Our Next Prime Minister?
Over the weekend there has been much comment about the current challenge for the leadership of the Labour party. Significantly Owen Jones, the left-wing commentator, is no longer supporting Jeremy Corbyn. Previously he had shared platforms with Corbyn and could be said to have been one of his strongest supporters and cheerleaders. Today I read also that a member of Corbyn’s team of economic advisers, Danny Blanchflower, has also come out strongly against him and expressed his despair of getting Corbyn and his team to draw up an economic policy ready for government.
Nevertheless Corbyn continues to attract large crowds at his rallies, the most recent being in Liverpool where 5000 people massed to hear what he had to say. In the meantime Corbyn languishes on derisory scores in all opinion polls, in one being 16% behind the Conservatives. There is clearly a chasm, between how voters as a whole perceive Corbyn and the many followers who share his views.
When Ed Miliband stood down as leader, of the four available candidates to replace him, I thought that Yvette Cooper had by far the most experience and potential to defeat the Conservatives in the next general election. I also thought that it would be good for Labour and the Country if Labour had a woman as leader. Since then of course much water has passed under the bridge and the Conservatives now have their second woman leader and Prime Minister in Teresa May, and it has to be said that Jeremy Corbyn by his inadequate leadership of Labour during the Referendum on the EU played a significant part in bringing that about.
During a vote that would have more people going to the poll for generations and would be widely seen as the most important for at least forty years. Corbyn saw fit to absent himself during the election period for a week while he holidayed. I can think of no employer in any profession who would tolerate such a dereliction of duty. He would of course have been fired.
There was a period immediately after the leadership contest, when Corbyn was declared winner, that I thought that the best thing was to hope for the best and give the man a chance. Who knows, he could grow into the shoes of a potential prime minister. I no longer feel that, as he has demonstrated to me beyond any doubt that he is unfitted to be Leader of the Opposition. The problem is that he finds it impossible to develop in his role as a parliamentary leader of the Labour Party, losing the support of 80% of his MPs in the process, and seeks comfort wherever possible in doing what he has done for his whole political life. And, that is, to take part in extra-parliamentary protest movements. When Owen Smith agreed to stand against Corbyn there was a perceived lifting of spirits by Corbyn and his acolytes. He would be able to resume that role, and stand against the great majority of his parliamentary colleagues. After all, he has form, in the past he has voted some five hundred times against his own party in the House of Commons.
A man approaching his seventieth year would find it difficult enough rising to the demands of leadership, even if he had been well schooled in the skills required, having fulfilled successfully a number of senior government roles. Corbyn has none of those qualifications and it is unsurprising that he has turned to the comfort blanket of what he has done throughout his political career wherever possible. He transparently does not have the intellectual ability and nimbleness of thought to command the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Question Time and was consistently and easily bested by David Cameron and now easily trounced by the new Prime Minister, Teresa May, on the occasion of her first PMQ’s.
In one respect Corbyn can be compared to Boris Johnson, in that Johnson clearly did not expect to be the winner of the Brexit debate, and Corbyn did not expect to win the leadership of the Labour Party. The difference being that Teresa May and the Conservatives were able to quickly place Johnson out of the way. The tragedy for the Labour Party is that Corbyn is proving less amenable to such parliamentary pressure and I fear that for that reason, unless Owen Smith is able to spring a surprise, that Labour is doomed to its worst ever electoral defeat.
I have never felt so despairing about politics in this country as I do today. When push comes to shove the Conservatives were able to put a credible leader and government in place and that is the mark of a serious party of government. Until Labour gets it’s act together it is unlikely to be regarded as a serious party of opposition, let alone government.