Twitter and libertarianism

Prospect poll on Twitter users highlights the growth of libertarianism

Libertarianism is the ideology of the future, judging by the new Prospect/YouGov poll on the "twitterati". The survey found that Twitter users are more concerned with civil liberties than the public at large, but also that they are more likely to defend multimillion-pound salaries and large bonuses.

The belief that greater police powers to tackle terrorism are more important than protecting civil liberties is supported by 57 per cent of the public but less than half of British Twitterers.

Prospect's press release suggests that the civil libertarian bias of Twitter users contrasts with the "popular view that David Cameron's Conservatives and their blogging supporters are the most adept online force in politics".

That may be so, but Twitter users also appear to be exactly the sort of constituency that David Cameron has so assiduously courted (with some success). To its shame, Labour has consistently been more authoritarian than the Tories on pre-charge detention and on ID cards. Prospect is right to identify Twitter as a "real force in British politics"; it's not one that Labour can afford to alienate.

More broadly, it is clear that the user-driven nature of sites such as Twitter encourages a libertarian mindset. I think we can expect to see increasing numbers of Conservatives redefine themselves as libertarians, and to witness the continuing growth of new forms of digital socialism.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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