I am exactly the sort of person you’d expect to like Jeremy Corbyn. I come from a relatively middle class family, I collect The Smiths’ records and I’m a broke vegetarian student. But I do not like Jeremy Corbyn, and at university I’ve realised this is a rather unpopular opinion to hold. There are many reasons I don’t like him; from the way he’s handled anti-semitism and misogyny in the Labour Party to the incompetence of the team around him. However, I feel that our main disagreement lies, quite simply, in our politics.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did like Jeremy at first. I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since I first became engaged with politics at the age of 16, and until recently I certainly belonged to what my grandma would have termed the ‘loony left.’ I went to anti-austerity marches and cheered for Russell Brand, Owen Jones and, you guessed it, Jeremy Corbyn. Getting a selfie with him was an essential addition to my Instagram. Why then, did I end up voting for Liz Kendall and (reluctantly) Owen Smith in the 2 leadership elections of the past 13 months?
Having been politically active for a few years prior to attending university, I was not ignorant to the struggles that people face as a result of the actions of a Tory government. Having said that, living independently for the first time and preparing to do so made me a lot more aware of the effects of politics on my own life. Over the past 2 years I’ve struggled with zero-hours contracts, mental health problems and the cost of living at university (including rent, food and travel) – all things a Labour government would, I believe, improve.
I think I became a centrist when I realised that it was the only way to win. New Labour proposed economic efficiency whilst promising to deliver social justice, and it won them 3 elections. I don’t deny that mistakes were made along the way, but prioritising the centre ground was a vote winner. Many of Corbyn’s supporters claim that principles are more important than winning, or in the words of Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, winning is only important to ‘political elites.’ I don’t think this could be further from the truth. Labour winning and gaining power is important to every single person who has been affected by the bedroom tax, by maintenance grants being cut or by tuition fees rising – even if they don’t realise it.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, for the first time in history, a far-left party will win big in Britain. Maybe there will be enough people who consider themselves centrists, but think a far-left Labour government is still better than a hard-right Tory one. With the Tories polling at 43%, I have to be honest – it doesn’t look like it’s heading that way. So until Jeremy Corbyn can prove me wrong, I’m staying firmly stuck in the middle (with, or without, you).