support amongst the middle class. And, if tuition fees are such a big issue, how is it that, whilst Labour gained 12 seats from the Liberal Democrats, the Tories took 27? No one has a right to a university education least of all those who are willing to pay for it now.
If Corbyn wants to be considered radical then he needs to challenge, often middle class, vested interests and not cave into them. He might start by not using the middle class euphemism of tax evasion when referring to £80 billion of tax fraud. He could then go on to ask the universities if students are getting Value For Money from attending them.
Corbyn may win the leadership of the Labour Party, but he is going to face a lot of internal opposition to policies that put the middle class before the working class. Two thirds of young people do not go to university and Corbyn has nothing to offer them.
As for those “poor quality jobs”, how is it they only appeared when middle class youths found they might have to do them on graduation and not just during the long vacations? The working class have been doing them for decades. And what exactly is a low quality job? Why has Corbyn got nothing to say about the demographic time bomb?
And “growing poverty alongside gross inequality at the top”? I think a Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, and a fellow of Merton College is closer to the top than the bottom and may be more part of the problem than the solution. As of course is Diane Abbott, a graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge.
Corbyn is the most middle class candidate of the four and it is no surprise that he is getting the support of people who prefer not to look at why Labour lost. Their approach is of a piece with the prevalence of poor management practices across our economy. Leaping to conclusions and elevating hunches, riding hobby horses, putting personal obsessions and pet theories before evidence based approaches. Corbyn has been especially silent about how he would approach policy making, but his rash of announcements on a variety of issues suggests he prefers a Blair like approach. Incidentally, and despite the hype, Blair’s approach to policy making was not evidence based.
I guess, from reading Corbyn’s policy outlines, that evidence based policy approaches rarely come up in conversation over Islington dinner tables. If it is wrong to write policies that raise no hackles amongst Daily Mail editorial writers then it is equally wrong to write them to suit the readers of the Guardian and the likes of Owen Jones. Could the lack of discussion about challenges to the way things are done now and have been since the days of Thatcher be because of the composition of those who live in Islington North and who are in work in that constituency?
Firstly, 61.8% of the working age population of Islington North, those aged 16 to 64, have at least an NVQ4 or equivalent. The corresponding figure for the whole of Great Britain is 36.0%.
Secondly, 18.0% (10.3%) of those in work in Islington North are employed as managers, directors and senior officials; 35.8% (19.7%) are employed in professional occupations and 18.2% (14.1%) in associate professional and technical positions. 73.2% (44.3%) of all those in work in Islington North are employed in one or other of these forms of employment. The figures in brackets are for Great Britain as a whole.
Thirdly, the gross weekly median earnings for employees living in Islington North are £617.00 (£520.80) for full time workers. Male full time workers receive £659.60 (£561.50) and female full time workers £588.70 (£463.00). Hourly pay, excluding overtime, for full time workers is £16.47 (£13.15), it is £18.06 (£13.70) for male full time workers and £15.88 (£12.34) for female full time workers. The figures in brackets are, again, for Great Britain as a whole.
Corbyn’s constituents are definitely part of the problem. He seems nice and well intentioned, but he seems unwilling or unable to turn round and tell many of his middle class supporters, members of his own class, that they may need to make some sacrifices under the next Labour Government.
I have noticed how many middle class types are saying that it is better to lose with one’s principles intact than win having compromised them in some way. Easy to say, if such a principled stand involves no sacrifices on your part.
My class cannot afford the principles of those who do nicely, whoever wins a General Election. I am with Lloyd George, who said you may keep your principles shining brightly and not get your hands on the levers of power or get them a bit tarnished and get your hands on the levers of power and do something (to improve the condition of the working class).
I would rather a DLG than a Corbyn any day. The former did more in his political career for the working class than Corbyn ever will. In fact, what has Corbyn, the Labour Party’s tolerated rebel, its licensed court jester ever achieved?
As for Scotland, the SNP has campaigned in poetry, on the left and governs in prose, on the right:
Corbyn and the SNP offer middle class voters, Islington Man and Woman, the opportunity to ignore this injunction:
“If your heart is on the left, don’t carry your (share) portfolio on the right.”
(Updated) graffito from the French student riots of May 1968.
Corbyn could outflank the Tories and ukip, as well as putting the squeeze on the Green Party and the SNP, by proposing free university tuition fees and maintenance grants for those from low income families and a properly thought out, well funded programme of support to get them to university admissions interviews.
As the demand amongst middle and high income families for the traditional route to a degree is almost perfectly price inelastic then they may expect to continue paying their tuition fees unless they want to study subjects deemed to be in skill shortage areas.
And Corbyn should announce plans to spend £30 billion per annum on helping the two thirds of young people who do not go to university and people from other disadvantaged groups realise their potential.
Now that is what I call Socialism!