Make no mistake about it, Thursday night’s by-election result in Oldham West and Royton is a good result, and more than that, a fantastic relief. The thought that UKIP could seriously dent – or even destroy – Michael Meacher’s 14,700 majority was a chilling one, and, in retrospect, a huge insult to the people of Oldham who are, thank God, far more sensible than that.
Jim McMahon – at the count in Oldham on Thursday Night
The relatively high by-election turnout on a damp December night was also a testament to the dedication and hard work of an energised grass roots – and no small credit should go to the activist heart of the Jeremy Corbyn project for giving Jim McMahon’s campaign added electoral jizz.
As a paid up Labour member based in the UK’s North West, I’d heard that there was genuine concern on the ground that the result might be close (although actually losing the seat never seemed particularly likely to me) and I would have been there campaigning had I not been on simultaneous 24/7 writing deadlines. Whatever my feelings about the internal schisms in the Party, only someone maniacally clinging to the idea of apocalypse as a necessary catalyst for change would think that a UKIP victory (or near victory) would be any kind of desirable outcome.
But I – along with most other commentators, both local and national – expected a reduced majority for Labour, and that this would plunge an eviscerating knife into bowels of a party already convulsed in a kind of political anaphylactic shock.
It didn’t happen. So I can’t grope my way through the entrails. I’ll have to do this laparoscopically. Sorry… I’ve been writing Holby City, my imagination is cluttered with the verbal detritus of surgical drama.
Rooting through the entrails, Holby style
On Friday morning, Jeremy Corbyn dropped into Oldham for a few minutes (literally a few minutes) to declare that the victory showed how ‘strong, deep-rooted and broad’ the support was for Labour ‘not just in Oldham but across the country’. Ok, after the week he’d had the guy’s absolutely allowed to big things up for the party faithful who busted their arses getting that result despite the very public domestic that has been playing out throughout the campaign, clicking away on the political geiger counter like an increasingly demented Dolphin.
If only the Labour Party could be like this
But ‘strong, deep-rooted and broad’? ‘Not just in Oldham but across the country’? Really?
Turnout was down from 60% at the General Election in May to 40% on Thursday. That’s actually pretty good for a by-election in a safe seat – and when I say safe, it was Labour’s 53rd safest seat back in May – so losing it was never really on the cards, but equally holding it isn’t in itself a sea-change.
Labour’s majority was down from 14,700 to 10,700 but with the reduced turnout, and a collapse in the Tory vote, Labour’s share rose from 55% under Meacher to 62% for Jim McMahon. UKIP’s vote also fell but their share went up 3%. The Tory vote was nowhere, falling from over 8000 to just over 2500, their share dropping by half.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Lies, damned lies and statistics. With so many counter variables, do they tell us anything?
The most significant shift is in the Tory vote. This is the key. If those voters were swapping sides and moving over to vote Labour then this might give credence to Corbyn’s claim. But if the Tory vote just stayed at home (why bother schlep out to a polling booth when you know it won’t really count?) with a few of them opting for a tactical UKIP shift then in reality the result is pretty much the status quo for a safe labour seat. The contest was always described as a two horse race between Labour and UKIP, and the fact that both parties deployed significant resources is reflected in the increased share for both parties and relatively concomitant lift in turnout.
McMahon is no Corbynista
So the core labour – working class – vote didn’t collapse – which is a good thing – but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the movement in voter share was down to an absence of Tory vote rather than a significant realignment from right to left. This is crucial because it takes us back to the core argument at the heart of the leadership campaign over the summer.
When Facebook and Twitter are peppered with ‘Huh! Not so unelectable now!’ comments my heart sinks because it feels as if we’ve got absolutely nowhere. Although it’s reasonable (and reassuring) to conclude that the Jezzmeister didn’t have a negative effect on the core Labour vote, neither is it possible to say that he had a positive effect, especially in a seat where so many local factors were at play. Attempting to extrapolate the result across the country is morale boosting wishful thinking at best; dangerously naive at worst.
