Saturday, October 3, 2015
Labour turns left as it elects as leader The Devil Incarnate/A True Socialist (delete as applicable)
As Britain has been only too aware in the months since we held our last general election and the ‘left’ party was beaten soundly and it’s leader resigned (quite possibly to his quiet relief despite leading his party to defeat), Labour has been in the process of electing a new leader.
There were initially three runners, all to a man and woman pretty much clones of what contemporary politics thinks is great and good, albeit with the obligatory, and entirely understable, left slant. They could all three have come from central casting and had all in one capacity or another served in previous Labour governments (although not necessarily in a senior capacity).
Labour, which sees itself - and, and more to the point, markets itself as the very essence of fairness, realised that all three were pretty much from the right of the party (that’s right, the right of a left-of-centre party - it does make sense if you read it slowly), and that, you know, let’s be even-keeled here, we really should have a bod from the left of the party just to show how fair we are. Jeremy Corbyn has been the MP for Islington North for the past 32 years and from the outset was ‘a man of the left’. At first he was reluctant to stand, but was persuaded to do so in the interests of fairness and so the voters should have a real choice of candidates. He almost didn’t make it onto the list of candidates because his supporters couldn’t drum up sufficient nominees. Eventually, again in the interests of fairness, several MPs agree to nominate him even though they didn’t want him as candidate and wouldn’t vote for him and said so publicly.
From the outset Corbyn was given less than a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected Labour leader - it was argued that he was too far out on the left to be the man (or woman) to lead Labour and persuade Britain’s electors to put the party back in power. But then something very odd happened. Under the outgoing leader, Ed Miliband, a new protocol for electing Labour’s leader had been introduced: for £3 anyone could sign up as a member of the Labour Party and would then have the right to vote in the leadership election.
Various Tory wiseacres suggested that Tory voters should do exactly that — join up and vote in the ‘unelectable’ Corbyn to ensure the Conservatives held power until Labour ditched him for someone with a better chance success. Perhaps some did, but most certainly a lot more folk on the left also signed up, folk who, it is now assumed, were of a decidedly socialist persuasion and had given up the current Labour Party as more or less being Tory-lite. And bit by bit Corbyn’s chances of winning the leadership contest improved. And as they improved, Labour gained even more members.
Finally, two weeks ago, Corbyn was voted in as leader by a whacking 56pc. The Tories crowed, reasoning that that was Labour’s goose well and truly cooked for the forseeable future, and Labour ‘grandees’ despaired, also reasoning that that was Labour’s goose well and truly cooked for the forseeable future.
. . .
Corbyn is marketed - indeed markets himself (if ‘marketing’ isn’t too insulting a word to describe the behaviour of a devote anti-capitalist) - as a straight-talking, sincere and honest politician, and that might well be true. He makes no secret of his politics which can be summed up as ‘all them cornfields and ballet in the evening’. Whether or not he is the right leader to help Labour back to power is highly debatable. Straight-talking, sincerity and honesty are not three virtues which usually come to mind as the key to political success.
He was long at odds with the majority of the Labour party and voted against it in Parliament many times. He opposed the invasion of Iraq (which, admittedly, wasn’t billed as ‘an invasion’ although that’s exactly what it was) and is a convinced nuclear disarmer. More controversially, he had nice things to say about the IRA while the IRA was setting of bombs on the British mainland and in the longstanding Israel/Hamas stand-off is not just an unashamed champion of Hamas but has previously had close links with one Paul Eisen, a controversial character made out by many to be a ‘holocaust denier’. (Odd how just adding the word ‘denier’ immediately seems to prove your guilty and establish beyond all doubt that you are wrong ’un.) I mention Mr Eisen, of whom I know little, because a great deal has been made of Corbyn’s acquaintance with him and suggestions that Corbyn is a crypto anti-semite.
What has been hugely entertaining has been the buckets of bile several papers have been pouring over Corbyn. Britain’s press are quite distinctly split down the middle: the Guardian and the Mirror are his champion, whereas the rest, most notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, are daily printing stories demonstrating just how evil the man is. Guess what? He had an affair in the 1970s (though after his wife had left him); he refused to sing the national anthem at a ceremony honouring Britain’s fallen servicemen but sang the Red Flag at a meeting not days later; he has been invited to join the Privy Council but there are doubts as to whether he will agree to bow before the Queen! It all begs the question: just how shameless can a man! To put those last two into context, Corbyn is a longstanding republican who would like to see the end of the monarchy, and as for the former - single young man goes to bed with single young woman? Shocking or what?
The Daily Mail attacked him for being a misogynist because he didn’t appoint any women as shadow spokespeople for the ‘top four offices of state’. It overlooked that of his shadow cabinet of 32, 15 appointees are women. Both the Mail and the Telegraph are making much of the fact that Corbyn is ‘the most unpopular party leader in history’. Well! And with very new horror story about the man from the Mail and the Telegraph I find myself asking again and again: exactly what are those two papers afraid of? If, as contemporary wisdom has it, Labour under Corbyn will never be voted into office, why all the angst?
All the above might make it sound as though I am a Corbyn supporter. I’m not, but neither am I a Corbyn opponent. I must admit I find it refreshing how he has to an extent shaken up the increasingly cosy political consensus prevalent in Britain at the moment, but I think it is highly unlikely we would ever seem Corbyn as Prime Minister, which, in my book, is no bad thing. The man is certainly an idealist, but he is an idealist the rest of the world’s politicians would eat from breakfast. I am, however, vastly entertained by it all and am curious to see how it will pan out.