My political leanings are not a secret in my day job, so naturally as the resident Socialist on the dealing floor, I spent much of Friday being told that I was smug, a Corbyn Fanboy and a raving commie. At least 2 of those things are pretty true.
I was certainly delighted with the result. Whilst I voted for Owen Smith in the last leadership election, I am ever a labour loyalist. So long as the party remains functionally accountable to the working class through its union affiliations and membership structure, I’ll be a fan. Policy wise, I am not particularly discriminating. I don’t think governments can do all that much to encourage economic activity – though they can certainly make economic mistakes. Due to Labours commitments to raise government spending, at a time when real yields on gilts are sharply negative whilst inflation and wage growth remain low, I thought that voting for them made good economic sense. Head and heart were both behind the Labour Party.
And indeed, I’m excited. I’m excited for the same reason I was in 2015 when the “Milifandom” lit up twitter with their irreverant fandom of Ed Milliband – although ultimately Labour did poorly. I was excited too when I met people canvassing who weren’t getting their news from the newspapers, and had formed some pretty eclectic opinions that were markedly to the left of where the media claim the “centre ground” in politics is. And I’m excited still by the dominance of left wing political ideas on social media, to which they seem very well suited. The enormous surge of people joining the labour party has been joyful to see – and at total odds with the prevailing narrative of political apathy pushed by most pundits, papers and media outlets. There is, following this result, quite a tangible feeling of a surge in support for the left that, frankly, feels fantastic after years of being told my ideas are irrelevant.
Compared to this, Jeremy is frankly a little uninspiring – in the sense that he is very much a product of these powerful forces, not a driver. The huge mandate with which he won the two leadership elections he has participated in seems to me more to do with the huge influx of new political engaged people joining the labour party than any great personal traits that he brought to the campaigns. His ideas are broadly consistent with left wing ideas, but they are not brilliant and novel. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with this. In my view, leaders should reflect the interests of their followers, and should channel their efforts effectively. This can be done perfectly well without the meglomiacal flair that many bring to leadership roles – humility, consistency and empathy are all wonderful traits that Jeremy appears to have in spades, but they are not the stuff history is made of.
Now my most fervent wish is for all those who joined the party for the sake of Jeremy’s leadership to remain engaged. The mass movement, the buzz, the feeling of progress is the real story here – and the sooner that message can be made to resonate with people the better. For we face trying times. The UK is likely to underperform economically as Brexit related uncertainty eats into demand from consumers who will want to save for troubles ahead, and firms who will hold off investing and building inventory for similar reasons. The fecklessness of Theresa May’s government will almost certainly exacerbate this – and the almost inevitable failure of our talks with the EU will likely lead to further political turmoil. It is the vital duty of the new labour joiners to form a movement capable of facing all of this down, winning the next election outright, and then governing well. It is all exceptionally exciting stuff. The sooner we can get over our fetishisation of the “dear leader” the better.