HOW did Jeremy Corbyn win, that Saturday 15 months ago? On the back of a remarkable campaign and the collapse of Labour’s right, yes, but how? And why?
An answer is needed, not only for the Labour left and those who see it as the best bet but also for those otherwise uninterested in the party’s fortunes and eyeing up an alternative route to socialism.
It is important because a good answer will hold up a mirror to the left and to the social forces that have landed us in this situation and light up the paths we can take from here. The Candidate provides such a thoughtful response.
Alex Nunns isn’t the first to have a go — Richard Seymour’s Corbyn book springs to mind — but he shuns prophecy for a study of the moving parts. That’s not to knock Seymour, whose book is worth reading, but his analysis exists in the service of a particular argument.
The Candidate is altogether different. Nunns looks in detail at the factors that combined to create the conditions for, and propel us toward, Corbyn’s victory and lays out the evidence for study.
A good example is the Collins review of Labour’s internal elections. Nunns does an eye-opening job of digging into what the review meant practically — changes that perhaps seemed marginal at the time but with careful analysis and a bit of hindsight now appear central.
That’s the depth but Nunns doesn’t spare the breadth. Collins appears again in a knowledgable chapter on the trade unions, where the starting point is Ed Miliband’s win, traced through the union drive for worker-friendly candidates for the 2015 general election and the fabricated scandal in Falkirk — the “High Noon” of Unite’s showdown with Progress, as Martin Mayer comments.
And, as a delicious digestif, there’s a page of “critical praise” for the Collins review from top Blairites. Nunns is not just perceptive but frequently funny.
There are more immediately practical lessons too, such as the tactics adopted by the Corbyn campaign, what worked and what failed — not something I’d normally be drawn to but Nunns kept me with him throughout.
It’s hard to do The Candidate justice. If you want to know how and why Corbyn won, read this book. There’s no preaching, no fawning, just a clear-sighted and enjoyable exploration of where we are and how we got here.
It’s up to us to use this knowledge to decide where we go next.
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