The situation looks very different when you think about the deal on offer for the working class things look dramatically different. The typical working class lifestyle of my childhood is now a rarity. Factory jobs and skilled trades aren't the norm. Instead there are temporary contracts, some of them on zero hours, in roles such as delivery drivers. Gone are the days when there was a good chance of getting yourself a secure lease on a well built council house and that has been replaced by insecure private rental deals. There are few trade unions left with the ability to seriously defend the most vulnerable workers via the route of collective action. The best most can manage when things go wrong is a bit of legal advice. If you want a doctor's appointment for your sick kid you can't ring up a GP and expect them to come round to your house. That was the norm when I was young. Now you have to know a couple of weeks in advance that your kid intends to be sick so you can book a fifteen minute appointment provided the triage nurse thinks the child's illness sufficiently serious.
Even when it comes to the simple pleasures in life things seem very different. As a child I could afford to go to the football every fortnight out of my modest pocket money. Now very few working class adults can justify the expense of a ticket to a Premier League game in a tight budget. A night at the pub has moved from being a cheap pleasure to being a serious expense. A working class teenager used to be able to afford a motorbike or a scooter and a record player and to dress in sharp fashions. Now the high streets are full of pawn brokers, cash converters, loan sharks and lawyers specialising in compensation claims.
This probably sounds like nostalgic nonsense. Much of it probably is nostalgic nonsense. But it is a widely believed piece of nonsense and an important part of political psychology. Rightly or wrongly the working class in much of what used to be called the First World believes that things ain't wot they used to be and no one is looking out for their interests. A lot of these people are looking for an explanation of why the lifestyle they felt comfortable with has gone and the result is UKIP, the Front National in France, and Donald Trump along with Bernie Saunders, Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos, and Syriza.
There is a battle going on for hearts and minds of working class communities that matters enormously. In my childhood it was taken for granted that a Chinese person was a peasant who lived off a bowl of rice a day and India was a place where there were regular famines. You sent the occasional few quid to India to help with famine relief - you didn't get rung up from a state of the art software centre in Bangalore and the idea that Chinese factories would out compete UK ones and cause them to close would have been laughed at. Faced with competition for jobs and incomes from across the globe there are two very different philosophies that tend to prosper.
One is to say that we need to build a wall and to try and shut out threatening economic change by erecting borders, tariff walls and bringing the jobs home to the rust belts. The other is to accept that the old world was unfair and unequal and to set about gaining the skills and building the science and the businesses that are needed in a global economy and a global environment.
It is not hard to come up with a rational economic explanation as to why the first approach must ultimately lead to petty national rivalries and economic failure. We know this because it happened once before in the 1930s and it didn't turn out well then. Reactionary attempts to make change go away tend to end very badly but they have a nasty tendency to sound very attractive. When you are feeling threatened and vulnerable a rational explanation isn't always the key thing. What is important in the new era is emotional belief.
In the referendum in the UK sensible rational logical arguments about economic welfare and political reality were brushed aside and lost by a lot more than the simple mathematical measure of 48 to 52%. Emotional arguments that there was an easy solution to hand to all our problems hit home and won hearts and minds bigtime. The solution for progressive people is not to write off those people as incapable of understanding their own best interests. The solution is to engage effectively with their emotions. It is necessary to understand their fears and their needs and to find a way of delivering just as much if not more emotional hope for change behind a progressive agenda as Trump has managed to deliver behind a simplistic nationalist agenda.
For all his bumbling incompetent failures to properly attack Cameron when there was easy ammunition to hand that is why people are still supporting Corbyn. The point is not whether he is more competent that Owen or May. The point is that he offers some kind of emotional hope that something might be different. He isn't doing it very well but he is at least trying to do it. Few people are emotional persuaded by the appeal of a Labour Party offering us a return to the good old days of Blair and Brown and middle of the road safety. That offer isn't just unattractive in the UK it is desperately thin across the world. Just ask the Social Democrats in France who are currently destroying their party by being in office every bit as thoroughly as Labour is doing by being out of it. This does not mean that I think we need political leaders from the left who are still intellectually struggling to understand that the world isn't the same as it was in the late 1970s. What we need is leadership on the left that is forward thinking, competent and emotionally inspiring. Leadership that has got to grips with the issues of a global economy and the huge significance of the rapid end of the oil economy which faces us but can put the needs across in language which persuades.
I don't know about you but I remain very sceptical that there is anyone in the Labour Party with the ability and the vision to achieve this. But the one thing I am pretty certain about is that the name of the person with the required vision isn't Owen Smith