So, lo and behold, Jeremy Corbyn has political skills after all.
I feel like an idiot writing that, because of course he has.
That’s a self-evident fact, realised by anyone with the remotest interest in our electoral process.
Jeremy Corbyn has been in parliament for as long as most first time voters have been alive.
He’s either been a permanent fixture around the Westminster village or a political campaigner his whole life.
That guy has survived Labour Party internal purges. He’s survived being the Common’s most famous serial rebel. He’s been re-selected in his constituency time and again, and that isn’t a minor matter as I know full well from seeing what happens to MP’s who fall out of love with their local organisations.
Furthermore, he’s just been elected leader of Britain’s second biggest political party.
Whatever else Jeremy Corbyn might be, Jeremy Corbyn’s got some game.
So why am I bothering to tell you all this?
Why am I sitting in front of the computer right now, doing what could, at best, and most charitably, be described as “stating the bleeding obvious”?
Maybe it’s because I’m something of a cynic, someone who thinks all politicians are, to one degree or another, self-serving toads.
And for a week or two there I had bought, wholeheartedly, the image of Jeremy the Unspun. Jeremy the Ordinary Bloke.
Jeremy Corbyn: Not A Politician At All.
And of course he is.
He’s proved it in the last week, with performances every bit as adept as those we used to see from Tony Blair, and although neither the style nor the substance are the same there are echoes of one in the other.
Both placed great store on their being different kinds of politician, making themselves out to be a little outside of the mainstream.
Both talked about making the process more accessible to ordinary folks.
Both talked about talking straight.
You can’t go back and watch footage of Blair back then and not be struck by how vague and wishy-washy much of what he said actually was, but at the time it was a different language from that which our politicians spoke day-to-day and seemed fresh and interesting.
Corbyn actually does speak plainly, or he did until this week.
What comes across most listening to him talking this morning on the Andrew Marr show was how evasive he was on many issues; the spin doctors have been at him, alright, and that isn’t good news.
Before this article begins to sound like one where I’m going to be really critical (I am, in many ways, but it won’t be over the top) I want to say that it’s not all bad that he’s getting professional advice.
He needs it. He’s stepped on a few minefields over the last few weeks, although a lot of them have been Londoncentric fluff, such as this crap about not having women in the top jobs (many of the most qualified women for those jobs were so called “moderates” who’d already spat the dummy and said they wouldn’t serve) and his not singing God Save the Queen, which is about as stupid a reason for judging his suitability (or not) for high office as I’ve ever heard.
But these, and some other things, were presentational screw-ups, avoidable things which someone good would have helped him avoid.
He’s not going to alienate potential supporters by compromising on that kind of nonsense.
I mean, speaking for myself I don’t care if Corbyn sings the anthem with the gusto of a half-cut Loyalist on the 12th July … I care about the stuff he might actually do, the stuff that actually matters. I won’t hold it against him if I see him wearing the red poppy instead of the white one, if he starts to wear sharp suits and if he combs his hair and has a shave to improve the image somewhat.
Those things matter in only the remotest sense.
Where the issues start to arise is when he starts to sway on massively important stuff, when he starts to give up parts of the platform on which he stood, and when he insults the intelligence of the Scottish electorate in particular by talking cobblers.
Then, yeah, that’s when you start to lose me Jeremy.
When I wrote my first articles on Corbyn I was pleased with his rising prospects, as all regular readers will know well.
I wanted him to do well. I wanted him to win. I was delighted when he did, and I think that politics on this island needs Labour to return to its roots and its core values, and I do still believe Corbyn and his people will try to take them in the right direction.
But the caveat there has always been that word “try.”
I also understand that he and some of his colleagues, John McDonnell in particular, have to row back on a few things, stuff they’ve said and done previously and that it isn’t all bad that they’re dealing with these issues now, directly, all the better to get them out of the way, and allow the public to partially forget them as they reconstruct their public images and start to be heard for what they actually say as opposed to what the right wing press tells people to expect.
I get it. I get all of it.
Unlike many, I also have no problem at all with his decision (if indeed it’s what he decides on) to allow his shadow cabinet free votes on military action in Syria. The key phrase is that he’ll allow them to “vote with their conscience” … a deadly concept many of them should be far more afraid of than they appear to understand.
Are these people stupid?
He’s telling them they won’t be bound by “collective responsibility” and the cloak of alibi that goes hand in hand with that.
