“I welcome the PM’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”, Jeremy Corbyn stated on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of Theresa May’s shock announcement of a snap election likely to take place on June 8th.
The focus will now naturally turn to Corbyn and Labour, lagging in the polls and a party in total disarray. Will Corbyn be able to have an impact on the election? Will he make up some lost ground? Will he even stand? These are all burning questions which will be swirling around the Labour party over the next six weeks.
The Conservative government under May’s stewardship appear hell bent on a ‘hard Brexit’, which has never really been priced in by either the currency or the stock markets. The fact that this eventuality has never been priced in will have traders and large institutions on edge about the terms and eventual outcome of Brexit. Foreign exchange strategists including Deutsche Bank see cable falling to at least 1.15 this year, mainly off the back of May’s tough stance with Brussels.
Jeremy Corbyn entered the mainstream political arena in 2015 as a breath of fresh air, a straight-talking man of the people, but now represents nothing more than a false dawn for an ailing left wing support. If this is to be Corbyns’ swansong, then there could be a number of ways he can provide strong opposition to a seemingly unchallenged Tory government. Brexit has caused divisions. Naturally, this would have occurred had the result gone either way, but with such division comes opportunity for Corbyn and Labour.
Corbyn, a ‘Remain’ campaigner, will likely want to pursue as soft a Brexit as possible or perhaps even stop the process altogether, if he goes with the former then he is likely to gain some support. Even the staunchest conservatives will understand the dangers of a dramatic ‘Brexit’, with severe threats to the financial hub of London and with new and enterprising bilateral trade agreements flattering to deceive. Corbyn certainly does not have the upper hand, but he has a number of viable stances which could see him and Labour make up some much needed lost ground.
Behind the Times?
Corbyn’s biggest enemy is often himself and his biggest supporters. The Unite Union poster boy is often criticised for being the figurehead of an outdated movement. It is true that workers Union memberships have fallen globally, not just due to apathy, but more structural economic changes and the decline in the manufacturing sector.
The OECD statistics show that such union membership has fallen by 40% since 1979 in the UK, from over ten million to roughly six million in 2017. Corbyn’s optimistic policies appear to be born out of this declining support that Labour could always rely upon. It simply is not good enough for a Labour leader to jump up on a soapbox and vow to redistribute wealth anymore.
Labour and the Economy
While Corbyn’s ideas of a ‘Digital Democracy’ and a National Investment Bank are not timid proposals, they appear more utopian than practical and pioneering.
Despite this, a recent poll from ComRes shows how Corbyn may be making small gains from some of his more recent realistic proposals. His idea of a £10/hour minimum wage by 2020 was well received, with 71% agreeing it would be a good policy.
Similarly, there was support for a proposed increase in the highest band of income tax to be taken up from 45% to 50%. This indicates that Jeremy Corbyn is now focusing on more achievable and agreeable policies that can be quickly and simply rolled out.
Taking on the Tories
While this is perhaps a minor breakthrough for Corbyn and Labour, the task ahead of them is enormous. YouGov has the Conservatives ahead by 21% points. Realistically, with just over a month to prepare for a general election, Corbyn can only hope to cling onto as many Labour seats as possible, with many predicting a bloodbath.
The fragility of the economy and the pound will ease Labour’s fears in the medium term, as they will look to provide strong opposition while the terms of Brexit are thrashed out.
For Corbyn himself, it’s a last chance saloon, a leadership consistently under threat of coup with both successful and unsuccessful revolts in recent history. A strong and united Labour is the only Labour with the power to claim back power in Westminster, a Labour never seen under Corbyn.