Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Dead Man Walking

Huh, not just Dead Man Walking, but potentially this is the month where there is no going back for Labour.  A party of opposition and potential government…  gone.  Dead party walking.

While we can all criticise the Progress Wingers for their ritual toys throwing exercise whenever the name of Jeremy Corbyn comes up (ex-Scottish Labour staffer and ex-Political Editor of the Daily Record Paul Sinclair was the weekend’s nominated Corbyn-Bad de jour person), there does come a time when the leader has to start playing the conditions and do the job properly.  In the case of Corbyn, it is now time to tell the truth. 
Corbyn is a truly awful… awful leader.

Let’s start with his speeches.  They ramble on, lack a focus and badly need editing to have a clear & concise message.  His Commons performances veer between average and ropey, with wistful looks at the golden days of Ed Milliband a regular occurrence.  That lack of focus is also something that comes to mind in interviews.  Less kind souls would say Corbyn resembles a rabbit caught in the headlights.

And then there are his political decisions.  Well, to be specific, there’s really one issue which Corbyn has handled spectacularly badly.  That Corbyn used to be (and perhaps still is) a Eurosceptic could have been awkward for Labour, especially if he campaigned to Leave.  Instead, he was press ganged into campaigning for the Remain side but did so in the style of a surly teenager.  His displeasure at being forced to campaign for ‘remain’ was obvious to all and sundry.  It would have been better if Labour could have let Corbyn be Corbyn and let him campaign for the leave side.

Instead, Corbyn’s prescience was a sullen shadow on proceedings.  His ‘contribution’ to the Remain cause overshadowed the then Home Secretary’s equally… detached contribution to the ‘remain’ cause.  With no great surprise, almost no one mentions Theresa May’s almost withdrawal from public life, save for a less than wholesome endorsement for remaining within the EU during a TV interview, during the referendum campaign.  Then again, Corbyn has almost no supporters in the media while his media spin doctors might as well be fully paid up members of the Tory party given their uselessness.

Speaking of spin doctors, Corbyn really needed someone who would have been able to argue Corbyn’s case in the media.  He really needed a pugnacious character able to do the most difficult kind of writing – writing for a tabloid audience.  Instead Corbyn employed the Guardian’s resident Stalin apologist Seamus Milne.  Surely the man Private Eye’s totally fictitious ‘Dave Spart’ character is based on, all terrible syntax and faux high-brow language.  Is it any wonder UKIP get away with painting Corbyn as some sort of Islington elite.

The issues surrounding Corbyn seem to have crystallized around how he handled the EU referendum, how he handled the aftermath and, most pertinently, how he has handled the bill to allow the government to trigger Article 50.  I may have voted for the UK to leave the EU, but I would still have expected a socialist politician’s instincts to kick in and to make life as difficult as possible for a right wing government.  Let alone give hell to the proto-fascists in UKIP.  That Corbyn gave the May Government a blank cheque and justified this by, to all intents and purposes, appeasing UKIP’s arguments is nothing short of a disgrace and an embarrassment. 

Normally at this point in proceedings there would be a call for Corbyn to resign, or for some kind of revolt.  Given I’d previously penned such pieces calling for Lamont to go, you’d be wondering why this post isn’t called “Why Jezza Must Go”.  Well, there’s one very good reason for that.  The leader that Labour needs to help them through this difficult period and to rebuild just does not exist within their ranks.

Labour’s issues go beyond Corbyn.  The old Labour constituency is now diverging at a rate of knots.  There is the group of ex-Labour voters now agitating for a second Independence referendum here in Scotland – firmly in opposition to the line taken by their old party.  There is the group of soft Labour voters, attracted by Blair, who now look likely to return to their natural home of either the Lib Dems or the Tories.  There is now the group of Labour voters, like the English versions of now SNP voters who were left behind by New Labour now contemplating voting for UKIP post the EU Referendum.  Any possible successor to Corbyn needs to bridge these gaps.  You’d be as well asking for someone who can bridge the Grand Canyon.

The fact that the job of being Labour leader has now become the poison challis of British public life has not put off some people from putting forward their own preferences, the current favourite being an MP only a year into his first term as a sitting MP.  Clive Lewis might be a talented person, I’ve only seen him on TV a couple of times and he seems okay.  That’s not a reason to repeat the mistake that Scottish Labour made in elevating their own talented but highly inexperienced politician – Kezia Dugdale – into the post of leader.  Lewis just doesn’t look ready.

Corbyn’s rank bad handling of the Article 50 vote is, for many people, Corbyn’s own ‘Jump the Shark’ moment, the moment where we can no longer excuse the fact that the leader of the Labour party is not fit for purpose.  That this is the case should be seen as a tragedy for people of the left across the country, that the left could not produce a leader capable of taking the Labour Party back into government.  Not that they’ve ever stopped sneering, but the Progress wingers will crow even more now about how they told us so and that they are the only people with the know how to take Labour back into power, even though they are part of the problem.  Meanwhile on the horizon are two now key by-election tests, if Labour lose these two seats it could spark the end of the beginning of the end of Labour as a force in UK wide politics.  The damage will have been done by the Progress wingers, but this will have happened on Corbyn’s watch.

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