Responding to a question from Guardian columnist Owen Jones about Conservative voters, Jeremy Corbyn destroyed the myth that he cannot win them over.
Rather than adopting the divisive rhetoric of Tory politicians, the Labour leader calmly showed how his policies would make a concrete difference to people’s lives:
Jones had asked:
Someone who voted Conservative in the last general election… what reasons now are there for them to vote Labour?
Corbyn responded by showing how his policies, such as free university and investment in public services, would benefit ordinary people, like Tory voters:
You may have children, they are gonna want to go to university. Should they leave with £50,000 worth of debt? You may have children who are going to need somewhere to live who cant get anywhere to live, who are probably living with you or possibly even outstayed their welcome, it does happen.
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And also say to them, are you comfortable with a society where the proportion of income of the whole country on wages is reducing, the proportion of income on dividends and executive pay is increasing. Inequality is growing very very fast.
Are you comfortable with the level of homelessness and dislocation in our society? Do you want a health service that will be there for you whatever your condition, for all times? I’d say to them, think of the wider community and what we can achieve.
Universities did not have tuition fees until Tony Blair introduced them in 1998, proving they are by no means a necessity. Conservatives often argue ‘why would I pay for someone else’s education?’ But all of us benefit from having doctors, teachers, academics and other well educated people in society. Just as all of us benefit from our own children having free higher education.
Case in point: Jack Andraka, who was 15 years old when he identified a revolutionary tool in recognising pancreatic cancer, would never have made his discovery without access to online journals. Academic journals are often locked up by publishing companies who charge a bomb for access, despite the research usually being publicly funded. Andraka’s life saving discovery is a shining example of how freedom of education benefits everyone. The more people who have access to education, the higher the chance of humans finding solutions to our problems. And when it comes to cancer, these solutions are life or death.
In the second part of his answer, Corbyn brought the Labour movement into a modern setting. He tapped into the nationhood of many Tory voters by showing how the present government is neglecting British investment in technology and ideas, needlessly gifting other countries the rewards of our endeavours:
But also, think of the industrial future of this country. If we carry on with the levels of under investment, we have the lowest level of investment of any of the major industrial countries, and it’s falling.
Are we going to be forever developing high-tech equipment, high-tech ideas in Manchester university or any other university, and selling them to China to be manufactured? Or are we actually going to have a government with a national investment bank who’ll say ‘great idea’, the computer was a great idea – Manchester university, for example, why isn’t that being developed here?
We would take inventions forward, we would take high technology forward. We would take forward the green technology. This government’s unbelievably short-sighted decision to shut down or reduce payments for solar and sympathetically generated electricity means that we are losing the solar power industry completely, we’re now imported solar panels, we should be making them here.
Different government, different approach, different ideas – an idea about a stronger, more sustainable community.
There is a vision for the future here that could resonate with electors across the political spectrum, including Tories. Answering Jones’ question, Corbyn did not compromise on his policies but still made them accessible to Tory voters. Strategically, if the Labour leader pandered to anti-immigration rhetoric, for example, he may only reduce his base support in an attempt to woo Conservative voters.
In the bigger picture, challenging the Conservative narrative on national interest, while offering an alternative, is much more effective than buying into it.
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Featured image from Flickr/Garry Knight
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