The Conservative party conference certainly hasn’t been forgotten, least of all by the 60,000+ protest movement which has descended on it. What was supposed to be an event for the politically obsessed has descended into a story of intimidation, hatred, and fear. The protest movement which Jeremy Corbyn wished to unleash is well and truly alive; like any passionate protest movement the rhetoric is ramping up, and people are losing their tempers. Tory scum is the catchphrase of the day and nothing but total war on the blue party will do. The intimidating and hateful atmosphere which is all too often whipped up neglects the foundation stone of any thriving democracy: a free and open debate.
While it has been highlighted the vast majority of the protest was peaceful and even fun, I find the fact that there was a protest to be quite disconcerting. It highlights the reality that many find it inconceivable why anyone would ever vote Tory. That Tory has become a by-word for being immoral, much like scab was during and after the miner’s strikers is a problem in of itself. This kind of rhetoric breeds a false reality; Michael Foot couldn’t believe he was going to lose because he was packing out meetings with hundreds of enthusiastic supporters, much like Corbyn with his army of new supporters.
The harsh truth is 60,000 isn’t a particularly large figure, it pales in comparison to the number of votes needed to win an election. Large protests often don’t transcend into large majorities; So while Jeremy’s protest movement is down at Conservative HQ, new polling is out and shows the reality on the ground for the millions not just the thousands. London is now within the margin of error, in the election Labour had a 13% lead. The over 60’s who decide elections pretty much hate what Jeremy Corbyn is offering, and Labour in Scotland has slumped to a miserable 17%. In the Midlands where Labour lost a number of key seats in May, Labour is now 7 points down to the Conservatives. Much like his inaugural speech, Corbyn’s leadership is speaking to the converted few and not to the sceptical majority.
To escape the deafening echo chamber Corbyn needs to reach out and lead a genuine political party, and not just the Labour protest party. He needs to reign in the rhetoric and he needs to keep his shadow chancellor, who has a penchant for making jokes about killing Conservatives in check. He must keep telling his supporters that their hatred of the current political orthodoxy doesn’t give them the right to intimidate journalists, or harass people on twitter who accept that orthodoxy. Shouting in a political movement doesn’t exude strength, in fact it stinks of weakness. Indeed if there is one fundamental truth, it’s that shouting Tory scum repeatedly means electoral death isn’t far away.