Too left-wing or not populist enough? Using Laclau and Mouffe to rethink Corbynism and future left strategy in the UK

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Abstract

Jeremy Corbyn’s dramatic rise and fall created a problem for left political strategists in the UK. Contradictory explanations centre around two broad areas. First, ideology: Corbynism was either too left-wing or not left-wing enough; and second, democracy and populism: Corbynism was either anti-democratic and authoritarian populist or ‘left-populist’ and democratising. The centrality of these debates to the Corbyn literature implies that strategists today face a dilemma. Either consolidate the Labour party as a radical left-wing grassroots movement against the PLP, or a centre-left party that re-establishes PLP authority. Indeed, Keir Starmer is already interpreted to have aligned himself with the latter of these two options. This paper offers an original interpretation of Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of populism to demonstrate that this is a false dichotomy which not only risks unnecessarily restricting Labour party strategy but potentially has severe ramifications for how we understand left-wing politics in Britain more widely.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Politics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 May 2022

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