Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Corbyn Conundrum

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

The uber-left wing of the Labour Party is enjoying its moment in the sun. And it has much to celebrate. Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader, not once but twice - and on the second occasion, with an increased share of the vote. He is the clear choice of party members and of a pious minority of Labour MPs.

Party members have twice had the opportunity to select the safe and reliable Andy Burnham, the more obvious and conventional candidate, and twice they have turned their noses up and said 'no thank you'. Even in 2010, they opted for Ed Miliband, the candidate deemed to be closest to the left of the party, against the favoured candidate David Miliband.

And so we find ourselves blessed or burdened - depending on your political inclination - with Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. The consequences of this are significant. For the first time in my lifetime, there are clear, conflicting policy differences separating the two major parties. The comfortable centrist consensus synonymus with the Blair and Cameron eras no longer marries the Labour and Conservative parties to the political centre.

The culmination of increasingly divergent policy positions is one of deep and significant division.

Corbyn is obviously a deeply principled individual. He believes what he believes and he stands doggedly by those beliefs. That is something to be admired, irrespective of which side of the political divide you find yourself. He seems averse to compromise and doesn't yield to the pressure of constant criticism in the media and from the majority of his own MPs, many of whom refuse to serve in his shadow cabinet or acknowledge the legitimacy of his leadership.

Defiant of the established political order and against all expectations, he has seized control of the Labour party and steered it firmly to the left of the political spectrum. His instincts and ideology correspond closely with the politics of the 1980s and the trendy posturings and pious idealism befitting of the student union. In this respect, he is a relic of a bygone era, one largely forgotten and rendered irrelevant by the realignment of the Thatcher years. Those sympathetic to his leanings are largely extinct.

His ideological purity is unquestionable. He is an unreconstructed liberal. The singular heir of an uncelebrated era of thinking. It's fair to say he doesn't seem to have adapted or moderated his convictions since his days as a student.

The parliamentary Labour party is a disobedient beast. Opposition to Corbyn's leadership is brazen and a substantial number of MPs make no attempt to conceal their disapproval and open contempt.

Corbyn was a perpetual rebel during the Blair/Brown years and could be depended on to disobey the party line. The scale of his rebellion was immense by any measure. Now, the tables have turned. Corbyn now finds himself at the helm of a parliamentary party that is restless, disobedient, barren of restraints and beyond his control. His efforts to whip his MPs and establish party unity are futile and largely in vain. He lacks credibility.

Corbyn has used his leadership to revive the big debates of yesteryear, nuclear disarnament and nationalisation being prime examples. These issues, once pressing, have largely been addressed, rendered irrelevant over time and consigned to the history books.

There is an overwhelming sense that Jeremy Corbyn leads a largely lonely existence. His parliamentary party rejects him and holds him in contempt and refuses to serve in his shadow cabinet. They don't want to be tainted by association.

So what now for Jeremy Corbyn? If he can't inspire confidence in his immediate subordinates, then how can he hope to inspire the confidence of a skeptical electorate?

The onus is on Corbyn to display nothing other than constant, uncompromising competence from now until the next election and to develop credible policy positions on issues relevant to the electorate of today, not the electorate of a time gone by. He must learn to understand the issues important to voters and put aside the unresolved personal concerns that no longer inspire the passion of voters in the here and now.

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