The unlikely rise of Corbynmania

Few across the political spectrum would have foreseen the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious contender to lead the Labour party. Piper Terrett reports.


The Tories can't afford to be gleeful over Jeremy Corbyn

As the battle for the Labour leadership intensifies, left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as a "serious contender", writes The Times. "Only against a backdrop of stupefying blandness" could this have happened. Only five years ago, the MP for Islington North, like George Galloway, presented a show on Press TV, Iran's English-language propaganda station. Corbyn also wants the Bank of England to print money to pay for infrastructure and believes Britain "has not learnt its lessons from Karl Marx".

Some blame hard-left activists and Conservative mischief-making, but the real blame for Corbyn's success lies with his rivals' failure to deal openly with his views. Yvette Cooper refuses to "contradict Mr Corbyn directly", while instead of "dismantling this farrago of vague hard-left sentiments", Andy Burnham appeases it. Liz Kendall has confronted Corbyn, but her reliance on copying and pasting Tony Blair-speak alienates Labour voters.

Until last week, I thought that "Corbynmania" was a "silly-season construct" and that there wasn't a "cat in hell's chance" of him being elected, says Blairite writer Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph. But now I've rejoined the Labour party so that I can vote for him. Why? Because the truth is that the left doesn't want Corbyn to win. A Corbyn shadow cabinet would contain no Blairites and his policies could not be "derailed" by "neo-con' shadow ministers".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

In short, the left would "have its party back" and as they led it "off a cliff" there would be no one else to blame. This is the only way to resolve the power struggle betweenthe left and Labour's modernisers to "call the left's bluff". The left reckonsCorbyn is what the British people want. "Let's elect him Labour leader and see."

The party is "descending into an ideological civil war", agrees Labour MP Tristram Hunt, also in The Daily Telegraph. Corbyn's "siren call" must be resisted. The party was founded as a "governing party, not a left-wing debating society" Corbyn's "reheated Bennism" will "never deliver".

Yet the Labour centrist in all of us, the one who wants to "paper over all cracks and unite the party", currently "longs for death", says Michael Chessum in the New Statesman. Even Cooper and Burnham, who "preach unity and triangulation", don't seem to believe it.

Labour lost the election because Ed Balls and Ed Miliband accepted austerity while "claiming to offer a lukewarm alternative". The party maintains this "clumsy contortionism" Harriet Harman's abstention on the Welfare Bill was "political dishonesty" designed to make voters think Labour MPs agree with the cuts when they don't. Labour must either embrace its 1990s neo-liberal premises or reject them.

The Tories can't afford to be gleeful about Corbyn-mania, says Matthew D'Ancona in The Guardian. With his small majority, David Cameron needs a "plausible Labour opponent" to maintain Tory discipline. And savvy Conservatives worry that this "bearded 66-year-old socialist" has "stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics", presenting the left's ideals as if tailored to our age.What if Corbyn's "moment in the sun" is not an anomaly but the "start of something; and if so, of what"?

Piper Terrett is a financial journalist and author. Piper graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1997 and worked for Germaine Greer and for Adam Faith’s Money Channel before embarking on a career in business journalism. 

She has worked for most top financial titles, including Investors Chronicle, Shares magazine, Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money. She lectures part-time at London Metropolitan University and is the author of four books.