I am no Labour supporter, but I want a strong Labour leader. Mr Jeremy Corbyn has to go firstly because he has failed to deliver a credible—or any—opposition to the government in the lifetime of his “leadership”.
His first duty was to his country, not to a particular faction within his party or to himself. He ignored that duty in favour of the same old internal party wrangling that has disfigured the Labour party for generations, and which makes it so unattractive to vote for if you are not a regular supporter.
In our ridiculous undemocratic parliamentary system, it is essential for the governing party to be held to account, to have a strong opposition. This is traditionally done by the boss of the largest party that didn’t win; he or she is titled, Leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition, and paid handsomely to do the job.
The country has to have that reliable, strong, thought out opposition if the party in power isn’t going to ride roughshod over everyone by default. This government has to be held to account, like any other, and Corbyn either can’t do that or won’t do that (or both).
His performance in the referendum campaign was simply the last straw. Either he truly supported Remain, in which his performance nationally was lacklustre to the point of irresponsibility. Or he didn’t, in which case, given how morally wonderful we are told he is, uttering his support was an act of treacherous hypocrisy easily on the scale of Blair’s in his time.
Like most people in power or in jobs of authority (those with salaried positions in the church, medical consultants, lawyers, above all politicians, and all the rest), Corbyn has a strong need to be right. Behaviour that may seem contradictory to the ordinary person, can be rationalised and justified in fine detail and is, therefore, ‘right’. This is often put positively as a man ‘of strongly held convictions’, as if that were an admirable quality. But, in truth, ‘stubborn’ is just as good a word. And god save us from the ‘conviction politician’.
One of the most telling portraits of him is a thirty minute documentary, made by an avowed supporter, Jeremy Corbyn: the outsider [*1]. In it, Corbyn is not shown being criticised—the camera crew is ejected if there is any risk of that happening. When he rehearses prime minister’s questions with some staff members, he is lamentable and they say nothing. Whoever coached him for his performances at PMQs is either deliberately setting him up to fail, or is too scared (if only because they want to keep their job), or too reluctant, to speak the truth. It is the emperor’s new clothes.
I strongly suspect, on the basis of no direct evidence, that, when he says his door is open—and has his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, say this, too—actually his door is only open to certain people: inner circle, people who voted for him. I don’t think it’s open to tory constituents; I don’t think it’s open to his fellow MPs in the parliamentary Labour party who disagree with him.
Whilst I do not think the Guardian is a source of unimpeachably accurate news, I do give it a lot more credence than the many would be entryists that infect its Comment is free sections. It has reported in the past few days that [*2],
Jeremy Corbyn’s aides are refusing to let the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, hold a one-to-one meeting with him, claiming that Watson will try to “bully” the leader into resigning. *
The subject of bullying and intimidation, tactics long known to be preferred by the so-called hard left, will have to wait to another day.
This is a man who, were he to become prime minister, might be expected to work with Mr Vladimir Putin, or Frau Angela Merkel. Are his aides going to prevent these people from talking to him? Or, should that read, prevent him from talking to them? If so, I don’t want the country run by what looks like a bunch of students.
Mentally, a need to be right creates a belief that one is right. For the vast majority of such people, if they are right, it follows that they must be pursuing the correct paths in the right way. They do not need to ask for help.
This is convenient because many men in western society have been brought up to believe that they have to be strong copers; that, if they aren’t, there won’t be anyone there to help them. Mummy and daddy will have gone. I daresay that Corbyn derives strength and support from his wife (not for me to speculate) but, fatally, he has surrounded himself with sycophants when he needs truth tellers. He doesn’t look like a man who will ask for help, and someone who is afraid of the truth is weak, fatally so.
Corbyn is a grown up 67 year old man. He is 100% responsible for his decisions.
That said, we can sympathise if he has placed his trust in ‘aides’ who are, perhaps, not up to the job. One thinks of Mr Seamus Milne, a hack on secondment from the Guardian (though whether it will have him back, I hope not). Milne is Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy. Given that Corbyn’s communications have been a lot less than sparkling and the strategy appears to be non-existent, Corbyn may justifiably feel let done my Milne. Who knows? I’d feel that.
Everything Corbyn has done, or not done (including, apparently, having Seamus Milne sabotage the Remain campaign [*3]) has been 100% his choice. In any situation each of us can choose to do other things. By and large, everything that has happened to him has been his choice (as is the case for all of us).
For all that he has adoring fans, he has lost the parliamentary party. To misquote Wilde, to lose one MP is a misfortune, to lose 172 ** looks like rather more than carelessness. For all that his supporters call these resignations a ‘coup’ (but surely a ‘reverse coup’ in the sense that people doing the ‘couping’ are the vast majority of the whole), one has to ask, ‘how come it suits him that he has lost four fifths of the parliamentary party which he is supposed to be leading?’
And, of course, the answer is that he wants to be the embattled ‘leader’ of the minority, struggling against odds which, happily, are overwhelming, meaning he doesn’t actually have to step forward and be a real leader.
(In case you think this is a party political rant, just wait until I get on to the subject of Mr Boris Johnson or Mr Michael Gove.—note added, 30 august, as they are keeping their heads down at the moment, this will have to wait)
It doesn’t matter that some individuals like him. Or that some individuals agree with him. I agree with him, more than with any other current high profile politician, for crying out loud. But he is not competent in the job he currently has to do.
* Jeremy Corbyn’s aides are refusing to let the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, hold a one-to-one meeting with him, claiming that Watson will try to “bully” the leader into resigning.
A senior Labour source, close to the embattled leader, said they had blocked Watson from talking privately to Corbyn because they have a “duty of care”. “They [Watson’s aides] want Watson to be on his own with Corbyn so that he can jab his finger at him,” the source said.
“We are not letting that happen. He’s a 70-year-old [sic] man. We have a duty of care … This is not a one-off. There is a culture of bullying. Maybe it’s a Blairite/Brownite thing.”…
A delegation of shadow cabinet ministers, led by the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, also failed to secure a meeting with Corbyn last Thursday to try to negotiate a resolution. [*2]
No time to go into paranoia here. Nor into the interesting question of who decides what Jeremy Corbyn does: Jeremy Corbyn or his “aides”? (You can see the aides on the film mentioned).
** 172 Labour MPs, around 80% of the total backed a motion of no confidence in Corbyn. However, this vote has no weight in the Labour party rule book.
[*1] Jeremy Corbyn: the outsider (Ben Ferguson, Phil Pendlebury, directors, Youtube)
[*2] Jeremy Corbyn aides refuse Tom Watson one-on-one meeting (Daniel Boffey and agencies, The Guardian, 3 july 2016)
[*3] Corbyn office ‘sabotaged’ EU Remain campaign – sources (Laura Kuenssberg, BBC, 26 june 2016)
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