The papers are keen to say that Corbyn’s critics have been silenced, but it seems to me that it would be disastrous if holding on to a safe Labour seat was seen by the party as case closed. Winning a by-election is not the same as electability as the graveyard of British by-election history has shown us again and again. Yes, it tells us we can win when we work together. McMahon’s victory shows us that. He’s no Corbynista but he benefited from the enthusiasm of the new entry to the party. Perhaps in the spirit of working together we can re-examine the crucial obstacles ahead of us.
During the leadership campaign much discussion revolved around the electoral imperative of winning the centre ground. This mathematical necessity has never ceased to be true, despite the oft repeated mantra that anyone who suggested such a thing – including li’l ol’ me – was a ‘red Tory’, a ‘closet Tory’ ‘pandering to the neoliberal austerity hegemony’ and in one case with regard to myself ‘a cartoon monkey’. No, I didn’t understand that one either.
Apparently my views on UK opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, mean I am like this chap
Apparently to voice dissent also means I am expressing venom, glee, stuttering anger, braying delight, and in more than one instance that I am incapable of expressing myself coherently.
Do you notice something about these responses? None of them – none of them – are arguments. They are all character assassinations designed to undermine the integrity of the person who dares to dissent.
Ah, but doesn’t entitling a blog ‘The Corbyn Delusion’ imply that all those who support The Big C are ‘delusional’? Isn’t that character assassination in itself? Pot, kettle, teenager’s bedroom.
Well it would be if I left it there, but great though holding on to Oldham definitely is, I’m concerned that it runs the risk of embedding a false hope, faith, and, I’m sad to say, delusion, even deeper. The notion of delusion lies in the mismatch of faith against reality. It’s not an attack on the integrity of those who hold those opinions. The distinction is crucial.
This is a forensic analysis of how Corbyn still doesn’t meet the job spec – of how he doesn’t, and can’t satisfy the objectives, the trust, the hope placed in him by his devoted and utterly sincere supporters. Now, with this by-election under our belt, it’s time to look at the reality of this without resorting to personal slurs for simply expressing the opinion.
(Although having said that, in the wake of Corbyn’s leadership victory in September I read numerous posts on Facebook and Twitter claiming that Corbyn didn’t even need the Labour Party. He could win a general election single handed. The People’s Prime Minister!! Seriously, these politically illiterate posts were popping up all over the place, and I reserve the right to call their authors entirely delusional. If Oldham shows us anything, it’s the power of a highly organised, experienced party machinery.)
The People’s Prime Minister – so popular he can win without the Labour Party?
But back to the forensic analysis.
The only material response I’ve heard that addresses the electoral maths is to say that there is a hidden electorate of disenfranchised voters, who aren’t as yet registered, or who were too apathetic to get to the polling booth in 2015. Get these people marking their crosses and the 2020 election is all but in the bag for our Jezzer. For the reasons already outlined, I don’t think the Oldham result addresses this either. With the exception of one or two pieces by Owen Jones, I have rarely heard or read any argument that talks about persuading people to vote Labour, or winning over those who have deserted us. Effectively those people are lost, traitors, immoral, selfish, greedy, sell-outs, frightened, stupid. They are at fault. Their votes are not needed or wanted.
On the assumption that Mr Corbyn has a normal emotional intelligence, and that he is actually learning something new, his few weeks in office will have started to tickle his nostrils. This isn’t about opposition – it’s about government. To fulfil his much vaunted, record breaking mandate he will have to look the centre ground (Middle England or whatever one might like to call it) in the eye, and say something they want to hear.
Much has been made of the disconnect between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the membership who voted for Corbyn so resoundingly to be their leader. But this result tells us that there is a much, much, much more important disconnect – the one between that membership and the national electorate. Oldham doesn’t change this. Whilst he might not deter core Labour voters from supporting the party, nationally his YouGov approval rating was at minus 41 as of 30th November taking samples across the population.
