Hope suffered a serious heart attack in May’s General Election. Confronted by another five years of callous and casual incompetence from the Government and an all-too acquiescent Official Opposition, when an unexpected gap offered a real choice, Jeremy Corbyn was seized upon and made a sudden and, I think, somewhat reluctant hero. His purpose, for me, however, was always in the need to shake up the Establishment and dispel the myths of TINA; to provide a platform for overdue challenges to the status quo. It was never about loyalty and love for the Labour Party or Corbyn, himself: he was just the only anti-TINA in his party to put his head on the block. Still, the collective relief was palpable after he won the leadership contest and I cheered the fresh air.
The abundant sycophancy for Corbyn, the man, though, is relief made ridiculous. So, too, is the equally abundant carping and vitriol of his opponents. A lot of people like to imagine that if you support Corbyn’s general narrative then you must be a devotee and that if you say anything anti-Corbyn, you must be a ‘Blairite’ or in another party, altogether. This is the nonsense of media mischief and tribal baggage. As a voter, left-leaning is about as near to a default position as I’ve observed in myself. Before plugging into the Twittersphere I just thought I was a humanitarian who believes in democracy. It is only by participation in public discourse that I have had to wrestle with a landfill of labels that are, simultaneously, convenient shorthands and poisonous straitjackets.
The concerns I’ve expressed about Corbyn’s desire and capacity to lead and his lack of willing support from the most experienced MPs are proving depressingly material. I’m sorry to see this decent man chewed up and spat out by the political establishment and shabby journalism. I’m upset by their deliberate undermining of an alternative narrative that Corbyn is trying to facilitate and I’m impatient with his own seeming inability and reluctance to at least play the game to more beneficial ends. It’s all very well saying he shouldn’t have to but that’s naive. The game is a highly popular and historically engrained fixture that won’t disappear by minority wish but is, at least, faster and smarter changed by an appearing to observe its rules. No, I don’t much like it, either.
I don’t think Corbyn is a great orator or effective manager and I do a wits’-end expression every time there’s a seeming bungle or re-interpretation for the Press to milk but I also realise that he is having to learn on the job in a very hostile environment and that this makes it difficult to gauge how much he is being hindered and how much he is hindering himself. Nevertheless, when he – or McDonnell – are interviewed and I hear them speak for themselves, they mostly sound calm, informed and reasonable.
And if not Corbyn, then who, right now? Like so many, I shared much of his general analysis on the state of domestic and foreign policy before I’d heard of him and he was given the oxygen. And condemnation of the exploitation of people and resources for exoteric global dominance and personal gain, by people who have the will, the influence and the power to do so, is what we were waiting for, after all.
What gets constantly overlooked by the journalists and the usual Labourites is that the value perspective Corbyn wants to give space to is the very space that these same MPs refuse to countenance beyond lip service and that a multitude of voters desperately wants and deserves to hear. If those Bubble-wrapped MPs had expressed sincere opposition to this thoroughly destructive socio-economic status quo, their party would have a more can-do-Politics leader. Well, they didn’t. And if genuine acceptance of and support for Corbyn’s position was there, now, there would be a cohesive and coherent message and a more efficient method; if their spinning was genuinely positive, the Conservatives would be not merely shaking in small doses but wobbling magnificently and visibly on their perch.
I don’t know what is really going on. I’d have to be in the Bubble to know, for sure. All I have to go on is what I see for myself and the media commentariat, paid and voluntary. It is hard to watch. We all know how desperately the country needs the Government to face opposition, scrutiny and redirection. I understand and buy the merits of having wide-ranging debates so as to discover consensus and develop a party line but the two sides seem diametrically opposed over too many issues that are fundamental to cohesion.
It looks like Labour is really two parties fighting for what they believe is its soul. Or maybe all that Labour is fighting over is the empty husk where its soul once dwelled. They can’t keep telling us that they are united in their values when their record and the dirty laundry they are now washing says otherwise to the public. Both sides are in each other’s way and that means Labour is not credible or electable, whichever side is preferred.
Maybe the first thing Labour has to figure out is which side gets to keep the name; the name that speaks to the notion of making tedious hard work of everything. Personally, I think I’d let the ‘Blairites’ have it.
I find that I resonate with many of the parties to varying degrees, even if only on a fragment but not one of them represents me enough to wish to become a member, let alone vote for one. The political solutions I could vote for are not available in a party that commands national electoral viability, including the part of Labour that I prefer. I have nowhere to go.