In my experience, you often get to know someone’s true character when they are a backed into a corner and everything’s against them. Today, there are a lot of Labour Party members who supported Corbyn for the leadership, but are now seeing for the first time what the guy is really like. All the banners proclaiming the MP for Islington North as a decent, honourable, principled man are starting to get a little frayed, aren’t they?
It comes as no surprise to those of us who were involved in Labour Party and left-wing politics in the 1980s. We came to know exactly the dead end represented by the metropolitan radicalism of Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.
It actually took me most of my teenage years to figure it out, as I’d initially been attracted to Labour by Ken Livingstone’s 1981 GLC administration. But as the decade unfolded and the left went down to defeat after defeat (and I wasted more and more time battling Trotskyist infiltrators and fellow travellers within Labour and campaigning organisations), my own perspective started to change.
When Jeremy comes to write his memoirs – working title, The Corbyn Year – he might use the opportunity to reflect on his countless mistakes in office as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But somehow I don’t see it happening. The memoirs would almost certainly be full of trite observations, socialist shibboleths and recriminations against the people who betrayed him.
Why? Because this is the only world that Jeremy has ever inhabited.
He is a man who has always been against things. When he first joined the Labour Party, it was Harold Wilson and the Vietnam War. And then it was Maggie Thatcher. And then it was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And now it’s the ‘Red Tories’, AKA people who believe the first job of the Labour Party is to win power so as to help improve the conditions of those they’re elected to represent.
Corbyn epitomises failure at an almost spectacular level. On the Richter Scale of political ineptitude he’s registering a shuddering 9.5. He alienates traditional Labour voters with his effete urban attitudes to defence, security, welfare and immigration. He turns off the aspiring middle-classes with his lack of connection to enterprise and wealth creation. And if these things weren’t bad enough, he combines the charisma of John Major with the political perspicacity of Citizen Smith.
I know him to be an assiduous MP in North London, who works pretty tirelessly for his constituents – many of whom are poor and disadvantaged. For that, I give him full credit. But the rest of his political life has been spent in meeting halls, navigating ultra-left paper sellers and speeching to the choir.
John McDonnell is no doubt telling Jez that there are armies of eager supporters willing to take to the streets to defend him against the coup d’etat. But the reality is that he is trapped, a little like his erstwhile mate Ken Livingstone in that disabled toilet a couple of months back. And the longer he spends making a fool of himself, the more McDonnell’s armies will melt away. When is the Red Man going to start walking?