So why is this happening? Well… the loyalists’ voice on social media can be a tad shrill (and threatening) at times. Corbyn’s woes are down to right wing media bias; it’s the disloyalty of his parliamentary colleagues… and apparently it’s people like ME posting my personal analysis and opinions on my Facebook page. I love the last one because it implies that I’m not just some git mouthing off in the procrastinations between Holby City rewrites but I can ACTUALLY CHANGE THE WORLD!!!
Mwah, ha, haaaaaaa!
It’s undoubtedly true that JC has had a hammering from the media, but then so did Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard to name but two from recent political history. It’s certainly true that many centre and right wing papers don’t like Corbyn’s left agenda, but actually the press’s biggest failing/tendency is not its right wing bias, but its pack mentality when it smells a loser. IDS was slaughtered in the press from all sides – because he was useless. With Corbyn, the press can sniff blood in the air, and they won’t stop until he’s torn limb from limb. They do it to celebrities, dodgy politicos of all colours. It’s about their power – and that’s objectionable – the left/right thing, though real, is oddly incidental. My guess is we’ll see more favourable press in the next few days simply because he’s been seen to win something. The press often follows more than it leads.
It’s not nice – but who said politics was nice. It shouldn’t be nice! Putting yourself forward to be Prime Minister is about asking the the country to trust you with the greatest responsibility there is. Life, death, war, peace, health, terorrism, the economy. You’ll be in the bear pit of world politics with Merkel, Putin, the next president of the United States, the morass of volatile middle eastern politics, not to mention domestic issues.
Back in July, as the Leadership race started to gather pace, Corbyn had a minor run-in with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news who questioned him about his relationship with Hamas and Hezbollah. Corbyn lost his temper and snapped at KGM accusing him of tabloid journalism. There followed my first social media spat about the soon-to-be leader. It seemed blindingly obvious to me that if he was losing his temper with cuddly Krishnan on the UK’s most left leaning TV news outlet he perhaps wasn’t suited to the job of opposition leader.
Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy exerting his right wing media brain-washing in order to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming UK Prime Minister
He’s still struggling with the whole interview thing today, as evidenced by his confused response on shoot-to-kill and ‘Jihadi John/Mohammed Emwazi’ with Laura Kuensberg. If one tries to raise this, one is slapped down by the loyalists: ‘There are far more important things than handling political interviews with the BBC!’
Quite right. There are. That’s the point. If you can’t handle a page-one interview from the press, then, seriously, how on earth do you expect the voters to trust you when things get really serious.
The fact – the historical fact – is that great leaders take the deft handling of the press as a given. It might be challenging, and require deft manoeuvring and work and intelligence, and oh yes, finely tuned social skills – but none of them pretend that somehow it doesn’t matter, or allow themselves to be (easily) derailed by it. Look at Obama, Clinton, and even the Satan that should not be named… Tony Blair. Or, dare I say it, Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was parodied, mocked, vilified, turned into a mass media public hate figure, and yet, oddly remained popular and powerful for the best part of ten years.
Good or bad press in itself is not the deciding factor of anything. It was widely reported by the left, centre and right wing press that David Cameron (allegedly) put his knob in the mouth of a dead pig. I have no idea as to the truth of this accusation, but you may have noticed that Cameron barely bothered to deny it. Why? Not because it’s true, but because he knows that it doesn’t do him any harm at all. He’s still far more popular than Corbyn (back to that YouGov poll), trusted with the nation’s security and economy. He did a completely dumb ass thing when he was a student – and people like him for it! It makes him human. Anyone who’s ever worked in an A&E department knows for a fact that men do all sorts of strange things with their penises, and knowing that the PM is down there with the best/worst of us is ultimately reassuring – and it makes (most of) us feel ever slightly superior because we wouldn’t be quite that stupid. Turn the incident on its head. Would Jeremy Corbyn ever stick his knob in a pig? God no! And it makes people wary of him. He’s not human. The Corbyn knob’s too good for a pig. He’s Robespierre to Cameron’s Danton (I’m talking in terms of knobs and pigs, not politics, as I hope you appreciate. Sorry Danton).
