Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘new politics’ has hardly stood the test of time. A long-time rebel, he ascended to the leadership in the full knowledge that his views were not that of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and said he welcomed opinions divergent from his own. Since then he has lost his temper on a number of occasions, fomented anger and disorder when he wanted to unify and now he has sacked Michael Dugher whose chief sin was disagreeing with his leader while still supporting him. Also gone is Pat McFadden (who?) again for disagreeing with the glorious leader.
Usually re-shuffles are over and done in as brief a time as possible, having been largely leaked to the press beforehand, but in this – the team-picking equivalent of watching paint dry – he has revealed himself to be a dithering diamond of the first water. The biggest dither was ‘what to do with Benn?’ And then there is the apparent problem with Corbyn and women. Abbott must surely be bad for party unity with her car crash media career and Emily Thornberry in defence? Her contempt for the white working class, who form the backbone of the armed forces, was amply demonstrated during the ‘white van man’ episode at the last election.
To be fair, Corbyn has a motley crew to choose from, his party briefing against him, threatening resignations if he makes the wrong moves and openly doing exactly what he used to do. But the main problem for JC must surely be the public perception of his ability to actually lead his party. What if he had to make a snap decision? To go to war, say, or to come out in support of this regime or that? He has form backing known antagonists of the west. We know he wouldn’t initiate the nuclear option but what about almost anything else?
I imagine Corbyn as the protagonist in a long-running 1970s advert for eggs: In a dowdy seaside guest house the proprietor asks, snappily, “How d’yer want yer eggs, fried or boiled?” Jeremy then lapses into a daydream about all the wondrous ways eggs could be prepared. In my version he stares at the eggs on the kitchen counter for several minutes before saying “Without that monstrous symbol of empire stamped on it!” The little lion was of course the Egg Marketing Board’s symbol to back UK producers and promote egg sales. The board was dismantled – I imagine much to JC’s satisfaction in 1971.
Yes, I can imagine Corbyn daydreaming about eggs, empire and all the ways in which he could replace freedom with enforced equality under state socialism, but could he actually run the country in the first place? Does he even believe in a British national identity? Much of what counts as civilisation around the world today owes a debt to that empire of yesterday that he so despises and a large proportion of traditional Labour voters come from a tradition that despises the ‘progressive’ arm of the left wing. If JC can’t even command the loyalty of the PLP what chance has he of carrying the country with him?
It's my egg, mate. If you want it, come and get it.
If the Labour Party want to genuinely offer an alternative government in 2020 (the very thought!) or at least position them as a credible opposition in the meantime, something has to give. Traditionally loyal to their leaders, at least in terms of not sacking them, no matter how poor they are, a leadership challenge may not be their preferred choice of direction. So, unless they want to sink beyond hope, Labour's little lions are going to have to go to work on this egg.