Let me state at the outset that I like Jeremy Corbyn. He is a rare conviction politician in a sea of self-serving career politicians. Corbyn cares. Pure and simple. He gets how austerity has decimated lives.
A penny dropped while I was watching the European election results come in though. Being a self-serving politician encompasses more than financial gain, fear over marginal seats and a future well paying career post-politics. It also involves sticking doggedly to one’s ideology despite all the evidence to the contrary. It involves a high degree of self-belief and conviction that actually produces negative results.
The evidence was coming in thick and fast as the votes were announced. Labour was in the doldrums. Mysteriously, Corbyn has come out the day after to declare a half-hearted support for a people’s vote. This is being framed as being an option along with his usual call for a General Election. Even his right-hand man, John McDonnell, has shifted his position and is calling for a second referendum because “…Tory MPs would not back an election”.
Labour has no MEPs in Scotland, a traditional heartland, and Welsh Labour are calling for a second referendum but Corbyn is unmoved. He has become strait jacketed by his ideological opposition to the EU despite evidence to the contrary on the economic fall out from Brexit. His supporters continue with the line that he faces a difficult choice given the pro-Brexit support within his party. His supporters are loyal and are of the kind that many politicians can only dream of having.
Paul Mason has written in The Guardian and blames Corbyn’s aides for the stubbornness evident. While stating that ‘Corbynism is in crisis’, Paul Mason does not actually blame Corbyn for the lack of voter appeal.
Isn’t this rather like blaming the Emperor’s butler for his lack of clothes rather than blaming the Emperor himself? At what stage does a leader take responsibility for his own decisions despite fawning supporters?
I can fully understand a mistrust of the EU. It does, to an extent, only care about the reproduction of neoliberalism at the expense of what it is doing to people’s lives. Witness the near destruction of the Greek economy and people. But how would Corbyn deal with the rise in populism and irrational dislike of foreigners?
To be fair to Corbyn, there is a broadchurch within the Labour party which, possibly, cannot be reconciled and this leaves him in a quandary as to which side his leadership ought to sit on. But that is what leaders are required to do. Fence sitting and straddling two stools is getting him nowhere.
If Brexit is the last gasp of Nostalgia then it isn’t just a right-wing dream. Nostalgia is also a socialist hark back for some.
To make matters worse, Corbyn hasn’t set out his version of a Socialist Industrialist Policy for the 21st century. He opposes but doesn’t offer an alternative vision. We know that he means well but what are the means and methods of him actually ensuring that ‘means well’ translates into action?
There is an existential political fight going on in British politics which requires the leader of the official opposition to step up.