‘I’m doing you a favour, Dave. Oink!’
That’s what being Prime Minister of a large western democracy entails. You can’t cry foul and write off your problems to a few bad headlines – or even a lot of bad headlines.
Well. I know from experience that there are some who aren’t convinced by that line of reasoning. So let’s strip away the media and look at Corbyn uncut, Corbyn unplugged, Corbyn in the raw.
There are the interviews which I’ve already cited – neither KGM nor Kuensberg asked anything particularly difficult, but the fudged response on shoot-to-kill was undeniably all Jeremy’s own work. And that’s before we get to his declaration in a Today Programme interview that he would under no circumstance be prepared to push the nuclear button.
The rights and wrongs of nuclear deterrence isn’t the issue here. It’s about the man understanding his role as leader of the opposition, a political party, a team. As Len McCluskey says, he has to stop saying the first thing that comes into his head. Yes, we know he’s a unilateralist, but his party doesn’t endorse unilateralism at the moment, nor do his shadow defence or foreign affairs spokespersons. All he had to say was that the policy was under review. When people talk about the disloyalty in the PLP, they forget that loyalty runs both ways. Not only has Corbyn rebelled against his party five hundred and thirty three times in the past, but making off-the-cuff statements about party policy without consulting the key members of his shadow team is disloyal in the extreme. As is allowing Maria Eagle to discover that Ken Livingstone is to co-chair the Labour Defence Review over social media.
It’s most definitely true, that when people are asked about the man almost everyone praises him for his authenticity, and the fact that he always says what he believes. Tory Toff-in-chief Jacob Rees-Mogg was saying so only the other night on Have I Got News For You…
But let’s look at these attributes. Precisely what sort of ‘authentic’ are we talking about? He’s clearly an authentic Islington socialist.
Authentic Islington Socialist
No offence to anyone reading this from Islington, but as I’ve already suggested, it’s impossible to say if this had an effect either way in Oldham, although anecdotally, I’ve heard from some who campaigned there that it wasn’t something they majored on.
And ‘saying what you believe’… on the surface this is a fantastic thing, but party politics is a team sport. It’s underpinned by the principle of collective responsibility, which means that, no, in the name of unity, message coherence, credibility, basic party cohesion and loyalty, actually no, you can’t always say what you believe.
This is Politics for Beginners.
But then Jeremy dropped out of college after his first year, so maybe he missed that lecture. Oh, that sounds snide, does it? No. I’m absolutely serious. This stuff is the nuts and bolts of parliamentary politics. I remember my daughter being taught about it when she did her politics A-level. Without it everything starts to fall apart, as we’ve witnessed in recent days. The next few weeks, as the party licks its wounds, we’ll get a sense of whether he’s learning this essential lesson.
Which leads us to a more fundamental question: Is Jeremy arrogantly disloyal to his own team, or still hurriedly thumbing through the instruction manual as I’ve suggested above? Is the reality that he simply doesn’t understand what parliamentary party democracy involves?
He’s never played by those rules, and now, when he needs them, he’s struggling to read and absorb the small print.
Oh, what’s that I hear? It’s the ‘new’ politics.
Savour those two words in all their meaningless juxtaposition.
‘New’ is to ‘Politics’ what ‘Alternative’ is to ‘Medicine’.
Illusory. Meaningless. Empty.
If it were possible to recast the whole nature of political discourse that easily then neither Machiavelli nor Shakespeare – both of whom deal with the eternal truths of power and politics – would still be relevant today. I doubt there are many reading this who think that Jeremy Corbyn will be remembered in a hundred years time as the man who redefined politics and rendered two of the greatest thinkers of all time redundant. The whole idea of the ‘new’ politics is just a teensy bit vainglorious. Especially when it is being presented by a leadership dominated by white, middle aged silverbacks.
