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Jeremy Corbyn Is Unfit To Be Prime Minister

Is Corbyn the saviour of Britain’s downtrodden or a fringe fanatic who is morally unfit to be Prime Minister?

When Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership he was shrugged off as an unelectable oddball in a scruffy suit who would doom Labour to certain defeat. But last year’s shock election result forces us all to consider the real possibility of a Corbyn-led government – a prospect which has some jumping for joy and others quaking in their boots. Intelligence Squared is bringing together some of Britain’s top political minds to debate whether Corbyn is potentially the saviour of Britain’s downtrodden or a fringe fanatic who is morally unfit to be Prime Minister.

According to his critics, Corbyn leads a dangerous gang of hard-left zealots who cosy up to enemies of the West and are hell-bent on rehashing the disastrous politics of the 1970s. He has turned a blind eye to the antisemitism festering away within the Labour Party and has crafted a foreign policy which would make Putin proud. And when it comes to the economy, his old-school socialist programme of borrowing, tax hikes and renationalisation could be catastrophic. By pulling Labour away from the centre ground, Corbyn has gravely damaged one of Britain’s great political parties. He is a danger to this country, and is not fit to lead it.

That’s the contention of the Corbyn-bashers. But what answers do they have to the crises that have plagued Britain since the 2008 financial crash? Inequality is rampant and wages have been squeezed for a decade, while many millennials struggle to get a foot on the property ladder. Homelessness and food bank usage have hit record highs across Britain, and each winter brings a new NHS crisis. Our current economic model has clearly failed, say the Corbynistas, so why not try something different? Corbynism isn’t the socialism of the 1970s – it’s a whole new set of radical, transformative policies and a vision for social justice that has enthused an entire generation of young people. Give Corbyn a chance, and he’ll build a Britain for the many, not the few.


For the motion

Howard Jacobson

Novelist and journalist

Novelist and journalist, best known for The Finkler Question which won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. He is a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Anna Soubry

Former Conservative MP who was leader of Change UK, which campaigned for a second referendum on the UK’s European Union membership

Conservative MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire from 2010 to 2019. She was Minister for Small Business until July 2016 when she returned to the back benches. A vocal supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union, she backed the Remain campaign and in December 2017 was one of 11 Conservative rebels who voted in favour of Parliament being guaranteed a vote on the final Brexit deal. Soubry resigned from the Conservative Party in February 2019 and joined The Independent Group, which later became Change UK. In June that year she became the party’s leader. After Change UK failed to win any seats at the December 2019 general election, Soubry announced that the Independent Group for Change would be disbanded. 
Against the motion

Ash Sarkar

Writer, journalist and broadcaster

Writer, journalist and broadcaster. She is Senior Editor at Novara Media, a left-leaning online news outlet, where her work focuses on race, gender, class and power. She lectures in political theory at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam.

Chris Williamson

Labour MP for Derby North

Labour MP for Derby North. He is a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn on the backbenches, and was described by the New Statesman during the 2017 general election as ‘the most pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate in England’s most marginal constituency’. He has described Labour MPs who are critical of Corbyn’s leadership as ‘malcontents’ who were ‘completely out of step with party members’.

Sir Anthony Seldon

Leading contemporary historian, educationalist, commentator and political author

One of Britain's leading contemporary historians, educationalists, commentators and political authors. Head of Epsom College since February 2023, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham from 2015 to 2020 after being a transformative head for 20 years of Brighton College and then Wellington College. He is author or editor of over 45 books on contemporary history, including the inside books on the last six prime ministers, was the co-founder and first director of the Institute for Contemporary British History, is cofounder of Action for Happiness, was honorary historical adviser to 10 Downing Street for ten years, was the UK's Special Representative for Education to Saudi Arabia, was Deputy Chair of The Times Education Commission, was a member of the Government's First World War Culture Committee, was chair of the Comment Awards, is a director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is the President of IPEN, (International Positive Education Network), is Chair of the National Archives Trust and is initiator and deputy chair of the ‘commission on the centre’ run by the Institute for government.