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5 October 2018

Corbyn’s aim is to be the Thatcher of the left

Labour’s latest slick campaign video demonstrates how its aim is to redistribute power, as well as wealth - and how it intends to achieve it.

By Patrick Maguire

Another week, another slick campaign broadcast from Labour. Tory MPs have been fretting about the opposition’s last video, which, like the conference it followed, was a focused pitch to Leavers in small towns – the marginal seats that both Team Corbyn and Downing Street believe will decide the next election.

Labour follows it up today with Granby Street, filmed during its conference in Liverpool. It was, unsurprisingly, shot on a visit by Jeremy Corbyn to the previously derelict street of the same name, where residents led a regeneration project after multi-million pound council projects failed. It is, Corbyn says in the video, evidence that local communities can effect change better than “top-down, outsourced efforts”.

Someone whose party had spent a lot of money on a community organising unit would say that, wouldn’t they? Last week’s video tells us who Labour wants to win, this one tells us how – “empowering local people to take control of their communities” under the party’s banner. Corbyn spent much of his summer in setting this process in train in Leave-backing English marginals like Stoke-on-Trent South and Mansfield.

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It also goes some way to revealing the what and why of the policy thinking at the top of the party. Sources close to Corbyn push back against the idea that they are merely about traditional tax-and-spend social democratic redistribution and instead say the fundamental aim of their project is to redistribute power, not just wealth, by reforming Britain’s economic model.

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That was the thinking behind policies announced by John McDonnell at conference, such as compelling all large firms to create share ownership schemes for their workers. There is a reason why the prime minister Corbyn’s allies most often compare him to is Thatcher, not Attlee: their aim is to make Britain’s economic system work for the majority through shifts as fundamental as Right to Buy and the privatisation of nationalised industries (and sales of shares to the public).

Videos like those released over the past two weeks show both the clarity of that purpose and the means by which the Labour leadership intends to realise it. Regardless of their immediate success – new polling from YouGov shows Labour has shed some Leave voters in recent weeks – it was clear in Birmingham that there is no such depth and coherence of vision at the top of the Conservative Party, and still less a roadmap for winning.