So – arrogant or not quite up to it? Perhaps it’s both, but my personal sense – given that I don’t doubt the man’s integrity – is that it’s more of the latter.
Remember JC’s Labour conference speech, flitting artlessly from platitude to platitude? Sure, there wasn’t much a life long Labour voter would disagree with exactly… but it was a speech without form or purpose. Just a rambling list of leftish ‘stuff’. I mean, it wasn’t utterly terrible… but oh my days, a soupçon of oratory would have been nice. But hey… it’s September, he’s only been in post a few days, give the guy a chance…
But then, less than twenty-four hours later, just as he’s getting bit of decent press, Corbo decides to re-write Labour’s nuclear policy on the hoof without consulting anyone – and whatever good ground has been gained is instantly thrown away. Who remembers his speech now? No one made him do that. That was Jezzer uncut, unplugged – ‘Essence de Jez’.
‘Now hang on,’ say the loyalists, ‘he’s really shaken up Prime Minister’s Questions, you surely can’t deny that!’
Hmmm… well, has he? Yes, the idea of listener’s questions is refreshing: ‘Terry from Withington emails to ask why the Tories are all bastards’.
It’s refreshing… until it’s boring, which might be why he seems to have more or less given up on it. The Jezster doesn’t seem to understand the point of PMQs. It’s not about the question. It’s about controlling the answer, and then how you home in on that answer and forensically take it apart.
Corbyn’s most successful PMQs today was where he asked the same question on cuts to tax credit six times. This was very effective. I cheered.
But wind back. What’s he actually done? He’s asked the same question six times. He doesn’t develop the idea. He doesn’t broaden the point. He just repeats himself. There’s no narrative. There’s no intellectual or forensic foundation to an argument. It’s a PMQ one-trick pony.
He’s the same in debate. He presents a reasonably coherent proposition, but when challenged, certainly on TV, I’ve never seen him follow through with an effective secondary argument. There have been accounts of him both in front of the PLP and even in shadow cabinet where he simply presents a written statement – on one occasion, after the first Syria debate, he actually read it to his colleagues from a sheet of paper – and then is unable or unwilling to expand on his ideas any further. Even his supporters in the PLP have been described as having their heads in their hands at his inability to argue his own corner.
And, finally, look at last Wednesday’s crucial debate on Syria air strikes. He can’t impose the whip – even though doing so might well have made Cameron blink and back off from holding a vote at all. He can’t, because Corbyn’s disregard of party loyalty over the years renders such a demand untenable – plus he knows that his front bench are likely to resign en masse. So, he grants a free vote in the name of ‘New Politics’. It’s probably the right call, by the way, but ‘New Politics’ it most definitely is not. It was the only option he had left.
So faced with a free vote, does he inspire wavering Labour MPs with stirring and persuasive rhetoric? No. He stands there, stumbling through the same-old-same-old in a monotonous drone, unable to look up from his bits of paper, or even be sure what sentence comes next. Everyone appreciates that these are his sincerely held beliefs, but can he explore a narrative with it? No. Is it designed to engage with someone who might be wrestling with their own doubts and lead them to a reasoned resolution? No. Is it a forensically constructed argument that dissects the counter argument and throws down the gauntlet to those who might challenge him? No.
Is it all a bit dull? Oh god, yes. A speech which should be rallying his own MPs to vote against bombing is dull. Dull. Dull.
Then Hillary Benn gets up and suddenly the arguments – whether you agree with them or not – are rendered in fiery 4K 3D High Definition oratory. MPs are persuaded. The blood is stirred. They change their mind at the last minute. THIS is what political leadership is about. THESE are the skills Corbyn so desperately lacks.
You can learn them. I’d like to send Corbyn for lessons with the redoubtable Ms Gill Newman who taught both of my daughters to debate to national award winning standards from their South Manchester state comprehensive school. It isn’t just about opinionated posh boys; debating is an art, a learnable skill that Corbyn desperately needs to improve.
