Could Corbyn's 'reboot' to campaign like Trump work?

Just 16 months into his leadership, and it already seems like the last throw of the dice for Jeremy Corbyn.

The Corbyn 'reboot' is doomed to failure, argues Robert Taylor
The Corbyn 'reboot' is doomed to failure, argues Robert Taylor
Spooked by diabolical poll ratings, Corbyn's team want to ape some of Donald Trump's campaigning tactics. 

They want him to be unashamedly true to himself and his beliefs, reaching out directly to the voters and building up support not because of media approval, but despite media hostility. It will be 'Jeremy Uncut'.

Could this work? In theory, yes. 

Donald Trump proved it. His media strategy was anything but conventional. He delighted in confrontation, even with the Republican Party, attracting terrible headlines. 

He tore up the rule book for media handling and campaigning, stretching to the very limit the theory that no news is bad news. 

He made little attempt to win over journalists, but often attacked them, and portrayed the media as part of the discredited elite. 

This neatly fed into voters’ frustration about the state of the economy, the forces of globalisation and the need for radical change. "At least he says what he thinks," they said.

And Trump isn’t alone. Here in the UK, Nigel Farage pulled off a similar trick, portraying himself and his supporters as the people’s army fighting the establishment. 

Like Trump, Farage refused to soften his message, happily provoking his opponents, unafraid of media scorn.

So what about Corbyn? 

Could he become the anti-establishment populist of the left? After all, he too has faced a critical media from the moment he was elected, and deep animosity from his own party. 

And many voters in Labour’s heartlands feel that same frustration about their economic prospects and the pace of change in a globalised world. 

But whereas Trump has spent the last two years picking fights, lashing out and dominating the news bulletins – often distastefully, but always effectively – Corbyn has done the exact opposite, shying away from the spotlight and prevaricating for fear of offending. 

He was practically invisible during the EU referendum campaign, the biggest decision this country has faced for 40 years. 

He has no coherent message on immigration, which has become an obsession, particularly in Labour’s northern heartlands. 

And when he does land on a radical initiative, such as a wage cap, he appears to take fright and back away – something that Trump and Farage would never do.

If a Corbyn reboot was ever going to work, it needed to be about a month after he was elected, after the negativity had started but before the outright hostility had set in. 

He would still have had almost zero chance of becoming Prime Minister (he’s just too left wing for that, with priorities and beliefs way out of kilter with those of the average voter), but he would have gained respect for boldly saying it as he saw it, with a little more class than Trump displays. 

The authentic Jezza – from the start.

Now it’s too late. The voters have made up their mind about him, with most, fairly or not, marking him down as an eccentric irrelevance. 

Apart from his relatively few devoted followers, his support is draining away. Sadly, then, rebooting him is doomed to fail.

Robert Taylor is a media and comms trainer 

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