“Corbyn owes less to his own merits than to the weaknesses of the alternatives…”

Before I sign off for the weekend, this from Chris Dillow on the Corbyn victory:

Was this a victory for Jeremy Corbyn or a defeat for the Westminster Bubble? I ask because of three different but related things.

One is organizational. Many New Labour figures supported the introduction (pdf)of registered supporters as a means of weakening the influence of activists and union leaders – of avoiding “stitch-ups by special interest groups”. It turns out that that innovation bit them on the arse as it was those registered supporters who delivered Corbyn’s victory.

A second sense is partly organizational and partly ideological. New Labour and the media promoted an ideology of “strong” leadership, the upshot of which is that leadership elections become high-stakes winner-take-all contests. If Labour had a more collegiate leadership system, the Bubble would at least have lost less in this election.

Thirdly, Corbyn’s success, I suspect, owes a lot to the perception that he was the anti-Bubble candidate. Without him, the leadership contest would have been an unspiring low-grade marketing exercise, uplifted only by the under-rated Liz Kendall’s ideas of empowerment and popular control. What the Bubble overlooked was that talk of appealing to the centre ground beg the question of whether the terms “left, right and centre” have a clear meaning any more. Many voters, for example, support both austerity and redistribution, and nationalization and immigration controls: does that make them left or right, or what?

In the fetid atmosphere of bland and unempirical marketing-speak of making Labour electable, Corbyn was a breath of fresh air. He asked questions that matter to those of us outside the Bubble: how to increase investment and living standards? I find his answers to those questions uninspiring. But when one of his rivals can only say “vote for me coz I’m a woman”, it’s easy to see why so many people think otherwise.

Let’s remind ourselves of a big fact. Corbyn has been an MP for 32 years and for 31 and three-quarters of those nobody talked of him as a potential Labour leader. That he now occupies that role owes less to his own merits than to the weaknesses of the alternatives.

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