Chris Wilford was the Conservative candidate in the void 2014 Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election. He stood as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Poplar and Limehouse in the 2015 General Election.
Whilst the Westminster Village is engrossed by the travails of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the dire economic forecasts and predictions over recent weeks are a valuable reminder that the recovery is far from guaranteed. We Conservatives may feel confident in the future but Mr Corbyn should not be underestimated and we must be prepared. Key to a Corbyn victory in 2020, aside from asserting control over the internal dynamics of the Labour Party, will be securing the support of aspirational England. Aside from focusing on his perceived areas of strength such as public services, how could this be done?
The economy is the Achilles heel of Corbyn’s Labour. His apparently outdated views on nationalisation and a massive escalation of quantitative easing are judged unfit for the rigours of the modern globalised economy. If the last election was about competency, 2020 will be about guaranteeing economic security. The electorate gave us a majority because they trust us with their stake in the future. However, what if the global situation deteriorated to such an extent that current certainties seem like so much hot air? The Chancellor has rightly warned of the dangerous cocktail of threats that face the economy. If a major correction in China which disrupts the major economies swamps their hopes and dreams, voters will turn to someone who offers fresh hope. In such a situation, Corbyn could be just the tonic for an embattled English public.
Politics is about ideas, but it is also about demographics. Competition amongst young people is fiercer than ever, leaving them hard-edged, frustrated and very, very angry. They face constant battles in the jobs market and to get on the housing ladder. While it may be argued that they shouldn’t complain and just get on with it, perception is everything and that will not stop them seeking someone to take it out on. In 2015, Labour had a clear lead over the Conservatives among 18-34s as well private and social renters. As the housing shortage continues and the Conservatives’ over-65 support dwindles through natural causes (as well as potential anger over any changes to pensions), this changes the electoral dynamics in the long-term as the 18-34s’ world view solidifies. Corbyn will need to ensure young people are registered and turn out. With a dedicated Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration it is clear his team understands the challenge.
On the ground
The biggest asset Corbyn has is shaping up to be troops on the ground. An extremely targeted campaign and effective deployment of activists and candidates put the Conservatives on the road to victory. Since May 2015, the Corbyn phenomenon has transformed the Labour Party, with thousands joining and figures climbing back to those seen under Blair in his 1997 heyday. If just a proportion of these new members become active it could well change the fundamentals of the ground war. Their efforts may be all for nought if Labour’s high command can’t get their messaging right but if the economy and other issues align then success may beckon.
The London and devolved elections, as well as the EU referendum, all lie ahead and will have their own impact on the state of play. A veteran of the sometimes vicious street politics of Tower Hamlets, I took the opportunity afforded by the Christmas break to re-watch A Very British Coup, based on the novel by former Labour MP Chris Mullin. It is the story of Harry Perkins, a hard-left leader of the Labour Party who pulls off a surprise election victory in the early 1990s. It remains to be seen whether a Corbyn victory remains in the realms of fiction. Then again, didn’t they say his Labour leadership bid was fantasy?