So Corbyn fails to persuade anybody – the number of Labour MPs approving action ends up at 66 far greater than anyone anticipated (Tory rebels are fewer than expected) – but instead of facing up to his technical shortcomings, Corbyn’s acolytes are all over social media hurling personal abuse at Benn, and any MP who voted freely as the gesture of New Politics had encouraged them to do.
Ehm… Hello? You can’t rebel against a free vote. You can’t betray a free vote. The onus is on the leadership to win hearts and minds. You can’t blame the hearts and minds for not being won. And if you object to Cameron impugning the integrity of those against bombing by accusing them of being terrorist sympathisers, then perhaps take a moment to consider that accusing Hillary Benn of personal opportunism for expressing an idea you dislike is no better. Neither accusation is worthy of respect.
And that’s before we get to the death threats. As Alan Johnson said the other night: ‘If that’s the New Politics then let’s have the Old Politics back thank you very much.’
I think I know the reason for Corbyn’s political ineptitude. As an activist he’s spent most of his political career in the company of fellow activists. He was great on the hustings and rallies for the leadership because he was addressing crowds of people who adored and already agreed with him. He wasn’t required to persuade people wary or resistant to his ideas. He’s never had to do that. He just ignores opposition and does his own thing. But that’s a problem when you become a party leader, because winning elections is ALL about persuading people. It’s about taking people with you who don’t automatically see themselves as your fellow travellers.
Please, somebody, tell me he’s learning this. If he doesn’t, Oldham, will seem like a very hollow victory indeed, where yet again Mr Corbyn mistakes getting the nod from a lot of people who already agree with you winning an argument. It isn’t.
Then we come to his lamentable display in the Defence Review Questions on 23rd November. It was toe curling. Check it out by clicking this link – you have to scroll to 15.43 for Corbyn’s statement and Cameron’s response. If you can stop your toes going into spasm as Jeremy waffles his way platitudinously through a sociology text book check-list of causes of global conflict. Oh yes, and some stuff about domestic policing. Ok. Fine. All of these things are important in their own way, but this is the Defence Review at a time when people actually do give a humungous shit about how this stuff is handled – now! – today! – when the world is immediately threatening on many varied fronts. This response was entirely inappropriate and vague. Check out Maria Eagle and Tom Watson on either side of him – they both look as if they’re wondering whether Blofeld might drop their seats into a pit of piranhas as a swift means of escape.
I can save you Tom and Maria!
Cameron gets up and says: ‘The more the Right Honourable gentleman speaks, the less he has to say’. He’s right. Cameron is bloody right. I don’t want him to be right, but he is. And then he answers all of El Corbynara’s questions with ease. There’s nothing on Corbyn’s list he can’t deal with. I actually feel sorry for Jezzer. He’s stumbling through a written speech that he struggles to read fluently, with the opposition laughing and chatting and ignoring him… but behind him it’s worse. Silence. A woman Labour MP is typing on her iPad. His team walking out one by one.
Years ago I gave a not very good best man’s speech at a friend’s wedding. It was by no means a disaster, but I knew I didn’t have the room with me. I wanted the ground to open up. So unless Corbyn is a sociopath (and I’m not accusing him of that!) then he can’t help but feel the cavernous lack of love from his own benches.
So is the PLP at fault for not at least putting up a show of support for a man with such a resounding mandate from the party membership?
If your PLP are against you then, as leader, it’s your job to win them round – it’s not simply their duty to follow you without question (as Corbyn has himself illustrated five hundred times) – especially when it is suggested that they might be whipped to abstain or even vote against an issue that is current party policy… we’ve still got the Trident vote to come, Oldham victory or no Oldham victory. How he handles this will be a real test of what he’s learning.
The Push-Me-Pull-You approach to party democracy
Elected Labour MPs have a mandate to represent the millions who voted for them – and indeed a responsibility to all their constituents. The party mandate doesn’t trounce that. Parliamentary democracy is about far, far more than the wishes of paid-up party members.
