It will not have completely escaped the notice of my loyal reader that I have not exactly been Jeremy Corbyn’s most enthusiastic supporter, particularly since he became Labour leader. In fact, I do not see a political leader at all, more a career backbencher who has somehow found his way to the top position in what is, nominally, her majesty’s loyal opposition.
We are constantly told that Corbyn is a decent man with honourable principles. I do not doubt that this is true, but a part of me always sees the implication that whilst he is principled, no one who holds an alternative point of view could possibly hold any principles at all. Only Jeremy.
Many of his political positions – I hesitate to call them policies because Corbyn seems to hold positions, not policies – are reasonable enough, even desirable, but like the man he followed, Ed Miliband, there is no over-arching vision of what Britain under Corbyn might look like, although I have a reasonable idea. It would look like a protest march.
This has been the main failing of the “new politics”. Corbyn has carried on as if nothing had happened. With the Conservatives careering ahead with the destruction of the welfare state and all the things we hold dear, Corbyn has dinner with a far left anti-war group, which is always anti-war unless it is being waged by Russia and has some highly dubious, to say the least, views on Israel. Fair enough, he used to be chair of Stop The War and he’s free to associate with whomsoever he desires, but it’s a distraction, hanging out with the 57 varieties of Trotskyism that control the group. In doing so, Corbyn encourages the “nice but dim” image some people – not me – are beginning to use about him.
Corbyn bumbles along as if nothing has changed and he’s still on marches, at protest meetings where everyone agrees with him and there’s no one else to persuade and his henchman, the definitely not very nice John McDonnell, strikes a pose, whether tossing a copy of Mao’s red book across the dispatch box and adopting slogans rather than carrying out the very important work of holding the government account. Let me be more specific. McDonnell’s dire response to George Osborne’s autumn statement ranks with the worst parliamentary performances I have ever seen. Not just the theatrical own goal, but the failure to expose Osborne for the failure that he is and, more importantly, to claim victory on the tax credit U turn whilst allowing the chancellor’s sleight of hand in transferring the cuts to future Universal Credit payments. This is going to happen: poor people are going to be made poorer through cuts to Universal Credit instead of through tax credits. McDonnell didn’t even mention it, he probably didn’t even notice. Sheer incompetence.
As well as being bereft of policy, the leaders of the “new politics” seem unwilling, or is it unable, to learn the lessons of Labour’s humiliating defeat last May. Where are the reviews of why Labour was so roundly rejected by the electorate? There don’t seem to be any. No one is listening to the public and the idea that the public’s listening to Labour right now is laughable. And it is even more laughable that Ed Miliband, who knows a thing or two about losing elections, criticises unnamed people for their “excessive focus” on Corbyn’s extra-curricular activities with Stop The War when they should be concentrating on the fight against the Tories. No, Ed. It is Corbyn who should focus on taking the fight to the Tories, putting to one side his close links with a far left fringe group who announced in their website that Paris had “reaped the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in the Middle East”. Paris had it coming, said Stop The War. Are we simply supposed to ignore that Corbyn’s pet organisation makes such crass comments? Better, surely, that he concentrates fully on the job in hand?
I keep hearing about Corbyn’s overwhelming mandate from the 259,000 who voted for him as leader, but then veteran Brownite trade union fixer Tom Watson has a mandate too, as do the Labour MPs from the 9.3 million who voted for them. No one seems to mention the poor bloody voters so don’t be surprised that when the glorious election day comes along in 2020 and many of those voters look elsewhere.
Corbyn is going nowhere. He is Labour’s leader for the foreseeable and unforeseeable future and we all have to live with that. Stories of coups are media mythology, everyone knows that we’re stuck with him for better or, probably, for worse.
It is Corbyn who now needs to focus on the things that matter and set to one side the safe and cosy world of meetings and marches in favour of leadership. He is not Chauncey Gardiner, at least we hope he’s not, who has found himself as the accidental leader of the Labour Party, he stands a few paces from the leadership of the land, at least in theory.
The so called parliamentary opposition from Labour MPs is based more on despair than any desire to unseat Corbyn. Even his best friends would admit that he is not an inspiring communicator and to date it is only clear what he opposes rather than what he supports. It is not too late for Corbyn to turn things around. I am not holding my breath that he will or even can turn things around but it would be good if he could at least concentrate on the job at hand. Protests have their place in society but he’s a party leader now. I just hope he can tell the difference.