Why a Corbyn win would be bad news for the progressive left, and for the Liberal Democrats

Welcome to the latest guest post from my former colleague at Liberal Democrat HQ, Paul Rainger.

After the general election, I rather inarticulately argued that there is a new progressive left policy agenda waiting to be championed, around the substantial and growing minority of the politically disaffected represented typically by the Transition and Occupy movements etc.

A more muscular, ideological agenda, in reaction to recent decades of bland managerial business as usual politics, which recognises the new economic reality of living within planetary limits, and which simply isn’t currently on the mainstream political agenda. An agenda which my party, the Liberal Democrats could do well from championing in their fightback, and which fits well with our liberal heritage of radical community politics.

It is of course also the agenda which Jeremy Corbyn is now tapping into in the Labour leadership contest, albeit from the hard left. Witness his appeal to those disaffected young people for example.

I find myself instinctively agreeing with much of the agenda Jeremy Corbyn is trying to address. So why do I think a Corbyn win would be bad news for the progressive left, and for the Lib Dems?

Let’s take the general environmental / new economics progressive left agenda which I care about first.

Rightly or wrongly, a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party will be / is being portrayed by both opponents in the Labour Party and the media as an old extreme left throwback to the failed ideological approach of Michael Foot from which it is impossible to win an election.

The failure of Foot gave us the last 30 years of bland business as usual politics which has alienated so many voters. The inevitable destruction of Corbyn will I fear condemn us to another 30 years of the same mainstream political wisdom, putting off any progress on the progressive left agenda needed for a new economic approach that recognises environmental limits, by which time it is probable that no-one will be able to fix the global problems we have created.

And in the short term, what would a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party mean for my party, the Liberal Democrats?

Superficially at least, as in the 1980s, the Lib Dems would appear to do quite well. Squeezed off this radical agenda from the hard left, we could muddle along in the bland centre being not the other two, picking up seats. Until we ended up back here. And that would fail to tackle the ideological vacuum at the heart of the Party rightly identified by David Boyle. Again putting off any credible development of the new political agenda which this growing minority of disaffected voters are crying out for, and which recognises the long term challenges realities of one planet living, before it’s too late.

Paul Rainger is a former Director of Campaigns for the Liberal Democrats.

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