Status anxiety

Why I was right to vote for Jeremy Corbyn

No, the #ToriesForCorbyn campaign isn’t fair, but it’s within the norms of politics – and a very effective weapon

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

Is the ‘Tories for Corbyn’ campaign politics at its most infantile? As one of the few conservative commentators willing to defend it in the media, I’ve been doing my best to rebut that charge.

The most frequent line of attack is that there’s something dishonest about it. The Labour leadership election isn’t an open primary. It’s restricted to members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters. OK, you can register as a supporter for £3 — a change brought in by Ed Miliband to reduce union influence — but only if you pretend to be a Labour sympathiser. And that’s just wrong.

The short answer to this is that no such pretence is necessary — at least, it wasn’t when I signed up via the party’s website. In response to the question ‘Why did you sign up?’, I wrote ‘To consign Labour to electoral oblivion’. Nothing fraudulent about that.

All right, say the critics. You may not have lied, but you’re acting in bad faith. You’re taking advantage of a loophole to subvert a democratic process. That’s fundamentally dishonest, even if it’s not duplicitous. It’s unethical, rather than immoral.

I think I have to put my hands up to that, but politics has never been ethical. Indeed, one of the unwritten rules of democratic politics is that it’s OK to behave dishonestly provided you don’t tell an outright untruth. This was summed up by Alex Salmond when cross-examined by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about his slipperiness regarding the ‘legal advice’ the Scottish government had received on an independent Scotland and the EU. ‘The art of politics is not to lie,’ he said.

What he meant is that it’s perfectly acceptable to say any number of things that encourage people to believe something untrue, provided you don’t tell an out-and-out falsehood. Presumably, that’s why it was fine for the Scottish National Party to give the impression it was anti-austerity during the election campaign, even though its manifesto committed it to the same spending cuts as Labour.

The other main objection to ‘Tories for Corbyn’ is that it’s kicking your opponent when he’s down. Again, that’s true, but since when did the Queensberry Rules apply to politics? Political combat isn’t a bantamweight boxing match. It’s Ultimate Fighting — hit first, hit hard and hit often.

The Labour party has made two silly mistakes. It has changed the rules regarding who can vote in leadership elections in a way that makes it easy for people like me to exploit them. And it has put up a candidate in the leadership election who, if he wins, will render the party unelectable. Or rather, even more unelectable than it was under Ed Miliband, which is going some. If that debacle comes to pass — and Corbyn has a 17-point lead, according to YouGov — it’s hard to see how Labour could recover for a decade. It might even lead to an irrevocable split. To expect the party’s opponents not to take advantage of that opportunity is naive.

The other thing to bear in mind is that it’s unlikely that ‘Tories for Corbyn’ will have any influence over the result. Around a quarter of a million people are expected to vote in this election and I don’t suppose that more than a few hundred Tories will bother to become registered supporters. The point of the campaign is not to rig an election, but to draw attention to the fact that a sizable number of Labour MPs, trade union bosses and party activists think a man who describes Hezbollah and Hamas as his ‘friends’ is fit to be Prime Minister. The Labour party has always tried to hide its less attractive face from the public — the side that hates America, overlooks human-rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela and has more sympathy for Britain’s enemies than it does for Britain. So when that face emerges from the shadows, you can’t blame Tories for pointing at it and saying, ‘Look!’

It’s also a good way to wind up the comrades, which isn’t as puerile as it sounds. Last week, I attended the summer party of CTF Partners, the research firm run by Tory election guru Lynton Crosby, and Crosby gave a speech in which he said that politics is a strange combination of passion and reason. To win, you need to make sure your head rules your heart, not vice versa. That’s why baiting your opponents is effective — it makes it harder for them to keep their cool. ‘Tories for Corbyn’ isn’t just a bit of fun. It’s an effective political weapon.

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Show comments
  • I would never, ever in any circumstances sign up as a supporter of the Conservative Party or of UKIP. Even if by doing so I could obliterate David Cameron and/or Nigel Farage to oblivion. I won’t lie in order to play games, my conscience would never permit me to do that.

    • Mary Ann

      I think that ukip should keep Farage, otherwise he might be replace by someone better.

    • AtilaTheHen

      Oh, get over yourself. You do sound a bit like a sanctimonious prig.

