Five ways Jeremy Corbyn can win over his sceptics

The leadership contest offers Corbyn a chance to refresh his message


A while ago I wrote this article, the message of which I would summarise as ‘no to a new leader, yes to a new narrative’.

It was an attempt at constructive criticism, but it could have been a little more, well, constructive. A couple of commenters said they’d like to see less negativity, and more of a positive manifesto for change – so here it is.   

For me, Corbyn’s only option is to have his party rally around a common vision. Give them all hope. Show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

I know many people who would claim that it’s not the job of any individual to lead anyone anywhere; but psychological studies of us deeply flawed human beings would suggest that they we need leaders to help us make sense of the world, to inspire us and to unite us under a common cause.

And this isn’t a bad thing – several studies have shown that authentic leaders, of which Corbyn is one, positively affect the ‘moral courage’ of followers. In other words, authentic leaders are those who give us the courage to fight for what we believe in.  

This is what I would like to see from Corbyn if he is re-elected:

1. Vision

Give us a succinct, compelling mission statement – a vision of where we’re headed, what we’re fighting for. ‘Straight talking. Honest politics’ isn’t enough. I honestly don’t really care that much about politics – in fact, I, like most people, would like very much for the country to work so well that I never had to get involved with it at all.

I want to know what the country that I love will look like with Corbyn as its leader. And I want to know what this will mean for me, for my (not yet existent) children. Jeremy has enough intelligent and inspiring people around him to help him put his vision for this country into words – and I would very much like to know what it is.

2. Messaging

From all the new insights we have about the way people process information – developments in cognitive psychology, behavioural economics and decision science – we now know that you cannot not influence the way people make decisions when you’re talking to them.

Every second people are processing thousands of tiny cues from your voice, body language, word use, and filtering that through the concept they have of ‘you’ with no small amount of confirmation bias. You’re either shaping the message they receive well, or you’re doing it badly.

I’d like to see it done better.

3. A decisive rejection of austerity

David Cameron understood messaging – he said ‘you have to pay off your debts’ over and over again until it became axiomatic for most people. The message was so powerful because it rested on an unspoken moral law and a metaphor; a metaphor that equated the finances of the UK to those of individual households.

Let’s leverage that to craft a different message. If we are as impoverished a household as the previous Government claimed we are, then their solution would be the equivalent of refusing to feed and water ourselves and our children in order to pay down our debts.

Investment is the only way out of this trap – borrow a bit more, put your children through school and take a night class – you’ll all earn more in the long run and, an added plus, you won’t starve to death.

Invest in the long run economic potential of our economy by investing in its people – demand will increase now, and our future growth rates will be exponentially higher.

4. A ten point economic plan

This one is even easier. Corbyn doesn’t have to do anything. He literally has a dozen of the best economists in this country rallied behind him.

They would be more than happy to put together a post-Keynesian growth strategy for Corbyn; it would centre around an intelligent public investment programme focused on Quaternary industry and the skilled labour force needed to support it, means-based fiscal devolution to rebalance growth geographically, the digital economy and digital government to enhance productivity, and a progressive, targeted welfare strategy to help those left behind. All he has to do is ask.

5. A ten point plan for restoring trust in public institutions

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which came out months before Brexit, confirmed what most of us already knew – trust in all institutions across society, from business, to politics, to law, to the voluntary sector, is the lowest it has been since we started measuring it.

We all have a role to play in restoring trust in these institutions by behaving ethically ourselves.

But Corbyn can put together a plan to get the ball rolling – outlawing lying by senior public officials, making company executives personally and criminally liable for damage they do to the country or the economy, exposing those who defraud the public, regardless of the institution they occupy, and holding them to account.

Neoliberalism is dying, there is no doubt about that – but the question we have to ask ourselves is what we will replace it with.

There is no going backwards, our economy, society and politics have all changed radically since the 1970s. We can only move forward, into the unknown. And that requires some creative thinking from us all, but especially from our political leaders.

There are no easy answers, but at least let’s start asking some provocative questions.

Grace Blakely recently graduated from a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. She now works in Greater Manchester on the city-region’s devolution programme

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8 Responses to “Five ways Jeremy Corbyn can win over his sceptics”

  1. jeremy beer

    Shame JC is refusing to do any tv debates…speaking to confirmed supporters at rallies without any real policy debate may win him the leadership but I fear again he his team misses the point that Labour should be talking and persuading the electorate at large. The most disastrous Tory government in living history and he seems to only want to speak to his narrow band of converts. Not a good policy for Labour taking power and working for real change.

  2. Carol Angharad

    An excellent article and should be widely circulated, makes me want to say ‘come on Jeremy we can do this this’.

  3. CR

    – Under Corbyn a decade or more of ideologically pure opposition is the future.
    – Under Smith a possibility of New Labour style Government in 2020.

    I have no idea how I’m going to vote.

  4. Victoria Priestley

    Thank you Grace Blakely. I am a Green Party member, I hope for a Green Government. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party offers hope for us all. On various pro-Corbyn forums, Green ideals have been praised. I will be circulating this article.

  5. Richard Cooper

    Excellent ideas full of workable ideas. If only Labour had a leadership which was at all interested in winning back millions of Labour voters and thus winning power in order that these ideas could be put into action. Instead we have a leadership which is interested in no more than controlling and reshaping the Labour Party as a protest group. Political parties exist to win elections, nothing else. This is what the thousands of admirably idealistic but politically naive new members still do not get. So you have a party full of people who don’t understand what the party is actually for and it is therefore headed for electoral oblivion. And the leader does not actually care.

  6. James Kemp

    Err to the person that say’s Jeremy won’t debate on TV what’s on tonight? He had a previous engagement on Monday so he said he could not attend why was this wrong?

    After seeing Owen on Monday’s C4 news I still don’t understand a thing about the man or his real policies as they constantly seem to change, he talks around every answer rather than just give a response.Maybe because he comes up from the slick sounding PR departments past, sanoundbite politics personally I do not like. I like more meat on the bone regarding policies and sticking to principles rather than going with the ever-changing flow…

  7. Michael WALKER

    I see Grace Blakely has recently graduated .

    I also see she wants to outlaw lying by senior public officials.. but not politicians. Why not?

    Silly question : she graduated with a degree in – politics.

  8. Jane McLaren

    I would probably vote for anyone who could oppose the folly of the Brexit decision. However, that apart I believe Jeremy Corbyn is right as is the article in the main that there really is no merit in thinking we would be more likely to win by offering austerity- lite. What we have already seen particularly here in Scotland is a refusal to accept the past image of Labour regardless of merit. People hunger for a new approach and are finding it in Corbyn ( or mistakenly in the SNP). Owen Smith resigned unattractively from helping an elected leader in a time of crisis , he tries to smear ineffectively e.g. the anti semitic arguments, and just keeps repeating his ability to win. It is simply not a credible alternative view despite the truth that Labour wil have trouble gaining enough seats to win. We have no faith his policies would necessarily win either.. People can translate this Corbyn momentum of engagement into a persuasive huge turnout. My own view is that at a likely snap election the greatest need will be a cross party movement to oppose or delay EU exit or we are all doomed to mass emigration and brain drain amid a growing recession, the Irish troubles, poor security, and nationalism in Scotland. Democracy is representing our views responsibly not merely conveying them as a result of a wickedly misinformed campaign by the Leave campaigners. Where are our statesmen and women?

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