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.