  • William

    Labour don’t see any problem with lying to us, over-taxing us and promising the world to people who just can’t be bothered. That’s unethical and so I see no problem at all with using the stupidity of their own system against them.

    They want to run this country, yet can’t even elect a leader without it being a shambles.

    • GraveDave

      Another Tory with a short memory.Or maybe you”re just too young to know any better.When the Tories were in the wilderness they had three useless shambolic leaders. Then they chose Dave. And no one trusts him either.
      But he’s seemingly the best of a bad lot.

      IDS in 2003

      …He refused to answer questions on BBC Radio 4’sToday programme about reports of in-fighting between his party’s modernisers and traditionalists. Laughing nervously, he admitted his party was divided, but claimed that “that is the nature of politics and political parties” and that the public was more interested in real policies.

  • Teacher

    I don’t think Conservatives should stoop to leftist tactics. The sheer nastiness of Labour party hatred for Conservatives and their followers’ liking for airing their hatred in everyday life and on every occasion is one of the reasons they lost the election. That no one suspected that the Tories would win with an outright majority was due to voters being so publicly excoriated by the left that nobody would declare their voting intentions. I think it behoves the right to behave in a better manner.

    • GraveDave

      I don’t think Conservatives should stoop to leftist tactics. The sheer nastiness of Labour party hatred for Conservatives and their followers’ liking for airing their hatred in everyday life and on every occasion is one of the reasons they lost the election.

      They did not lose the election just because they called the Tories nasty.Do give over with that one. And if you won, you won because no one trusted Ed with the economy (fair enough), and you won because of the way you relentlessly smeared him, even down to the way he speaks and eats his food.Even Janet Dayley of the DT hinted at how nasty the anti Ed campaign was getting. And you only have to read the comments feedback of some of you to see why they keep calling you the Nasty Party.

      Just saying.

      • TowerOfBabble

        I am not sure that is fair either, given the level of vitriol aimed at Ed from within his own party, starting within hours of the election result. Nastiness would certainly not seem to be a uniquely Tory trait. And come to think of it, isn’t using the moniker “Nasty Party” a smear too?

        • Mary Ann

          The cap fits.

    • Mary Ann

      Labour party hatred for the Tories! when the tories use ‘leftie’ as an insult, take the plank out of your own eye.

      • Christopher Lennon

        Is “Tory Scum”, as used routinely by Guardian correspondents, not an insult, then?

        • Kaine

          Name two.

          • Christopher Lennon

            I refer to posts on their website. Check them out.

        • Dave Beales

          you are scum, pure and simple

          • Christopher Lennon

            On y soit qui mal y pense.

  • Benthos

    Labour deserve all they get.

  • TowerOfBabble

    I for one do not relish the chaos that has gripped Labour following the election, nor the wholesale wipe-out of the LibDems parliamentary presence on May 8th. A credible democracy needs a credible opposition; the dominance of a single party in power can result in some very arrogant, dictatorial behaviour as we have seen with both majority Tory and Labour governments in recent decades.

  • wildcolonialboy

    So, Toby, you are inducing a breach of contract? Part of the agreement when you become a 3 quid supporter is that you support the Labour Party and its values.

    With this article and your Tories for Corbyn campaign, you are basically saying, “I’m no gentleman and I never will be. I’m just a puerile little boy who is incapable of offering serious political discourse”.

    No doubt some of your supporters will whine, “But the leftists do it too”. So that’s the standard now?

  • CalUKGR

    Great article, Mr Young. Funny, too!

  • John

    Dear Tories: if you really think Corbyn will lose Labour the next election you’d be well advised to keep quiet about it until he’s leader. Your enthusiasm is one of the things that’s making Labour supporters nervous about him. Unless it’s all a bluff and you’re scared voters might take to him the way Londoners originally took to Red Ken.

  • mhjames

    ‘One of the unwritten rules of democratic politics is that it’s OK to
    behave dishonestly provided you don’t tell an outright untruth.’

    Indeed. Who ever thought the Tories were interested in raising the standards of public life?

  • stephen barker

    I don’t support the Labor Party either. I’ve registered too. But I’m voting for Yvette to cancel out Toby’s vote for Jeremy.

    • Richard Harris

      you could probably start by spelling “Labour” correctly.

