Needless to say, I mean Jeremy Corbyn. Although I am going to have something to say about Mr. Hunt later, too. The thing with the leader of the Labour Party is that he has become something of a divisive figure, and this is hardly surprising. There are two schools of thought among Labour Party members and supporters right now. One that the country has turned to the Tories because Labour isn’t Left enough, and the other that Centrism is now the political consensus in the UK and that Labour should, just like under Blair, be offering a kinder centrist vision to the one the Tories are promoting.
Obviously, Ed Milliband’s pipping the leadership on the union vote was an expression of the lurch Left by Labour members, and Corbyn’s landslide victories demonstrate that Labours own Left are galvanised in his support. But does socialist enthusiasm within the party itself really mean Corbyn has public support?
The polls say “no”. But the approval gap between Corbyn and May is being clawed back now that the BBC is obliged to give him air time. And this has been part of the problem. Corbyn has ranted at at least one journalist that the mainstream media hasn’t been reporting his message. But what he fails to grasp is that this is not how a commercial press works. Corbyn has a bad track record of dodging impromptu questions from journalists, and actively avoids being relevant over big issues. Take the referendum campaigns last year. The man who would share a platform with fucking Hezbollah would not share a platform with David Cameron to get his message across concerning Europe. That was childish and stupid, and he’s suffered the consequences.
According to Labour supporters, however, none of this is important. The Tories are doing Bad Things – running the NHS into the ground, battering the poor, killing the disabled, and now apparently bringing back fox hunting. And only the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn (or perhaps regardless of the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn) can possibly provide an alternative to Tory Evil.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Conservatives really are doing bad things right now. But the argument being made right now that a useless leader is better than an evil one is wrong. Gordon Brown had no plan or vision for his leadership, and his gift for crisis management failed him as the economy tanked in the wake of the credit crunch. Cameron was also a useless leader. He let himself be bullied by his own party’s also-rans, losing a referendum that was intended to shut the Bastards up once and for all. He deferred decisions. He let his ministers run their departments without any sense of co-ordination. And he did not have control over his chancellor. Dave was well-meaning, but we got an economic battering and a dismantled welfare state because of George Osborne’s vision. And the 2010 manifesto promise that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS was reneged on because Andrew Lansley had other ideas. This is what weak leadership looks like.
It doesn’t matter how good Jeremy Corbyn’s intentions are. It doesn’t matter how good the Labour manifesto is. Dithering by a leader who would leave a meeting at a crucial stage and thus not get his position asserted in the final stages just so that he could attend a supporters’ rally (yes, really, this was reported in Private Eye a few months ago) could be far more destructive to the country than any act of Tory callousness. Furthermore, Corbyn has demonstrated that he’s a stickler for working hours. Great for those of us under the heel of exploitative capitalist giants; worrying from the prospective leader of a country.
Bear in mind that, whatever claims the Labour Party makes, they are never about the good of the people, the workers, or the country. They are about the good of the Labour Party. Look at corrupt local wings like Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets that have never been taken in hand or expelled. Look at what’s going on in South West Surrey.
That deserves some explanation. South West Surrey is Jeremy Hunt’s constituency. It’s a Conservative safe seat and Hunt got 59% of the vote in 2015. The seat was contested by a GP and health campaigner, Dr. Louise Irvine, at the last election, and she is standing again in this one. Hunt is the single most dangerous thing happening to the NHS right now, and rumour has it that May wanted to replace Hunt, but her preferred minister wouldn’t take the job. Now, a candidate with an absolute vote majority is hard to oust, but many Conservative voters are pro NHS. Any party that really was about the NHS would withdraw their candidate in favour of Dr. Irvine. Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats initially declined to stand candidates, but Labour not only broke ranks on this but also expelled three local party members for supporting Dr. Irvine. (The Lib Dems have now selected a candidate, too.)
I read an article by one Harry Paterson in the aftermath of the 2010 general election. There is no date on it, but it is still relevant to the way the Labour Party, as a mainstream party, thinks of itself. The key quotation is this:
…the choice between Labour and the Tories is the choice between a bullet between the eyes or slow death by suffocation while the murderer weeps over the pillow he’s holding down on your face, all the while weeping that he’s sorry but, just like Thatcher, there is no alternative.
Labour policy, lurching Left, now looks cuddlier. And maybe that policy is truly better. But the bald fact is that whatever social damage is done by bad policy, bad leadership can and will be more destructive. And while Labour supporters cling to the idea that only Labour can oppose the Tories, no matter how much of a shit-show they become, they will hinder anyone else from doing the job.
Nota bene: I will be modding the comments on wordpress and facebook heavily. The rules are here. I will delete comments ruthlessly.