Kenneth Clarke is a major figure in the Conservative Party (a former Chancellor, Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor, Justice Secretary, Education Secretary and Health Secretary).
As he told The Huffington Post:
“Don’t underestimate Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a nice guy.
“It’s not certain he will lose an election. Michael Foot, who stood on a much more left wing platform in 1983, was miles ahead before the election.
“If you have another recession or if the Conservative Government becomes very unpopular, he could win.
“In difficult times the party with the duty of government can become unpopular.
“He will be difficult to campaign against.”
2. Tory cabinet minister: Corbyn “would drag the overall debate to the left”.
Matthew d’Ancona, former editor of The Spectator and Deputy Editor of The Sunday Telegraph, is well-connected in Tory circles. As he writes:
“My straw poll of Tories and their response to the Labour leadership contest is not remotely scientific, but revealed certain unmistakable trends. Yes, there are some who cannot disguise their glee at Corbyn-mania and their general disdain for the mediocrity of the contest. …
“Yet there are surprisingly few of them, truth to tell. One cabinet member says that Corbyn’s leadership “would drag the overall debate to the left and the tiny risk of his victory would be a catastrophe for Britain”. … [Even Corbyn’s failure] would threaten to re-define the centre ground and, by definition, make the Tories look more rightwing.”
3. Tory campaigner Oliver Cooper: “Corbyn doesn’t reduce the risk of Labour winning, [but] he does raise the stakes.”
In the Telegraph, Oliver Cooper – Tory Councillor and Chair of the Conservative Way Forward organising committee – warns Conservatives not to welcome Corbyn’s success.
His argument is worth quoting at length:
“Corbyn would still have six questions at PMQs. His frontbench would still have a representative on Question Time and Newsnight. His party’s policy announcements and press releases would get just as much news coverage as a credible opposition.
“In short, Labour being Labour, they’ll still have the same platform … The only difference is Corbyn’s views will be more left-wing, so will shift the entire political debate to the left. Long-term, so long as Labour and the Conservatives remain the two major parties in the UK, the only way to make progress is to persuade Labour to accept our position. Our ideas don’t win just when our party does, but when the other party advocates our ideas, too.
“Instead, a Corbyn victory would lend credibility to the far-left … giving a megaphone to their [politics]. Inevitably, this would skew the discourse, letting Corbyn’s ideas become the default alternative to the Conservatives. Corbyn’s brand of socialism would poison the groundwater of British politics for a generation: influencing people, particularly young people, across the political spectrum.
“All of the above applies if he loses the general election. … [But that’s] not a foregone conclusion. Indeed, in 1975, Margaret Thatcher was widely portrayed as ‘unelectable’. Her election as party leader was cheered by Labour as playing to the Conservative base and guaranteeing yet another Conservative defeat. Three general election landslides later, nobody was left worrying about her electability.
“… as Harold Macmillan said, governments can always be undermined by “Events, dear boy, events.” And if he were leader, it would take just one event – from the collapse of the Eurozone to a domestic political scandal – to put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10. For the sake of the country and for the innumerable Conservative achievements he’d unwind, it is important that that option be taken off the table.
“I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn would win the 2020 election – but then I don’t Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, or Liz Kendall would either. … But there’s always that risk of the unexpected. So while Corbyn doesn’t reduce the risk of Labour winning, he does raise the stakes. And the danger of bringing socialism back to the UK under Jeremy Corbyn is all too real a threat for #ToriesAgainstCorbyn to risk.”
4. Matthew d’Ancona: “He has stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics as if they weren’t there”.
Matthew d’Ancona goes on:
“… the sort of Conservatives who think intelligently and strategically – and there are more of them than you think – fret that a bearded 66-year-old socialist has ignited political debate in a way that absolutely nobody in the mainstream predicted. He has stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics as if they weren’t there …
“… what if the rules have changed? What if Corbyn’s moment in the sun is more than an anomaly, a quirk, an exception that proves the rule? The smart politician allows for such possibilities. Which is why smart Tories, far from gloating, are asking themselves if this is the start of something; and if so, of what?”
5. Asa Bennett: “it takes one calamity … and you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.”
Asa Bennett, assistant comment editor at The Telegraph, argues:
“Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, well that would warp the entire nature of political debate. You’d find that all these theories he has about nationalising swathes of industry, setting up big nationalised banks … will become the norm.”
“You may think, “Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, ah, that’s very cute and very irrelevant, cos he’ll just be shouting on the sidelines.” But just think of this: it takes one calamity – let’s say the Eurozone blows up – and then suddenly the government will fall, and you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Imagine that.”