Monday, 4 July 2016

An ill advised post about Jeremy Corbyn.

Note to the reader: I want you to know that throughout the process of writing this post, my inner monologue has been a loud and relentless 'WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!!' Right now, I'm still in the bunker of obsessively watching the news and I needed to get some shit off my chest...

After five years or so of writing about absolutely nothing, I'm going to write my second blog post about politics in a week. This may be unwise. I mean, the first time I just wrote down the word 'politics' I spelled it 'polotics', realised that looked wrong and changed it - that would suggest I'm not entirely an expert. Having said that, being an expert is now seen as a disadvantage in the world of politics - we now live in a post-expert Britain. When people spoke of taking power back from the 'elites' it is now becoming ever clearer that a more specific definition of the vague term 'elite' is 'people who know what the fuck they are doing'. Well, thank God we got rid of them.

I don't think I'll bother writing about Boris and Gove and the rest of the cast of - lets see if I can make a comparison no one else has made of late - GAME OF THRONES. Ha ha ha ha ha. Seriously, I do not watch Game of Thrones except when out of the corner of my eye I see some medieval boobs. All I know is that it is now appropriate to say that absolutely everything is 'like Game of Thrones'. 'I missed the last train' - 'Ooh, it's like Game of Thrones'. 'Ham and cheese panini please' - 'Ooh, it's like Game of Thrones'. 'My wife has taken up badminton' - 'Ooh, it's like Game of Thrones'. It seems you could spend the next six months, exclusively saying that sentence and be considered a fascinating wit.

I'm going to talk about Labour. That's the lot that are consuming my thoughts without interruption. The Tories are the Tories. They are not my team. As a Newcastle fan I've never been one to give much of a shit about what Sunderland are up to. It is the drama in the Labour Party that is bothering me in a visceral way - honestly, it's like Game of Thrones.

A confession - I have hated Jeremy Corbyn almost from the moment I had heard of him. I realise that that admission will make the aim of this post - persuading Corbyn fans to give up on him - almost certainly futile. You see, I am from the (slowly moves behind bullet proof glass) Blairite wing of the party. When I say Blairite, I mean it by its new meaning. Blairite used to mean someone who preferred Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. Now it would seem that Blairite means anyone who doesn't think Bargain Hunt is rigged by Zionist plotters.

Damn it. I'm not being persuasive am I? Ok. Here goes... in my new ill advised, self appointed role as political commentator I am going to attempt to debunk each of the pro Corbyn arguments. Coming from a world - the craft beer supping, liberal arts degree having, most left wing opinion in the room always wins the argument world - this makes me a HERO. To be fair, you'd be right to point out that I've waited until Corbyn is as weak as my backhand to put my head above the parapet.

Oddly, I think this is the easiest argument to counter. The purpose of the Labour Party is to be in power and enact policies - not campaign for them. If the party doesn't hold a serious chance of being in government then it is essentially a pressure group. Brian May is a good campaigner for the rights of badgers - he is not a future Prime Minister.

Cos he is mate. But he won four out of four by-elections and increased the Labour majority in three of them! The opposition always win by-elections... always. He did nearly as well as Ed Miliband in the council elections! Ed Miliband went on to lose the general election. The youth! The youth! He's engaging the youth! He is. To a degree. Mainly the bookish, indie, own an acoustic guitar youth - I'd have been a Corbyn fan at 19, I'm sure of it. But the youth don't win you elections. Where were all the youth in the referendum? Sadly, they didn't vote and there are no signs of that changing. The simple fact is that Corbyn has the lowest ratings of any opposition leader in history.

This is the argument I find most irritating. For thirty years Corbyn has voted against every war and every non military cut. That is EASY. Especially when you've got pretty much the safest Labour seat outside of Billy Bragg's living room. War is wrong! Cuts are bad! There are two conclusions any thirteen year old can come to. Corbyn's life is not a demonstration of someone stubbornly sticking to his principles, but an example of someone who has never bothered to think, never bothered to listen to the arguments against his dogma. Of course war is wrong and cuts are bad but are they on every single occasion? If that's the case then we might as well all give up on this politics lark and just go about implementing the utopia.

