Jeremy Corbyn made a speech in Wakefield (why Wakefield?) this week to a very bored looking audience who looked as if they had been told to attend instead of go to the pub where, like Club Tropicana, drinks were free. The essence of his words were this” Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rubbish. We need a general election so that, with all the negotiating skills I learned back in the 1970s when I was chair of the Housing Committee of Haringey council, I can bring back a better Brexit deal.” If this was supposed to make the Magic Grandpa look prime ministerial, then it failed completely. Gazing over his reading glasses, he looked like the bewildered old man he actually is reading out someone else’s words. Oh Christ, a general election. Another one. No thanks.
In normal circumstances, I’d have been delighted that a general election had been called. A woefully incompetent Conservative government led by the worst prime minister of my lifetime by some quite considerable distance should be a breeze for Labour. It’s not just Brexit May’s government are messing up: it’s everything. But if you think that things couldn’t be any worse, think Corbyn.
I keep hearing the argument, always from the hard left, that any Labour government is better than a Tory government. It has some merit, too. The Labour government of 1997 to 2010 dramatically improved things that matter to people, like the NHS, schools, introducing a minimum wage, Sure Start and so much else. Whatever you thought of Tony Blair and his top team, they knew what they were doing. No one can really say the same thing about Corbyn and his top team, culled entirely from the political equivalent of a Sunday pub team.
If Labour would do a better job in office than the Tories, I offer Corbyn’s sheer ineptitude as leader of the opposition. No one, not even his most loyal cult supporters would accuse him of having a towering intellect, or having a single original idea in this life. His has been a life of protest, of easy slogans and empty rhetoric, of life on the outside of the tent pissing in. The few ideas he has, far from representing a new kind of politics, are rehashed Bennism from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s old medicine in old bottles. And how the failed ideas of 40-odd years ago will somehow deal with the issues of 2019 is beyond me. It’s certainly beyond Corbyn. He’s simply no good.
A decent leader, say Yvette Cooper, would surely have long seen off May. Simply by holding the PM to account and pointing out her sheer ineptitude at PMQs would have damaged May beyond repair. But Corbyn has been so poor, so devoid of ideas, unable to think on his feet, always reading out someone else’s questions, May remains far more popular in the country than Corbyn. In fact, ‘don’t know’ polls far higher than Corbyn.
The electorate has not been brainwashed by the nasty right wing media. Take me for example – please! I am naturally a left of centre, Guardian reading Europhile. I do not need the Daily Mail to tell me Corbyn is out of his depth any more than I need the Mirror to tell me how out of her depth May is. I have worked this out myself. Most people have.
The big question is this: if not the Tories, then who? If not Corbyn, then who? Honestly? I don’t have a clue. I am as politically homeless as I was the day I resigned from the Labour Party, which was shortly after Corbyn became its leader. I am no more likely to vote for Corbyn’s wretched version of Labour than a mainstream Tory is to vote for the BNP. My ideal would be a mainstream left led Labour Party with all its best talents on the front bench and not Abbott, Burgon, Long Bailey and the other political nonentities which laughably yearn for the great offices of state. It feels to me as if Labour is saying, “We’re shit, but not as shit as that lot.” Hardly a great selling point.
Do I want a pacifist, terrorist-sympathising (there’s a thing) unilateral nuclear disarming, Russia friendly old man to lead my country? No, I don’t. What I do want is my Labour back, but given the control the hard left has I am not going to get it. And knowing what the hard left has done to my old union the PCS, reducing it to a completely irrelevant laughing stock where the needs of members are almost immaterial to the politics, I know how this ends.
A general election where the choice is again between May and Corbyn, two hard Brexiters who want to pull up the drawbridge to the rest of the world? I’m not a don’t know: I’m a do know and I do know that I have nowhere to go when the election comes.