Earlier this week, we asked our readers to get in touch and tell us which candidate they intend to vote for in the Labour leadership election.
We received over 2,500 replies, each respondent explaining their reasoning for backing their chosen candidate.
Out of those who replied, 78% said they were backing Jeremy Corbyn, the leftwing outsider who is making the early running, according to recent polls. Yvette Cooper was the choice of 9% of our respondents, with 8% backing Liz Kendall and 5% planning to vote for Andy Burnham.
Though a self-selecting sample, the exercise did provide clues as to why some Labour voters are enthused by Corbyn and dissatisfied with the other candidates on the ballot.
For Corbyn supporters, variations on key phrases cropped up again and again. “The only one offering an alternative”, “the only true Labour candidate” and “the only one who is against austerity” were typical explanations.
Also common was the sentiment that it does not matter if Corbyn is not likely to help Labour to victory in the 2020 general election, so long as he is leading a party offering a genuine alternative.
The responses in support of the other candidates were lacking in enthusiasm, dealing in perceived electability rather than wholehearted support for the candidate’s pitch to the party. So Cooper was a “stop-gap”, a “career politician” who could steer the tiller for a few years until a more promising leader came along.
Burnham was “the best of four disappointing options”, while Kendall was often described as “Tory lite” or “in the wrong party”.
A minority of respondents voiced concerns about the growing momentum behind Corbyn.
“As much as I love Jeremy Corbyn, we need someone who’ll keep a fragmented party together. I fear voting Corbyn will bring us back to the days of Michael Foot and will lead to more years of Tory rule,” said Tom Henwood, who is backing Burnham.
“My heart might be with Corbyn ideologically – as with many members – but I think that the wider public isn’t ready for that level of progressiveness yet,” said Georgina Hayes, who is backing Yvette Cooper.
“If we go too far to the left we will leave ourselves isolated from the core voters we need to win,” said Greg Robinson, a company director from Manchester.
“We are 99 seats behind the Conservatives [in England] and we will not get all those back in Scotland. Fine principles and sitting in opposition will not help child poverty, the NHS, the disabled, public services and those that society should seek to protect.”
But support for Corbyn was the majority view, particularly from those identifying themselves as younger voters or those who had recently signed up to membership of the party.
“My generation weren’t born, let alone old enough to vote the last time a leftwing option was on the ballot at a general election,” said Andrew Whitechurch, 31, who intended to sign up to vote before the 12 August deadline.
“Labour needs to be distinct and I hope Corbyn as leader moderates his own position to create a consensus and work across the party to create an anti-austerity option for English voters.”
Below is a selection of views from those planning to vote for Corbyn in August’s ballot.
‘If it makes Labour less likely to win then so be it’
What is the point of Labour if not to stand up for ordinary working people, whether they are currently in work, sick, disabled or on the scrapheap? There has to be an alternative to pandering to the market. Jeremy offers hope for the future, the promise of a fightback, of resistance to the markets: people and the planet before profit. If it makes Labour less likely to win then so be it. What is the point of winning just to implement Tory-lite policies?
The SNP wiped Labour out in Scotland because they offered a leftwing alternative to austerity and war. Surveys show a majority of English voters support nationalisation of the railways and the energy companies. They want the NHS to remain in public ownership. Abolition of [student] tuition fees is popular (ask Nick Clegg). Neoliberal unrestrained capitalism has had its day, it is bankrupt and people are fed up having to pay for it. It is destroying our planet, our communities, our services, our children’s futures. Someone has to start to fight back and only Jeremy is willing to do it. The other three are careerist politicians.
- Charles Wells, 48, Liverpool, finance manager
‘He’s no messiah. But he’s perhaps the start of a debate we need’
Corbyn is the only genuine alternative to a neoliberal smorgasbord on offer by both the other candidates and the Conservatives. A choice where you can have any colour you want as long as it sticks to the tenets of neoliberal common sense.
We don’t need more neoliberalism – we need less, for five specific reasons: We don’t want to be intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich. We do care who provides public services. We do need action on climate change. We do need to stop TTIP. We need to build council houses.
Having said that, I also don’t think that Corbyn is “the answer”. He’s no messiah. But he’s perhaps the start of a debate we need to have in this country – which other countries across Europe are having. Moreover, his links to social movements indicate the fact that he might be able to point towards a better form of democracy, or a post-parliamentary politics of the future.
- Matthew Bramall, 31, London, campaigner and fundraiser
‘I do not believe that Miliband dragged the party as far left as many would have us believe’
They’re all likely to lose us the next election but at least Corbyn will do it with some principles. I don’t subscribe to the narrative that Blair was a terrible prime minister or that his reforms were traitorous to Labour’s ideals, but I do not believe that Miliband dragged the party as far left as many would have us believe. The “centrist” candidates, such as Kendall, will drag us further right than Blair, into territory I am deeply uncomfortable occupying. Corbyn will drag the party left so that the next attempt to move towards the centre will at least reflect a more genuine centre.
Of course, I also agree with much of Corbyn’s politics. But I understand they are more leftwing than many people’s and I am willing to compromise for the sake of electability. I just feel we are now being asked to sacrifice too much. Harman’s talk of “the electorate” having sent a message is heartbreaking. She is referring, of course, to the Tory swing voters, not to the millions who sent the MPs Labour does have back to the Commons in the hopes they would fight for them. I feel, having voted for them, I am now being berated by them. That makes it very difficult to feel enthusiastic about supporting the establishment right now.
- Rebecca, 31, Cardiff, administrative worker in further education
‘Labour has just decisively lost an election trying to copy the Conservatives’
He’s the only one who actually talks about child poverty, homelessness, unaffordable housing, progressive taxation, privatisation, and other core issues in a way which resonates with my beliefs. The other candidates come across as Tory-lite estate agents, unwilling to confront the miserable reality of millions of people’s lives blighted by ideologically-driven Tory policies.
Labour has just decisively lost an election trying to copy the Conservatives, so now we need someone to set out a clear alternative agenda based on social provision and equality of opportunity.
- Max Fishel, 63, London, assistant headteacher
‘Labour have become like desperate sales people who will say anything’
The welfare bill told me everything I needed to know. You can’t have everyone occupying the centre ground. The traditional Labour voters are leaving in droves to Ukip and the Greens as Labour have forgotten their roots.
I’m all for moving with the times but don’t disregard your core support and the ones who can’t see the difference between the parties and so didn’t vote at all. We need to engage these people again: ignore them at your peril.
Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who has a consistent socialist message. Labour have become like desperate sales people who will say anything to get elected. Stay true to principles and believe in them.
- Joanne Rogers, 44, Liverpool
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