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We pundits were wrong about Jeremy Corbyn. So why are we so sure that he’ll flop?

13 September 2015

1:11 PM

13 September 2015

1:11 PM

This is the Corbyn summer. From the perspective of a short holiday, my overwhelming feeling is one of despair at my own semi-trade — the political commentariat, the natterati, the salaried yacketting classes. Who among us, really, predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would romp ahead like this? Where were the post-election columns pointing out that David Cameron’s victory would lead to a resurgent quasi-Marxist left?

And that’s just the beginning: how many of the well-connected, sophisticated, numerate political writers expected Labour to be slaughtered in the general election? Not me, that’s for sure. Going further back, how many people in 1992 told us John Major was an election winner? That Parris, I vaguely recall, but anyone else? It’s jolly lucky that we don’t have an Of-Burble to regulate us.

I’m not saying that nobody successfully predicts anything; that would be bizarre. But I exclude all those throwaway on-the-other-hand remarks merely designed to cover the commentator’s backside. I’m talking about full-on, nuts-on-the-table predictions about the stuff that really matters. Most writers, scrabbling around, can find things that show them to be wise before the event. But when it comes to confident, open-throated pre-election or referendum stargazing, except where the situation is blindingly obvious to everyone, the record is dismal.

So I think a certain amount of Corbyn caution is appropriate. Most arguments against him boil down to this: he has a beard and an excessive quantity of cheap vests, and hangs about with angry, bearded Palestinians and is therefore plainly unelectable in genteel, politically tepid England. It seems unlikely, I grant you. But in the dimly far-off, remarkable circumstances of 2020, and after the Scottish tsunami, are we all so absolutely sure?

This is an extract from Andrew Marr’s diary; read the full thing here.


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