His manifesto kept the Tories’ benefit cap in place at the election three weeks ago, even though he was initially propelled to the Labour leadership by his one-time opposition to it, and even though former welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith had called it arbitrary and unfair.
Meanwhile Corbyn committed billions of pounds in the same manifesto to axeing university tuition fees – a move that would be of most benefit to high-earning graduates.
Corbyn’s speech at Glastonbury came just days after the High Court had upheld a legal challenge to the benefit cap. Following a judicial review brought by young single mothers in poverty, Mr Justice Collins said the cap was causing “real misery for no good reason”.
To secure this verdict, which will help 26,000 struggling families, these women had to painstakingly demonstrate a relationship between childcare, the job market, benefit payments and maternal poverty. They did this with little outside support.
“For the many, not the few”. Because the political left rely on Twitter, historians will be able to marvel at the audacity of this statement. Twitter will allow them to trace how a small group of comrades from elite universities, media organisations, and a political party, built a trade union-funded ‘movement’ over seven years. They’ll be able to trace the younger comrades back to one small peer group from Oxford University and other Russell Group institutions.
Watching their journey from the anti-fees movement to the cult of Corbyn, taking in the ‘radical’ media of Novara, and the exploitative whining of Owen Jones, historians will be able to study how this tiny privileged peer group extracted maximum career benefit from austerity and then prioritised bribing middle class students instead of reversing welfare cuts.
Historians will note how Corbyn used welfare cuts to get his job as leader, and how families hit by austerity drove the vote that denied the Tories a majority. Instead, he assumed it was driven by students. The same historians will note Momentum was a company owned by a Jon Lansman, not a movement.
What the Labour left do not understand is the archaic juvenile nonsense they call socialism will have to be ditched. The rule of law will have to be applied to our welfare system and the data within it used to inform us about the economy and inequality. This means an end to welfare politics where the poor must audition to the left for pity and sympathy. New institutions will have to be created via cross-party consensus if they are to survive for another seventy years, not just a faction of one party.
Corbyn may be boosted by tragedies such as Grenfell, but he has a harder job than the Tories, and the omission of the benefit cap from his manifesto says neither he nor our trade unions can see it. His execution of a hyper-partisan media strategy on the back of Grenfell won’t be remembered as evidence of how much he cared about the victims. Meanwhile John McDonnell sees Brexit and our economy as crises to exploit, and is jumping up and down on the ice we’re skating on while telling us there’s warm water underneath.
It’s been the best part of a century since the working classes were enfranchised. Corbyn is now going to have allow us a voice that isn’t injury, tragedy, and loss.
Corbyn may think ‘the poor’ are fuel for his movement, but he needs to adjust to the precariat as swing voters, and the scale of the crisis he just rode in on.