As media outlets and unrecognisable Labour MPs line up to call Corbyn ‘unelectable’, Tyler McNally looks at double standards and a twisted usage of the term ‘unelectable’ to get away from the issue that it doesn’t matter how many members vote for you, rich people still find anti-austerity positions ‘unelectable’.
David Cameron, a man who was made Prime Minister last year with less than 25% of the vote, formally stood down today to make way for Theresa May. May is the new Tory leader, and has ascended to the position of PM without anyone outside of the Parliamentary Conservative Party (their MPs) casting a single vote.
No one seems to have a problem with the unelected May. In the same week that Sky News revealed the Conservative Party membership made up 0.2% of the wider UK population, the news outlet slammed Corbyn for his lack of principles after – despite winning with 250,000 votes back in September – he ignored a non-binding vote of no confidence that was held by the Parliamentary Labour Party.
It appears that it is perfectly fine for 0.2% of the population (I’d imagine this is a disproportionately wealthy 0.2%) to choose the prime minister based on a questionable 23% mandate. But it isn’t okay for someone elected with an overwhelming mandate from the membership of the Labour Party to be their leader when less than 1% of the membership asks him to go. Who separates the electable from the unelectable? What does representation or accountability mean when prime ministers are chosen by less than 400 people and, across the hall, leaders with huge mandates are pushed out because the 1% who want it are more legitimate than 250,000 members?
Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last September forced anti-austerity politics back to the forefront of Westminster politics, as well as mainstream media coverage, and gave energy to people who opposed the lethal austerity policies of the Tories. As much as the John Rentouls, Poly Toynbees and Angela Eagles have tried to make this about Corbyn the person, the reality is that this is and has always been about the politics. Corbyn is frantically labelled as ‘unelectable’ – despite numerous by-election and local election victories since he became leader, as well as a recent surge in the Labour Party membership – because there is a danger that the Blairite project will finally collapse, leaving an actual, principled leftist opposition in the Commons; one that argues against war, against tax cuts for the rich and the austerity forced on the vulnerable.
The term ‘unelectable’ is the height of the media’s doublespeak. With policies of re-nationalisation, increasing social housing and the minimum wage, Corbyn IS unelectable, according to these commentators. But what the John Rentouls and Poly Toynbees leave out is exactly who finds him unelectable. The rich and wealthy could never elect Corbyn. Use of the term ‘unelectable’ is a form of class erasure as it removes the agency of working-class people, ensuring the dominance of the wealthy in shaping and directing the side of the political narrative addressing people’s needs, wants and demands.
Every time May slams Corbyn for being unelectable, remember which out of the two was actually elected by the membership of their respective parties.
Tyler is The Last Round’s Political Editor and can be found tweeting shite @TyTLR