Comment: Labour head into the unknown

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Jeremy Corbyn has tapped into a palpable hunger for something radically different, but it is unlikely that he can win over the country at large.

JEREMY Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election was expected, but few could have predicted its extraordinary scale, one that amounts to a wholesale rejection of the policies that delivered New Labour three successive terms in government.

Mr Corbyn has tapped into a palpable hunger for something radically different to the soundbites and smiles that permeate modern politics. He is a politician who stands for what he believes and means what he says. It is a reflection of the general air of disillusionment with modern politicians that these qualities form such a significant part of his popularity.

Nor can there be any doubt that his old-fashioned brand of socialism has struck a powerful chord with Labour supporters desperate for a distinct alternative to “Tory-lite” contenders such as Andy Burnham. Mr Corbyn is right to say that the size of his victory constitutes a clear mandate from within his party to present a fundamentally different vision to that put forward by David Cameron’s Conservatives. This is what he will now do. In fact, it is what he has been doing for the entirety of his 32 years as a member of Parliament.

Nevertheless, Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide win looks certain to prove a Pyrrhic victory, one that threatens to leave Labour out of power for a generation. He may have seduced students and activists, succeeded in bringing dyed-in-the-wool socialists out of hibernation, but his ability to convince the country at large is far less assured.

That is not to say that some of Mr Corbyn’s policies do not appeal to swathes of the British public. Many support his calls to renationalise the railways. Others may share his scepticism that the Trident nuclear deterrent is the best means of protecting the country given the changing nature of the global threat.

However, too many of the cornerstones of his prescription for Britain will provoke alarm and astonishment as they run so contrary to the common sense approach that has put the country back on an even keel after years of Labour blundering.

His desire to finance extra spending by printing more money would prove ruinous to the economy, leading to inflation, soaring interest rates and defaulted mortgages. His pledge to raise taxes would hurt middle income families and scare off investors, while in his hands the welfare bill would once again spiral out of control.

Mr Corbyn’s dalliances with the likes of Sinn Fein and Hamas are well chronicled and will not be given up. It is inconceivable that right-thinking voters would elect a Prime Minister with such questionable friends.

Elections are won from the centre ground and, for David Cameron, Labour’s lurch to the extreme Left now offers an opportunity to increase the Tories’ majority at the next election by occupying the territory the party has abandoned and exploiting its divisions.

Indeed, Mr Corbyn’s first task will be to prevent his party from fracturing along the faultlines that run between its New Labour and Old Labour factions. The refusal to serve in a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet by the likes of Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, one of the party’s rising stars, is an indication of the eruptions to come.

In the longer term, Labour’s new leader must stop it lapsing into a party of protest and prove that it can be a credible party of government. However, to do so will demand something which Jeremy Corbyn appears incapable of delivering: compromise.

Racing ahead

Ambition of Tour de Yorkshire

HISTORY is littered with major sporting events which promised to deliver lasting legacies, only to leave behind a handful of memories and a mountain of debt.

It is therefore to the credit of those who brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire that an annual, high profile cycle race through the county was signed, sealed and delivered even before the world’s top riders gathered in the shadow of Leeds Town Hall for Le Grand Départ.

Now the Prime Minister has stated his support for the Tour de Yorkshire and the plans to grow next year’s race as the Government looks to double the number of journeys people make by bicycle. It is to be hoped that this backing translates into funding that will ensure that next year’s instalment of the race is even better.

Relations between organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, headed by the redoubtable Sir Gary Verity, and the powers-that-be within British cycling have not always run smooth – not least due to Yorkshire’s chutzpah in securing the Tour de France from under the noses of the official Edinburgh bid.

However, this region proved itself with the grandest of Grands Départs and the success of May’s inaugural Tour de Yorkshire showed this was no fluke. And, if cycling is to continue to grow in popularity, there is no better place to showcase its appeal than Yorkshire.