  • David

    It is laughable the way that Labour Party supporters and their friends moan about the need for a credible opposition and how the nasty conservatives are undermining the Labour Party.
    Didn’t hear much from them about a strong opposition when Labour had a majority of 180+ in 1997 did we?
    One of the problems with Labour Party supporters is that they actually believe they are morally superior to the Conservatives, and that they lose elections only through the machinations of so called media moguls who mislead the electorate.

  • Grope_of_Big_Horn

    I voted UKIP at the GE in one of the 30 safest Labour seats in the country. My vote costed me about £1 of my time and a couple of pounds of taxpayers money. About 30 million voted and mine was a total waste.
    But for £3 I can have one vote in an electorate of about 400,000 in the political direction of this country. This is far far better value for money than voting in a General Election itself. I’ve got a chance to break up the dependency party and I’m not going to pass it up.

  • Ionascu23

    But what if Corbyn wins the next elections?

    • DomesticExtremist

      Toby won’t be arguing that he was right then…

    • Ed O’Meara

      He won’t, because this guy can see the future.

  • jeremy Morfey

    Corbyn seems to be picking up a lot of folk who have given up on politics in recent years, concentrating their efforts on pressure groups, rather than mainstream parties.

    I have also known since my youth that Tory friends of mine like principled left-wingers, since they can argue with them honestly and passionately, rather than constantly dwelling on pragmatics. As John Major once intimated, he would rather be at the crease against an expert bowler, where his batting skills could be truly tested, rather than a limp effort where it is all too easy to get complacent and sloppy. Then it’s just a matter of letting the best argument prevail, and most Tories I know are confident of their ground.

    As for the election, it seems that Kendall will be eliminated first. Of the two others, Burnham is slightly to the left of Cooper, but there is not much in it. I would imagine enough second preferences from Kendall will to to Cooper to eliminate Burnham on the second ballot. However, more Burnham second preferences are likely to favour Corbyn, and this might make sufficient difference to propel Corbyn into the leadership, but only just. Fewer Cooper second preferences are likely to go to Corbyn, so Kendall supporters may have to favour Burnham tactically in order to stop Corbyn. If that happened, then I fear Andy Burnham may well end up a sort of Ed Miliband figure, capable of appeasing neither the left nor the right, and flip-flopping like a netted mackerel.

    This might suit the Tories rather well tactically, but I think they would prefer to be up against a red blooded Socialist, if only because they’d prefer to hunt a wild lion, who might do some damage if they get it wrong, than a tame family pet, who is easily shot by any idiot with whitened smile.

  • barrry baptist

    jesus. no wonder the tories are hated.sheer scum. would stop at nothing to stay in power. murdering disabled people is a thing of glee to tory scum. the uk is already a mess,god help us in the next few years.i just hope the crime comes to the evil bastards who voted tory,hopefully knife crime.

  • Ed O’Meara

    I just voted Corbyn. Not because I want the worst for the Labour Party, but because I want the best.

  • Mark Berry

    Not infantile, worse! It demonstrates the depths our politics have sunk to! If it is true that Conservative party members and representatives have been signing up to vote in the Labour leadership elections, then the media scrutiny should be on them not on the voting system! If this has happened then the Tories should be ashamed of themselves and apologise to the electorate, they will have been “mischief making” and playing partisan games with our democracy, this would despicable and deeply shameful and demonstrate a complete lack of respect for democracy! It would also be a perfect demonstration of the state of our politics, proving what we all know that the people involved see it only as game of power and illustrating the contempt you all have for the electorate and indeed democracy!

  • Morken

    The Conservatives shouldn’t wish too hard for a Corbyn victory of the leadership of the Labour Party as events have a habit of of turning round and biting you in the rear ! Even when Corbyn was first nominated there were those in the Labour Party thought it was a big joke, but they are not laughing now. Corbyn has been around along time and will know who his enemies are on both sides of the house, which certainly makes him formidable and unpredictable. The Conservative government will certainly be under greater scrutiny from the Left and it wont take a handful of government blunders before Labour start commandeer the populist vote. Even Conservative governments eventually run out of steam and the Tory party is not without its own divisions. The political picture has changed considerably in this country as we have seen with the emergence of the SNP, with Scotland rejecting the Blairite policies of the Labour Party and those of the Conservative Party, as they did with Thatcher in the 1980’s. Corbyn is also a product of the political changes that have been evolving over the past few years.