He’s telling them to step outside that, to vote the way they want … and to stand on their records.
I have no sympathy at all with those who fall into that trap, and I’m not supposed to have any because that’s the point.
He’s saying to them, “vote to drop bombs and kill people for no-one’s benefit. Risk innocent lives on the ground and own all the baggage and the backlash. If that’s what you want.”
If some of those concerned are too dumb to understand where that’s going then that’s their hard lines; he’s setting these people up to look like the real reactionaries, parliamentarians who are out of touch with their own party membership, and if he can move the public towards his position then they’re going to look even worse.
Right now, the right is placated by talk that he’s not really interested in mandatory re-selection of MP’s.
Ha! If they believe that then they are even bigger mugs.
It’s this guy’s responsibility not simply to rebuild the membership but to move the parliamentary party closer to the wishes of those members, and if that means a cull he’s duty bound – obligated – to do it, and anyone who looks at this for a fraction of a second sees where it’s headed.
So, all of that, I understand but I’ve had a sinking feeling for days now that this was headed somewhere wrong, and it started when he began talking about focussing a day a week on Scotland, as if we were a naughty child needing a little parental attention.
Because for all I like this guy and the cut of his jib, he belongs to a place that forgot about us years ago and only woke up during the referendum and the moment it was done they went right back to sleep, thinking they’d heard the last of us for another millennia or so.
They’re awake now, but only because they realise the existential risk we pose to the furtherance of their own agendas.
We got a glimpse of this last week in Labour’s hysterical response to the suggestion that powers involving the regulation of trade unions might be passed to Scotland.
Their answer – a novel one, I’ll grant you – is that although we could make a difference to union members here, by being able to guarantee them rights Westminster wants to take away, they would rather our members suffered, collectively, along with their colleagues south of the border in one big plague pit until the next Labour government is elected.
Whenever that is.
Today on the Andrew Marr show, Corbyn was, as ever, doing the “shucks, I’m just an ordinary guy” bit, and the Londoncentric media for once enjoyed the proceedings. One of the reasons they liked it is that it was wasn’t vintage Corbyn at all; it was a performance by someone who’s developing a very good public persona.
It was sly, it was evasive, it was certainly not straight-talking.
In fact, he lied.
He lied repeatedly when talking about Scotland.
He lied about things he ought to have known were lies, citing “facts” that bore not one iota of resemblance to the truth.
He blamed the Scottish government for rail privatisation and the Calmac decision. In the first instance it was a Westminster call, in the second it was a consequence of us being trapped by EU tendering regulations over which we have no control.
He repeated long since discredited nonsense about the SNP “cutting college places” and went on to accuse them of privatising services.
Whoever briefed him on all that lied and he in turn took those lies and spoon fed them to the watching world.
This is how even a “principled” leader of Labour behaves towards us; with appalling condescension and outright bullshitting.
Today one of his Big Ideas was dashed when conference rejected the chance to debate Trident, which means the PLP will not now have to allow the fuller, national debate that is necessary to see an end to these evil weapons to which so many Labour members are still wed. I mean what is it with Labour Party members and this devotion to the big floating phalluses of Fortress Faslane?
Do they think given time they’ll get to use them on the Tory Party or what?
Corbyn’s grand plans to reform Labour are already running into the brick wall we all foresaw in advance; that of his own colleagues in the parliamentary party, and a lot of vested interests who don’t want change to come on them too quick.
Don’t let anyone kid you that his talk of “allowing differences of opinion” is about democracy; it’s weakness and nothing more. This guy can’t impose his will on the PLP and they’re already walking all over him. A leader needs to show he’s willing to lead, and this guy is already being pulled hither and thither and yon and I’ll tell you something right now; the signs don’t look good.
He says he wants to bring decency back to politics.
He says he wants a rational debate on the big issues of the day.
But he’s already giving his shadow cabinet carte blanche to vote down everything he stands for and he’s letting himself get hit from all sides.
One of those debates is already dead in the water, and people around him are briefing the press like mad, drawing their own “red lines” when he should have been drawing his. It’s already descending into a shambles.
One of the only groups of people he can honestly rely on are right here in Scotland, and we were waiting for the offer that would redefine the debate over our future. In the past few weeks he’s already pissed on the flag.
Tonight, Labour looks like the same old party, trotting out the same old pish, only with a new face at the helm.
And just like Tony, he says he’s not really a politician at all.
Except he is. He proved it today.
More’s the goddamned pity.
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