If the swing voters of Middle England feel safer with Tory austerity, it’s your job to persuade, cajole, love-bomb them into changing their minds.
Years later when I got married myself, I had a lot more fun with my Groom’s speech. I learned from my mistakes and took the room with me. I certainly didn’t blame my first audience for not laughing enough.
If ordinary voters across the country don’t trust you to keep them safe on the streets, or to accept their genuine fears about how they perceive migration to be changing their communities, then it’s your job to engage with that, to take it very seriously, and to persuade them that their fears will be addressed because there are a 106 marginals you have to persuade who aren’t going to be as kind to you as the safe seat of Oldham West was last week.
The end result may not be what they think they want now – yes, most definitely, it must be a part of a strong left agenda – but they will only come with you if you are able to persuade people who don’t agree with you already.
OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE JAMESON! YOU’RE JUST WHINGING ON ABOUT CORBYN WHEN YOU SHOULD BE GETTING YOUR HEAD DOWN AND FIGHTING THE COMMON ENEMY!
SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU TORY APOLOGIST CARTOON MONKEY!!!
This and many variations on this theme have been said to me many times. Well the monkey bit only once, but I’ve grown rather fond of that one.
Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Nor am I intimidated by it. My proposition is that, currently, Corbyn has neither the intellectual ability, the personal skills, nor the political acuity to win a general election.
There is something he can do about this. He can develop his debating skills (I think Ms Newman is retired now so she’s probably got time on her hands). His intellectual and political shortcomings can be addressed by assembling a well chosen team of critically minded advisers to keep him properly briefed and remind him of the strategies essential to succeed in the arena of parliamentary politics. He needs to have people around him who he trusts to tell him when he’s getting it wrong.
I want to feel hopeful about this. But I’m clearly finding it hard.
I’ve heard it said that I, and those who share these specific misgivings should shut up because what Corbyn needs is TIME. He needs to be given the space to bed-in, for the different wings of the party to find an accommodation and learn to work together.
He doesn’t have time.
Politics doesn’t stop to give you time. Not even the ‘new’ politics. Even if it did, Corbyn is so far behind the curve he’d need Doc Brown’s DeLorean to give him any chance of catching up.
Doc Jez in search of ‘time’ to go back to the future
In order to ‘fight the common enemy’ we have to have a leader who possesses all three of these qualities – preferably in spades. It’s not even a left/right thing. I don’t find Corbyn’s socialist politics-seminar-all-you-can-eat buffet particularly nourishing, but if I truly believed he was a winner, a leader, an effective political force, a smart strategic operator, I would be behind him all the way. Absolutely. One hundred per cent. Maybe even a hundred AND TEN per cent like they do on X-Factor.
Oldham has certainly bought him a tiny bit of breathing space. If things had gone badly, then it would have been hard to avoid a major crisis – a coup or a putsch – before Christmas. It would have triggered an existential crisis for the Labour Party. Just as Corbyn doesn’t have a capable alternative front bench waiting in the wings, neither is there an alternative unifying candidate anywhere near ready to replace him. All sides must use this time well. Jeremy has to show that he is learning how to work in a team. Those who want to find a different way forward for the party must look how to achieve this through persuasion, inclusion and constructive democratic change, and not by destroying the mother ship in the hope that something they like crawls out of the wreckage.
Oldham has to give us time to move forward, not just be a moment of respite that put off the inevitable melt down.
I have no idea how next May will go, but sooner or later there will be a by election in one of those 106 marginals, and then let’s all hope that lessons can be learned, problems faced and addressed, and a parliamentary seat won from the Tories which genuinely does suggest that there is a strong, deep-rooted and broad change in a persuaded electorate which could foreshadow a Labour government in 2020…
…which is an objective shared by Corbyn loyalists and cartoon monkeys alike.
I want to be like you-hoo-hoooo in fighting the common enemy!