Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, maybe rebranded as a populist by Labour’s top strategists in 2017. The idea is to capture the feeling of anti – establishment politics that is surfacing in Britain and around the world.
Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, and the rise of left-wing Podemos in Spain, is showing an outright rejection of neo-liberal politics worldwide. Given that Corbyn has always stood apart from conventional politics, this could be leveraged to win public support.
Corbyn is perfectly placed to highlight that business and politicians of the establishment are working against the interests of the people. Unlike many politicians he isn’t corporate backed and has inspired hundreds and thousands of people to join the Labour Party, making it one of the biggest in the world. This is a departure from Donald Trump who offered nationalism to the American people to win the populist vote.
Should Labour move in this direction it will break the ‘New Labour’ obsession of showing how it can manage the economy as well as the Conservatives, but instead concentrate on the provision of public services.
It could also turn a ‘weakness’ into a strength. Corbyn has always been criticised on spurious and inconsequential comments on his dress sense and the national anthem. By portraying him as the outsider, these so-called ‘weaknesses’ are turned into strengths.
There have been early signs that this strategy has been put into action. When U.S President Obama took a swipe at Corbyn, he posted three tweets calling for Labour and the Democrats to “challenge power” in the wake of Clinton’s defeat.
The medium by which he delivered the message is important. It bypassed traditional media channels and instead spoke directly to the people. It bypassed political infrastructures of parliament and the traditional method of using a spokesman to speak to the press.
Trump, Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders use Twitter to speak to the people. After Corbyn’s tweet, the mainstream media reported that Corbyn had “hit back” at Obama’s comments.
In the last election, Ed Miliband, Corbyn’s predecessor played it safe and lost. Corbyn, who is routinely attacked by the mainstream media, can now turn this to his advantage.