There was a thing called Corbynism

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Image courtesy of UK Parliament

On 12 December, as the exit poll was announced, a victorious Boris Johnson drew the final act of 2019’s electoral drama to a close. At the final count, Labour suffered the most devastating loss since the 1930s, whereas the Tories sat on a majority of 80 - the largest Conservative win since Margaret Thatcher.

In the wake of the general election, we have been treated to a flurry of apologies and toys-out-of-pram moments by both Labour MPs and their supporters. Perhaps the most puzzling of which comes from the man himself, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In an interview with Channel 4, Corbyn said that “there is no such thing as Corbynism…there is only socialism,” as if there is nothing unique about his party’s self-righteous politics.

If we are to take Corbyn at his word, it would appear that the whole country has been the victim of a political apparition. Victims of what Hungarians might call a délibáb - a collective illusion that disappears under close inspection.

But upon close inspection, the living, breathing political reality of Corbynism doesn’t vanish into thin air. Indeed, the calm after the electoral storm allows for a certain clarity that brings the true nature of the Labour Party’s politics into focus.

The spectre of Corbynism loomed large back in 2015 when Labour’s grassroots lurched to the left and elected Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to lead the party. Neither had much love for the place that they proposed to govern - that much was clear to anyone aware of their anti-British sympathies.

Under their leadership, the party completely detached itself from the worldly lives of its working-class patrons. It preferred to struggle for the recognition of the metropolitan elite, than to address itself to the anxieties of its traditional voter base.

On immigration and free movement, all Corbyn said in the run-up to the election was that there would be “a lot of movement.” A message that offered no comfort to those working-class voters - and there are a lot of them - that were worried about the economic impact of unskilled labour, or the stress that sudden population growth would put on public services.

While the party’s emphasis on the excesses of corporate capitalism was well-received - as Corbyn and McDonnell are at pains to tell us - their proposal to nationalise broadband and distribute it freely was received with all the enthusiasm of an awkward bribe.

The final nail in the coffin, though, was Brexit. On this issue, Corbynism amounted to little more than a failure to play politics; the Labour leader’s promise to remain neutral looked more like betrayal at the hands of a patronising old luvvie than an honest attempt at reconciliation.

Corbynism was thus far more than just a call for socialism, despite what the man himself insists. Its political manifestation - from the grassroots right through to the shadow cabinet - endorsed a wide variety of ‘woke’ ideas. Ideas that were all too often alien to the lived experience of the traditional Labour voter.

Let’s be honest, the political expression of Corbynism was idealistic, misjudged and resentful; sensationalist and shrill; and perhaps most damningly of all, anti-British. But it was also a complete failure at the polls, and its demise would be welcomed by large swathes of the voting public.

If Labour are to stand a chance of reinventing themselves as a political force, then they must distance themselves from the worst excesses of ‘woke’ culture and reconnect with their alienated voters.

Labour supporters must recognise that there was a thing called Corbynism, and if the party is to return to power, then it must be consigned to the dustbin of political ideas.

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