It's not the establishment who are against Jeremy Corbyn -- it's the people

  • Jeremy Corbyn promises to take on “the establishment” and “their followers in the media” at his election campaign launch.
  • Polls suggest his anti-establishment message has so far failed to cut through with the British public.
  • More people believe in ghosts and angels than believe Corbyn will win the election.

LONDON — “The dividing lines in this election could not be clearer,” said Jeremy Corbyn as he launched his party’s general election campaign in Westminster on Thursday morning.

“It is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure that the people prevail.”

Corbyn’s speech, which came within 48 hours of Theresa May calling for a snap general election, was dominated by a series of attacks on the “establishment” and “their followers in the media.”

“They do not want us to win,” he told the audience. “Because when we win it is the people, not the powerful, who win…

“We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game.”

Such appeals to the public against the establishment are nothing new. Donald Trump became US president largely on the back of almost identical claims to be taking on the “rigged system” in the favour of the people.

Corbyn today delivered his own version of this message effectively. He seemed relaxed and energised and put across his anti-establishment, anti-austerity message, clearly and with discipline.

And unlike Theresa May, who increasingly appears determined to avoid public debate or journalistic scrutiny during this election campaign, Corbyn was willing to answer inconvenient questions from the press with good humour and a light touch, even though he had devoted much of his speech to attacking them.

But while politicians’ appeals to “the people” against the establishment can be successful, they are only successful when a large chunk of the people are already with you. Trump won because he successfully managed to marshall existing Republican voters to the polling booths. In Britain, Labour voters have already abandoned the party in their droves.

According to the latest YouGov poll, a third of Labour’s 2015 voters are now backing other parties, with Labour a whopping 24 points behind the Conservatives.

Polls suggest there are now more British people who believe in ghosts and angels than there are people who believe in Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, Corbyn’s own favourability ratings are in the low teens. Polls suggest there are now more British people who believe in ghosts and angels than there are people who believe in Jeremy Corbyn.

And while Corbyn claimed today that “the establishment”are “worried” about a Corbyn victory, inside Number 10, the actual establishment could not be more relaxed.The Labour leader may believe, as he claimed today, that he will be the next prime minister of Great Britain, but hardly anyone else does. As things stand it is not the “establishment” that are blocking Corbyn’s path to Downing Street — it’s the British people themselves.

Defying the odds?

When Corbyn was asked about these universally dire poll ratings today, his supporters in the room jeered the assembled journalists. Corbyn responded by pointing out that he was once 200/1 to become Labour leader.

This statistic went down well in the room. The idea of an underdog defying the odds in order to storm to victory is a romantic one, fondly cherished among Hollywood film directors and the sentimental. Perhaps on this occasion, such a fairy tale will become reality. Perhaps, after all, Corbyn will as he promised today: “prove the establishment experts” wrong.

Maybe he can. Maybe the British public will fundamentally change their opinion about the Labour leader in just a matter of weeks. Maybe his anti-establishment message will suddenly cut through with voters, in time to prevent May from inflicting what currently looks set to be a devastating defeat on Labour. Maybe the “establishment experts” are wrong. Maybe Jeremy Corbyn is the next prime minister of Great Britain.

It’s possible. Very occasionally a horse with 200/1 odds, is the first to cross the finishing line. It does sometimes happen. But normally it doesn’t. Normally just making it to the end of the race, without first keeling over, is the most the horse can hope for.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.

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