As the Labour Party meets for its annual conference, has the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn tarnished its brand forever?
Laura Swire, director of Hanover Communications, says Yes.
History would suggest not. For those with memories of the 1980s, we are in familiar terrain, with Labour’s leader once again posing a threat to national and economic security. Unilateralism, anti-Nato posing and fantasy economics, all deeply unpopular as recent polls show, are back in vogue.
However, Labour recovered from the low of 1983 thanks to Tony Blair. With strong leadership and clear messaging, any brand can recover from a knock. The real question is whether Labour’s “selectorate” will ever want to.
Labour’s new voting system, allowing almost anyone to vote for just £3, has shifted the party significantly to the left. Will a Trotskyite-infiltrated electorate who awarded Corbyn 60 per cent of first preferences ever vote for a centrist who can appeal to middle England?
Even if, by some miracle, another Blair rises to lead Labour to the brink of power, remember that it was the party selectorate who decided Gordon Brown would succeed him mid-term. If the keys to Number 10 were in their gift, would you trust the “three pounders” to make a rational choice?
Jon McLeod, chairman of Weber Shandwick, says No.
After John Smith’s trademark “social justice” theology, the party shifted gears into New Labour – purple replaced red, and a pragmatic push for government was the order of the day.
Under Tony Blair, Labour was back in power, winning general elections from the inclusive centre, appealing to voters across the UK, including, crucially, in England. The party moved again to the soft left with Ed Miliband, and perhaps now to the hard left with Corbyn.
But the lesson of history is that it is too soon to declare this the end of history. Labour will be in government again one day.