2015 was the year in which two left wing unrecognisable obscurities burst into mainstream politics each side of the pond; with Jeremy Corbyn defying the odds to become Labour leader, and Bernie Sanders also coming relatively close to becoming 2016 Democratic nominee for President. Both were able to capitalise on the current disdain for mainstream politics, and the younger generations wanting a change from the ‘typical politicians’.
Both senior politicians were seen as a breath of fresh air to many, especially youngsters. They were seen as different to the status quo, and a more left wing option to others such as Miliband, and Clinton. Labour membership grew astronomically during the leadership election, mainly to vote for Corbyn, and Sanders is credited for a study in April which showed that young people are getting more liberal, and voter turnout was increasing.
However, what made them fly is now making that fall. Although not sticking to the status quo can have its benefits in many areas, it is also hurting their electoral chances. And most people are now getting fed up of it. Membership numbers for Labour are falling for the first time since the 2015 general election, and students are leaving because they are now fed up of their leader, and his performance in the role
When asked, not many Labour members would be able to tell you one thing that Corbyn has achieved, and despite the fact we have a government tearing itself apart over the EU, we are still consistently behind the Tories in the polls. Corbyn has missed so many open goals, walloped so many into his own net, and has let the government off so many times.
For many members the last straw in the Corbyn leadership was the Vice documentary, which focused on Corbyn’s inner circle. The main feature of the documentary was him and his team’s belief that the mainstream media is against him, and the enemy. As highlighted by Dorian Lynskey, this disdain for the system, and the media, makes him stubbornly incapable of working it to Labour’s advantage. Of course outlets like the BBC are not perfect, and can be a vacuum for right wing media, but to belittle and avoid them is not only arrogant, but also negligent.
The documentary showed that he seems to want to engage with journalists as little as possible, and actually resists his advisors’ efforts to improve the party’s coverage. The main horror for Labour members was hearing Corbyn say “it’s not for me to point out the government’s a mess”, considering it is effectively the job description. Another Corbyn quote was “how shallow, facile and ill-informed many of the supposed well-informed major commentators are in our media”, but complaining about injustice won’t deliver success. It just makes him look petty and weak.
Of course he’s not entirely delusional. All Labour leaders get hostility from right wing press; but Corbyn is turning on the few friends he has left in the media, and it will not end well. Corbyn and his followers are constantly berating the BBC and its editors at a time when we should be defending them against government cuts. As pointed out by Abi Wilkinson, what Corbyn doesn’t seem to understand is that few senior politicians have a deep-rooted passion for public relations – they cooperate with the media because that’s what works, and it’s effectively the game.
Complaining about the media misunderstands how Westminster works, and if someone enters the frontline, you need to be ready for anything. As the leader of the Labour party you need to expect constant media presence, and constant media scrutiny. You need to leap on and utilise all the media platforms you can to reach your demographic, no matter your moral standpoint. What Corbyn seems to fail to realise is, the mainstream media are not obsessed with him, they are obsessed with the leader of the Labour party. The role of the media is to hold politicians to account, not to be liked by them. And I think everyone wants all politicians being held to account at all times.
Because of their hatred of MSM, Corbyn and his team now see social media as a way to target demographics, and connect with voters. However as highlighted by Ellie Mae O’Hagan, most people still consume their news via the mainstream media. 78% of people rely on television as their main source of news, compared with 19% for Facebook and 10% for Twitter. This means that Corbyn and the Labour leadership are missing the opportunity to connect with a significant chunk of the electorate. Corbyn and his followers seem to forget that targeting the young will not win an election, the older generation and the swing voters are key.
What was originally seen as strong principles and a new way of doing politics, is now just seen as self indulgence, and pure arrogance. And it’s hurting Labour badly. No matter how much supporters delude themselves, all sources indicates that Labour is well on course to lose the next election. Opposition is about being an alternative to the government, and under Corbyn Labour is not one.
According to Ipsos Mori only 19% of the public believe him to be ready to be prime minister, compared to 32% who thought Ed Miliband was ready at the same stage in the last parliament. Only 22% believe that Labour is currently ready to form a government, again down from 2011. Only Michael Foot was more unpopular at this point in opposition. Corbyn was a breath of fresh air for many, but he stood for a senior position without experience or skills, is snubbing the press although it is essential, and his performances have been poor since taking over.
Although Sanders isn’t the leader or nominee for his party, his rise, and his lack of compliance with the status quo is squandering his support, and affecting his party’s electoral chances. Now you would expect Hilary to triumph over Trump whatever should happen with Bernie, but his inability to relinquish the spotlight is stopping Clinton from taking on her republican nemesis.
According to an article by Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti, Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect, all while holding onto the remote chance that Clinton may be indicted. Like Corbyn, he didn’t follow the usual routine of taking on his opponent. Sanders chose not to go after Clinton on areas such as her email investigations and Bill’s scandals, but he felt offended when she went after his stance on gun control.
He feels as if he’s been screwed by the system, the well established system that he chose to enter. Sanders’ and his team’s self indulgence was heightened through his aides who claimed that Sanders thinks progressives who picked Clinton are cynical, power-chasing chickens. Sanders is too arrogant to see that he’s the problem, and it’s time that he shut up shop. Top Sanders aides also admit it’s been months since they realised he would not win, but he wants to be in the race until the end.
Like Corbyn, Sanders is liking the attention his new role brings. He knows that when his campaign is complete, the crowds will leave, and he’s not going to be on the television as much. The two figures, including their dedicated followers, are hurting the lefts electoral challenge in both countries, as both seem to rate their morality above taking on the enemy and achieving success.