Thursday, 1 September 2016

Jez and Trump have more in common than you can ever imagine

So it’s all over, bar the enthusiastic shouting of Corbyn supporters towards the end of September.

We can wait for the fat lady to sing, but let’s not kid ourselves that her tune is going to sound anything other than the death of the Labour Party.

The latest YouGov polling gives Corbyn a massive lead over his challenger Owen Smith. And YouGov has a pretty good track record in internal party elections. The figures may be arguable, but I fear the result isn’t.

When you read the small print of the survey, there are some truly astonishing things to take on board. Smith, for instance, is ahead by a large margin among long-standing members. But Corbyn is the choice of the people who’ve flooded in since September 2015, specifically to support him.

This is political contest as game show.

The red team tries to sign up more people than the pink team. And the pink team tries to confuse existing red team members by pretending that pink is really red. As a result, some contestants may run over to the wrong side of the political assault course. 

Both the teams have a joker to play. Unfortunately, in each case, it happens to be their respective candidate.

Of course, it’s relatively easy for Corbynistas to round up the flotsam and jetsam of the British left with a rallying cry of ‘vote for Jez’. Rather less easy for sensible types to persuade their friends to sign up for Smith. After all, who wants to buy a ticket to board the Titanic when the iceberg has been sighted and you’ve already done some back-of-an-envelope calculations on the life-boat situation?

There’s another snippet from the YouGov poll worth reflecting on. A substantial minority of people voting for Corbyn admit that he is not competent.

Whoa!

Hold your horses just a second. Let’s spell that out in S L O W motion.

Around 40% of the people who say they’re voting for Jezza know him to be incompetent, but are voting for him anyway.

This is beyond crazy.

Support for the man is tribal, irrational and doing irreparable damage, not only to the Labour Party but also to the overall health of British democracy. And, no, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Let’s face it.  If there is no effective opposition in a two-party system, you are left with a one-party system.

The more the madness continues, the more parallels I see with the Trump phenomenon in the United States.  Many supporters of the US presidential hopeful – when confronted by their candidate’s gaffes, extremist opinions and lack of grasp of reality – simply shrug their shoulders. They’re going to vote for the guy anyway.

Why?

Because he’s Trump.

And for Trump, read Jez. While as personalities and politicians, they may well be poles apart, their supporters adhere to the same essential principles:

Don’t trust the media. They’re out to get us.

Don’t worry that the political establishment is against us. They would be.

Don’t worry that we have no coherent programme. We know what we’re against and that’s all that matters.

Don’t let them attack our man. He is a visionary and we are going to vote for him anyway.

Jez and Trump are insurgents who prosper from the alienation and anomie created by globalisation. Bizarrely, they have much more in common than you could ever imagine, including an irrational loyalist fan base, very thick skins and a complete lack of concern for what people think of them. Not to mention a love of merchandise.

But Jez is the poor relation.

He is dime-store Trump without the charisma, without the money, without the popular support.  

Where are we headed? It’s difficult at the moment to tell. British and American politics are fracturing left and right in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

Ed Balls and Liz Kendall – representatives of the Brownite and Blairite wings of New Labour respectively – have both said that moderates must stay and fight after a second Corbyn victory. But their voices will be swamped, Jez’s position entrenched and then reprisals will quickly ensue.

The only answer will be creation of a new, credible centre-left party. More on that soon.

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