Yes. There. Was. You know when Corbyn and co got upset about the Tories cutting the Educational Maintenance Grant and working tax credits - those were things that Labour managed to bring about BY BEING IN POWER. This whole 'there's no difference' thing is about to be severely tested by 10/15 years of majority Tory rule.

I accept that a large part of the 'mainstream media' (anyone other than The Canary?) is against him. I would argue that is is for legitimate reasons, because it's the media's job to report but also scrutinise and most of them happen to think he's shit. But let's say that the establishment is against him, 'terrified' of him. It doesn't change the fact that the objective of the Labour Party is to be in power. You're not going to do that with the media so against you. Yes, it's unfair but as my dad used to say when he beat me senseless with a stick for two hours a night - 'life's not fair'. When at the press conference for your party's review into anti-Semitism, a Jewish MP leaves the room crying and you then apologise to the man who abused her - it's fair to say you're not good at handling the media. It also suggests you might not be the 'kind and decent man' we keep hearing about.

That's the hardest argument to counter because it's true. It has to be said though, that many of the people making it have also just signed a petition to overthrow the democratic referendum result. Corbyn does have a large group of passionate, core supporters - but then so do Maroon 5. Corbyn could spend the rest of his life speaking to groups of avid fans who ALREADY AGREE WITH EVERYTHING HE SAYS. The question is, is he persuading people? Is he even bothering to try and persuade people? I would suggest not. The Labour Party is about more than one man. Whatever you think its policies should be - lets get someone who's actually good at, you know, politics.


  1. The conventional wisdom about electability that governs the labour party may no longer apply. The settlement of globalisation (and automation), collects wealth upward, concentrating it in fewer and fewer hands but leaving an increasingly large number of people as the losers. Under new Labour nothing was done to change this settlement, a bit more money was sent the way of the losers to prevent there poverty from becoming too abject. The conservatives are less worried about that, but whether you worry about that doesn’t change the reality of the increasing numbers of losers destabilising the electoral system.
    I have severe reservations about the competence of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and feel he is probably too wedded to old ideas of left. However, handing the party over to its right wing seems like a terrible idea. Someone like Angela Eagle has a 30 year centrist voting record (and a bit of warmongering),I don’t see how having her take Labour to the centre is going to win an election but even if she did I don’t see how she provides any of the answers we need.
    Jeremy Corbyn probably doesn’t have the answers either, but the left appears to be more open some of the radical ideas that might provide solutions. Both here, and in America we are seeing that the volume of economic losers, is destabilising the democracy (you can restabilise by moving away from democracy, but let’s assume we don’t want to do that) So we might need to try something different. Ideas like universal basic income might come into their own when there isn’t enough work? In England at the moment the right is at an all time high, but that is energy that could be captured by a radical new left with solutions that go beyond the traditional capitalist settlement. I don’t see how a centrist labour party wins them over. I don’t feel that excited by any of my options right now, but on balance, keeping Jeremy Corbyn gives Labour the best chance of transforming into what it needs to be.

    1. Thanks for your comment Tony. I am, myself, pretty centrist so it's easier for me to be persuaded that that's what we need. So I dislike Corbyn on two counts - his incompetence and his politics. I can see that things are different at the moment and votes for radicals are more likely. That being said, I'm terrified by the populist right on the rise and still think a centrist Labour stands a better chance against them. I may be wrong. Tony Blair is still the only Labour leader to win a majority since Harold Wilson. The universal basic income is something I don't get - surely for the vast majority of the country it would mean earning money, paying taxes and then indirectly paying for the admin to have some of those taxes come back to them? Angela Eagle certainly wouldn't be my first choice for leader (I like Yvette Cooper, but I'm sure the membership wouldn't go for her) but can see we might be headed that way.