The irony at the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is the mismatch between his sources of popularity and his achievements as leader.
Perhaps his greatest source of popularity is the perception as a man of principle. (One that I disagree with given my own experience as a constituent, but one clearly many people passionately hold.)
Yet perhaps his greatest achievement is to have kept together in a large coalition people with extremely disparate views – particularly on immigration and on Europe. Despite frequent critical noises about immigration and a long record of backing Tory Euro-sceptics on Europe he has managed to outdo Tony Blair for pragmatic triangulation by keeping many staunch supporters of freedom of movement and of the European Union within the Labour coalition. And much to the frustration of many Liberal Democrats.
However, he is not the only party leader having to do coalition building. As research by Jonathan Mellon and Christopher Prosser published last year shows, there’s is a coalition on the right which is at the heart of Theresa May’s leadership.
Mellon and Prosser found that people at the liberal end of the liberal-authoritarian perspective tend to favour policies that promote fairness and equality. But those at the authoritarian end are split: those better off tend to oppose such policies, those least well off tend to support them. That’s the underlying tension between the vacillation in the Conservative Party’s current approach – sometimes talking up policies to improve equality and promote fairness and then frequently recoiling to traditional comfort zones with very different outcomes.
The days of Conservatives trying to appeal to environmentally conscious liberals seem long gone; the days of the Conservatives having to struggle to hold together a coalition of voters are still very much here.