Is the Cult of Corbyn doing more damage than good for socialism and the Labour Party?
You have to feel for Jeremy Corbyn.
In a week in which Theresa May continued to build her axis of evil – including meetings with Saudi Arabia’s human rights-abusing autocracy and the Philippines’ President Rodrigo ‘the Punisher’ Duterte – Jeremy Corbyn was making headlines for his angry outburst during an ITV News interview, and for allowing the spectre of antisemitism to continue to haunt the Labour Party through Ken Livingstone’s continued bout of Hitler Tourette’s. Another open goal spectacularly missed.
Is it with an increasing inevitability that the shenanigans of this Government are met with radio silence, or worse, a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, from Labour.
Is it not time for those still rallying around Corbyn face up to the fact that perhaps he is not the leader many on the left had hoped for?
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win was politics’ Guy Goma moment - a rabbit in the headlights stare of a man realising that, through a series of spectacular coincidences and accidents of fate, he had suddenly found himself thrust into the limelight. From the moment he was elected, there has been a siege mentality to his leadership.
Supporters have sought to blame the media and the Parliamentary Labour Party for poor poll numbers. Just this weekend, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was asking, “What’s interesting is when you poll the issues and our policies, they are extremely popular, so what’s preventing people translating that into strength in the polls?”
Well John, it could be the infighting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, or the swath of media who have had it in for Corbyn from the start, or the briefings against him, or the leadership challenges. It’s probably all of those things. But are those on the left unable to take even a cursory glance in the mirror?
How, then, can we explain this disconnect between popular policies and an increasingly unpopular leader? It has been clear to many for some time that Corbyn is unable or unwilling to translate even the more popular policies into vote-winning ones.
His muted EU referendum campaign, and subsequent failure to make the case either way for where Labour stands on Brexit, has allowed the Liberal Democrats – the Liberal Democrats FFS - to manoeuvre themselves into the position of speaking for the 48% who voted to Remain, whilst picking up approximately zero potential voters from the Leave side.
Labour, as it happens, are on something of a roll. Last week’s announcement that a Corbyn government would provide universal free school meals, funded by VAT on private school fees was broadly well-received, popular with the public, and pissed off exactly the right kind of people (I’m looking at you, privately-educated The Sun journalists). Then, this week, a proposed rise in the minimum wage to £10 by 2020.
But it all comes back to this: Jeremy Corbyn is not capable of winning a General Election. He isn’t even the figurehead of a socialist movement. He’s an arbitrary avatar, chosen almost by default from Labour’s current group of socialist MPs to stand in the 2015 leadership election. If he’s not capable of winning a General Election, then all this is for nought.
And the real danger for socialists is that, by continuing as leader and allowing his leadership to become synonymous with the socialist cause, he pushes socialism off the agenda for the foreseeable future. Opponents from all political sides will be able to point to Corbyn’s leadership as an example of socialism’s failures.
If you’re a socialist, you needn’t support a political leader just because they are too. If they’re incompetent, they’re harming the cause.