I’m from a nautical city, the great port of Southampton. I live in another great port now, the fantastic city of Liverpool.
Southampton is home to a couple of marginal seats, Southampton Test and Southampton Itchen. As a teenager, I can remember Alan Whitehead trying to get Southampton Test, my then constituency. One of the nicer things about the 1997 landslide was seeing him finally achieve that aim.
Jeremy Corbyn’s critics continually probe the question of how Labour wins marginal seats like Test and Itchen, though Nuneaton is the most cited example. In some ways, things are even harder than they were.
Even if I moved back to the same house I lived in as a teen, I wouldn’t be moving back to Southampton Test. My mum and grandad are now lumped in with Romsey, enduring the services of a Conservative MP. They’ve been boundaried out.
“How do you win those seats? How do we get Scotland back?”, are the questions that Owen Smith and his political co-travellers often pose. The previous strategy, of targeting voters in those marginals, is a theoretically sound strategy in our flawed electoral system. Unfortunately, we vote under a system where 150 seats do decide the balance of power.
The disastrous line that Labour Scotland took, sharing platforms with people that are supposed to be your ideological and political opponents, actually implementing a vicious cuts and sanctions regime on many of the voters, should tell us one thing. Power isn’t going to be won back with empty targeted rhetoric.
The problem are too endemic to solve surgically. The marginals will always be important in the general elections. Any party would be crazy to ignore them, given how often they’ve made the difference in which Party eventually gains power.
There’s a saying, well known to port city people, that may be a better strategy for electoral victory, encapsulated in Corbyn’s 10 pledges.
All ships rise with the tide
Compare that with the Conservative rhetoric of 2010-present
Oi, that bastard on benefits is sinking your ship
Or the rather meek Labour response at the time
Yeah, he is a bit. Don’t tax his bedroom, though
And you start to appreciate why Jeremy Corbyn is pulling the crowds he does, in spite of the criticism. Labour’s policy before Corbyn was to just try fixing the ships it thought needed fixing, promising to repair the hole torn out by Tory policy. That was never enough, and I’d argue that the Labour RW never knew what waters they were in, or how dangerous they were for its constituents. Every boat was taking on water, even those that would previously raise a red flag regardless.
Too many people were getting sunk in the wake of the steaming dreadnoughts that dominate the seas of our society, and anti-Corbyn Labour never realised that. They are presently trying to sink Corbyn’s fleet of fairness, needlessly so. They’ve forgotten:-
All ships rise with the tide.
Many do not see that, cannot look past the immediate short-term loss, profits, property or whatever else it is they already have plenty enough of.
Corbyn’s policies offer huge incentives to business, even if they don’t see it. Couldn’t business owners benefit from staff trained by a National Education Service? Do business owners really want their salaries to reflect mortgage payments, inflated by a sector they have little control over? I genuinely don’t think they do.
There are arguments that can be made to Conservatives, and others made for business, based on those ten pledges. I have Tory friends, appalled at the nastiness of this crop, that say they’ll vote for Labour, if Corbyn stays, but wouldn’t countenance another polished politician from Labour’s right wing.
Rather than see Corbyn as a threat, his opponents should see this for the opportunity it is, a chance to get involved, change the world and say that they were part of a wave that rose the tide for all.