The rise and rise of Jeremy Corbyn should come as no surprise, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stigilitz. Rather it is the product of anti-austerity feeling that is being felt and demonstrated across the globe.
Professor Stigilitz’s conclusion is that the rise of politicians such as Mr Corbyn is the product of failings amongst centrist politicians and parties, who have failed to address levels of economic and social inequality. The former World Bank advisor has suggested that the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair fundamentally failed to prevent – or even facilitated – a situation of perpetual haves and have nots. Consequently, particularly young voters have been left feeling isolated and disenfranchised – more willing to turn away from centrist representatives and place their faith in politicians more on the extremes of the political spectrum.
Professor Stigilitz’s conclusions reflect a movement in British politics in recent years. Ed Miliband, albeit to some derision, claimed to champion the ‘squeezed middle’ during his tenure as Labour leader. And there have also been questions as to whether the likes of the Conservatives have attempted to secure the ‘grey’ vote in recent years by continuing to support the likes of free TV licences for retirees at a time when younger voters have struggled.
The question is what this means for Mr Corbyn, the Labour Party, and for British politics in the longer term. The General Election in May showed an unwillingness of the electorate to go the way of Greece in moving away from centrist politics, albeit with some affinity with left-leaning parties as evidenced by the success of the SNP. But what it also showed was that support for the likes of UKIP during the 2010-15 parliament (through local and European electoral success) didn’t translate into substantial representation of Westminster.
This point is perhaps the most prescient for Labour. While there have been numerous – and frankly ill-considered – external efforts to influence the leadership contest in Mr Corbyn’s favour, it is yet to be seen whether support for Mr Corbyn now is part of a fundamental shift in the thinking of Labour members or simply a protest vote. If it’s the latter, then it leaves Labour with a problem, as the result of the leadership vote now might have little bearing on a General Election in 2020.