Sunday, 13 September 2015

Are Conservatives Afraid of Corbyn?

Having just seen Jeremy Corbyn win the Labour leadership, wildly against the odds, many on the left are confidently boasting that the Conservatives are running scared; quaking in their little Tory boots at the prospect of facing "real opposition". Conservatives I've met seem to be hiding any such fear behind a mask of jubilation, nonetheless wise heads are urging caution about the real threat posed by Corbyn.

So what's the truth: are Tories really afraid of Corbyn? And should we be?

In my view, the Conservatives are now engaged in a game of Russian roulette - there's only a small chance of losing, but if we do lose, it will create a horrifying mess.

Conservatives certainly do believe that our chances of winning the 2020 General Election have been boosted by Corbyn's win, and that's doubly true if we face a Labour Party still led by Corbyn in 2020. Most of the Labour Party seems to believe that, too, supported by all the polling evidence - British voters have just rejected Ed Miliband because he didn't look like a Prime Minister but did look like opening the spending taps and losing control of the public finances. Given that, it seems unlikely that they'd opt for Corbyn.

But politics is a fickle business and surprise events can derail even the neatest of plans. There is always a danger that the Conservative government could blunder, turning public opinion decisively against it. We also shouldn't forget that governments lose votes and seats while in office, and the fact that Cameron bucked history this year is no guarantee we can repeat the performance in 2020. That opens the door to Prime Minister Corbyn, and a Britain ruled by his nasty band of Trotskyite fellow travellers, possibly backed by the SNP. It's no use saying it can't happen, because 3 months ago everyone agreed that he couldn't win the Labour leadership, and look where that got us.

So the odds of Conservative victory in 2020 have shortened and Conservatives are rightly buoyant, but the stakes are suddenly much higher as the cost of defeat has increased dramatically. We are right to have a new spring in our step, but we would be wise to tread carefully.