John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn: wider appeal?

“There was something different about the Labour Party conference this year,” said Mary Dejevsky in The Independent. And it wasn’t just the vast size of the gathering, or its “much-remarked on professionalism”. It was that the party and its leader seemed, if not entirely reconciled, “at least prepared to unite in the common purpose of winning an election”. In his speech, Jeremy Corbyn seemed relaxed and confident. The anticipated shouting matches about anti-Semitism and Brexit didn’t materialise. Most of all, though, there were policies from Corbyn and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, “that not only hung together”, but could have a wide appeal far outside their traditional left-wing Labour constituency.

Oh yes, said the Daily Mail: “Santa Claus” Corbyn had something for everyone. To parents, he promised more cash for schools, and 30 hours’ free nursery care a week. To harassed commuters, he offered “radical new forms of ownership” — by which he meant old-fashioned nationalisation. To workers in large companies, he promised free shares: under Labour, firms would have to hand over 10% of their equity. Dividends will be paid out in the sum of up to £500 to each worker, with the rest going to the state. There were “goodies galore” for the elderly, too: assurances on pensions, winter fuel and free bus passes, as well as promises of extra funding for social care. “As for where all this money is to come from, in a country almost £2trn in debt, he was less specific.” He mentioned only a tax on second homes. k’s a recipe for “mass unemployment and national ruin”. Indeed, said Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. But the “terrifying truth” is that Corbynomics is “shockingly” popular across Middle England, and even to many Tory voters. Polls suggest majority backing for nationalising the railways and utilities; for putting workers on boards; and for capping private rents and high pay. “The Right has a problem on economics”, and Corbyn is well placed to exploit it.

Since the 2008 crash, the injustice of the economic system has become all too clear, said The Guardian. Corbyn has caught the mood of the times, offering a “transformative agenda concerned with dispersing the rights, wealth and power currently concentrated in a few hands”. The levy on second homes would fund help for homeless children. The economy would be democratised, giving wealth and power to the workers. When Corbyn claims that he represents a “new common sense”, it sounds believable. He is starting to look like “a plausible prime minister”. Such confidence may be misplaced, said The Economist. “Labour is at best level with the Tories in most polls.” Asked who would make a better PM, voters prefer Theresa May to Corbyn, although “don’t know” trumps both. The next election will be won by “whichever party voters trust more to improve capitalism”. And while much of Britain may indeed seek a “leftward” turn, “fear of Corbyn” remains a powerful force.

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