I think it can, and probably with a landslide which will be as big a shock as the 1945 General Election which brought the leftwing Clem Attlee Labour government to power, when everyone thought the Conservatives would win because its leader, Winston Churchill, had brought us thru the Second World War.
However as long as the majority of Labour MPs are voting they have ‘no confidence’ in their leader and demanding he resign, and threatening yearly challenges to his leadership, the Party is going to have difficulty not only winning elections, but successfully providing a united Opposition to the Tories in Parliament.
Nobody expected Corbyn to win the leadership. I was amazed myself, and so was Jeremy. There is a groundswell of popular opinion which is largely unrecognized by the media, by MPs, by the Establishment generally. Not only unrecognized, they hate it, they fear it. Jeremy Corbyn has long been associated with protest against the Establishment. The last time a similar man led the Labour Party was in the early 1980s when fellow CND-er Michael Foot was leader. Similarly to now he was criticized and ridiculed constantly by the media, and Labour MPs, led by the Gang of Four, attacked him and broke away to form the SDP. We know where that eventually led, to joining with the Liberal Party to become the Liberal Democrats and then going into coalition with the most rightwing Tory government since Margaret Thatcher’s!
Why did Maggie win the 1983 General Election? Was it because Michael Foot was Labour leader at the time? Only indirectly if you take into account the Labour Party had split, as it is in danger of doing now, with the formation of the SDP (Social Democratic Party). But the biggest factor was the Falklands/Malvinas war in 1982 which boosted jingoism and Maggie Thatcher’s popularity amongst much of the population, but also of course the anti-Tory vote was split.
We are in a different position today. First of all we have the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party) which took nearly all the seats in Scotland. This really is not a problem for Labour, since either Scotland will hold another referendum on independence after Brexit and leave the UK, or if it stays in the UK the SNP will back up a leftwing Labour government in many of its policies, along with Plaid Cymru and the Greens and some of the Northern Ireland parties (if they stay in the UK).
The real question is whether Labour needs to win back people who voted Tory, and I think that would be an unmitigated disaster. We saw what happened under Tony Blair and New Labour, which Maggie Thatcher described as her greatest achievement. A Tory Party MK II, which imposed Thatcherite policies, privatized as much as it could, and took us into an illegal war in Iraq which in turn led to the rise of ISIS. Never again!
Labour must seek to win votes from those who never voted before because they were too young or too apathetic, or because there seemed little difference between the two major parties. Millions voted for the Greens and Ukip in the 2015 General Election, but this only resulted in one MP each under our first-past-the-post electoral system. Labour must try to win over these voters too. Ukip plays on fears of immigration, so Labour must tackle this issue, but in any case even if Brexit goes ahead it seems likely there will be a Norway-type arrangement whereby the UK gets access to the single market but in return has to accept freedom of movement to/from EU countries. So what does Ukip do then?
Labour can deal with the problem by enforcing the minimum wage for a start, and by ending austerity and the housing crisis. A leftwing Labour government would defuse the explosive issue whereby immigrants are seen to have caused loss of jobs and the housing crisis. It is the Tory government and New Labour before that which have caused these things, and the international banks.
Jeremy Corbyn was thrown in at the deep end. He had no experience of Cabinet government, he has had to learn on the job. He has brought a fresh approach to the job of leader of the Opposition, such as his novel way of asking questions on a Wednesday in the House, putting ordinary working-class people in the forefront. Given half a chance by his MPs I believe Jeremy Corbyn could capture the enthusiasm of millions of the electorate.
MPs who refuse to support him may be de-selected, but anyway many new MPs need to be selected before 2020 because of constituency boundary changes. So by the time of the next General Election there could be a very different Parliamentary Labour Party, the present one being representative of New Labour. Hopefully many of the present MPs will come to reaize that Labour can win elections under Corbyn if the Party is united.
Also Party policy is under constant review, such as the ongoing defense review. It could well be that Annual Conference, castrated by Tony Blair, will once again be the body which makes policy democratically, and this could easily mean many of Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas will be adopted, such as abandoning Trident for instance, also nationalizing the railways and public utilities. The idea of cooperatives is becoming to the forefront as a much more efficient and successful alternative to wholesale nationalization. These are exciting new times, and it is sad if fuddy old stick-in-the-muds who want to preserve the neo-liberal traditions of Thatcher and Blair try to smother the mood in much of the country for a new kind of politics. Just take housing for a start – more council homes need to be built for those who cannot afford to buy, and if the right to buy council homes continues than all homes sold must be replaced. Private rents need to be controlled, and the right to buy extended to private landords’ tenants.
Jeremy Corbyn is not unelectable. He is looking more like a great Labour Party leader and future Prime Minister every day, but make no mistake, the Establishment hate him and fear him. Every dirty trick in the book will be used to stop him getting anywhere near Number 10. But the sweeping changes in Labour and politics is not confined to one man, if Jeremy is out of the picture, others will rise to replace him.
Finally, is the main objective to get elected to government or to stick to certain principles? Hopefully we can do both, but for me principles ALWAYS take priority. If you make being elected to government your only priority, then that’s when you are likely to take your cue from the Murdoch media and end up with a New Labour type Thatcherite government. I have voted in the past Green, Communist and Liberal Democrat. I was once a member of the Communist Party, and of the even smaller Left Unity Party started by Ken Loach. These smaller parties never stood a chance of being elected to government on their own, but I voted for them or joined them out of principle. Sadly the LIb-Dems let me down when they betrayed the trust of many who voted for them by going into coalition with the Tories and backing many of their policies.
I want a party which sticks to its principles, and it is then up to the Labour Party to convince the electorate, and its MPs, that this is the correct course. We have to lead, not follow the herd who in turn are led by the media barons representing the Establishment.