Ken Livingstone: It's the Labour right, not Jeremy Corbyn, who are out of touch

Ken Livingstone: "Jeremy revealed his own centre ground and changed the shape of UK politics"
Ken Livingstone: "Jeremy revealed his own centre ground and changed the shape of UK politics"

By Ken Livingstone

Outside a rally, amid crowds of hundreds overflowing onto the streets, four young people climb onto a building's windowsill to glimpse the speech inside. In Dundee, there are standing ovations; in Glasgow, far bigger venues are needed at short notice. Jeremy Corbyn has breathed life into electoral politics.

This is why Simon Danczuck is out of touch when he dismisses this as being about the far left. There is something extraordinary happening in British politics and it cannot be explained away in that way. The far left in Britain is at its tiniest in decades. Rather, big numbers of people who have been cut off from party politics are embracing it. Yes, there are young people deterred by the war or by student fees or austerity but also many many more who feel politics is contained in a Westminster bubble where voices like Simon’s are heard but the majority are not. This is a big moment for Labour. We need to welcome this reconnection and rebuild our party.

This leadership election has more controls over who can participate than any other. In the past every single levy-paying member of an affiliated trade union was sent a ballot paper, regardless of whether they wanted one or not, and completely regardless of whether they supported Labour. Now only those trade unionists who first declare their support for Labour may vote, in a ballot overseen by the party, not the unions. The Labour right, such as John Mann, argued for the opening of the party to the public through primaries. Labour under Ed Miliband listened – now we must welcome these members of the public to our fold.

I am supporting Jeremy Corbyn because he understands that we cannot continue with years of austerity that chokes off growth while we erode a productive, modern economy – and because his authenticity gives us the chance of reconnecting with a disenchanted public.

This strong breadth of appeal is becoming clearer all the time. Last week's Survation video poll showed him to win out over his fellow leadership candidates time and time again: as the most in touch with ordinary people, the most likely to hold the government to account, the most likely to do best in a TV debate with Cameron and the person who cares the most about the British people. Crucially he wins out as the person who, if elected as leader, would be most likely bring over voters to make them vote Labour. 

Other polling by YouGov found that not only is Jeremy Londoners' first choice to lead the Labour party, he has more support than his closest two leadership rivals put together.

This is because he is clear, whereas politicians for years have seemed over-spun. Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. If the Labour party doesn't say this clearly, who will? Jeremy has put forward a comprehensive alternative that is both popular with the general electorate and far fairer than the current cuts to public services and tax breaks for the very rich.  

We cannot cut our way to prosperity. Investing in public infrastructure is essential if we're to be on the leading edge in the world economy and provide high-skilled jobs along the way. Through this positive cycle of investment and better jobs, we can eliminate the deficit fairly.

Jeremy is offering modern, fair solutions to our most urgent problems. But his policies here and more widely - on issues like tuition fees, public ownership of the railways and fairer taxation - reflect an unheard centre ground that has been ignored by too many years of Tory dominance.

In just these last few weeks, Jeremy has revealed his own centre ground and changed the shape of UK politics. He's the one to deliver a Labour victory in 2020. He'll help put us back in touch in all parts of the country.


Ken Livingstone is the former mayor of London

The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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