Ditching Corbyn now: probably the daftest political idea in the world

As I write Labour politicians are defecting from the shadow cabinet at a rate faster than people left the Titanic. That analogy is flawed as it seems most people behaved rather honourably in that bygone age (although First Class women passengers had the highest survival rate, Third Class women had a higher survival rate than First Class men).

The reasons for this mass desertion are many but fundamentally they come down to Corbyn’s leadership during the referendum campaign and his prospects of winning if there is a general election in the near future.

The first I would submit is an inappropriate reason and the second although more appropriate is invalidated as a short term tactic by the first.

Jeremy Corbyn began as a profoundly Eurosceptic politician as did almost all of the left of the Labour Party. Corbyn was first elected in 1983 when official Labour policy was to leave the then EEC without a referendum. Throughout the years he has tended to vote against Europe.

When he became leader he presented himself as Eurosceptic but pro Europe: a position which is far from uncommon amongst Remainers. In the campaign he suggested himself as 7.5 out of 10 pro Remain which again must be a common position amongst those who voted to stay, pointing to as it does the very marked problems with Europe and wanting to reform not leave it.

The criticism now is that this inadequate Euro enthusiasm failed to deliver the votes of the Midlands and the north especially on the east coast for Remain. The cry is that traditional Labour supporters were not told clearly enough that Labour supported Remain and had Corbyn done more the result would have been different.

The levels of arrogance and hubris in these suggestions are in actual fact breath taking. The large towns and small cities of the Midlands and north especially the north east have indeed been Labour’s strong holds. However, Labour does not own the votes of these people. Middlesborough, Hartlepool, Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Grimsby (to name but a few) are not the feudal fiefdoms of the local Labour MPs. At times, though it has looked as if they viewed them that way, especially as too many of those great towns and cities have been represented by MPs almost wholly based in London, with but a tenuous practical connection to their constituencies.

If one is to blame Corbyn why not blame Ian Wright or Melaine Onn (MPs for Hartlepool and Great Grimsby respectively both of which voted almost 70% leave)? In reality most people in those working class Labour heartlands decided to vote out and would have done so no matter how loudly Corbyn begged, cajoled or ordered them to stay.

It is very likely that Corbyn learned the lesson from Scotland which too many of his MPs (now only one from Scotland) have failed to learn from the Scottish referendum. That is that Labour appearing as side kicks to Cameron during the Scottish independence referendum cost Labour very dear at the 2015 general election. Corbyn’s more nuanced, lower profile and less strident nay heavy hearted support for Remain may help shield many of the MP’s whose constituents so ringingly rejected the EU.

This brings us to the second and main reason for Labour MPs to want to get rid of Corbyn now. They calculate that the new Tory leader (probably Johnson but do not discount Theresa May) will go for his / her own mandate with a general election within the year.

Many Labour MPs have long thought that Corbyn was unelectable and that he should be jettisoned before the next election with enough time to allow a new leader to bed in.

This may be a reasonable position and Corbyn has many voter unfriendly facets which may well be a turn of in for voters in many places. His opposition to Trident and general perceived lack of patriotism could cost dear in those sorts of northern seats (and elsewhere). However, whatever his problems and whatever the reasons it would be seen by very many Labour voters that the MPs who overwhelmingly supported Remain are getting rid of Corbyn because he was not Remain enough. In such circumstances it is almost inconceivable that the working class Labour electorate having just voted Leave would think this a good idea. Whatever Labour’s problems in any putative election this plan would simply magnify them.

Furthermore any leader popular with these rebellious MPs would probably be even more unpopular with those Labour voters than Corbyn. Whilst a new leader might be a bit more overtly patriotic and pro Trident s/he would almost certainly be a pro EU, social liberal, pro immigration, fiscal Brown/Blarite (ie neo liberal). That is exactly the sort of person who has led Labour to two successive general election defeats.

If Labour want to win again they need to stop and think carefully, very carefully about the sort of leader they need. Ideally they should be socially a bit more conservative than recent leaders, a proper left wing social democrat or socialist and now more than ever a Eurosceptic. That may not be especially popular with the activist base but is likely to be even less popular with the MPs. Furthermore it is difficult to think of anyone who would fit that bill apart from say Frank Field who is probably too old now.

However, until Labour grasp that nettle they are likely to have grave problems regaining power. Furthermore unless they realise that that is where most of the support is they are in grave danger of being eclipsed by other parties be they UKIP or a new grouping.

At this point ditching Corbyn for an heir to Blair (or Brown) would replace Labour’s 1983 manifesto (the longest suicide note in political history) as the daftest political act by the modern Labour Party. At the moment Corbyn is probably the best option they have and that for a whole series of reasons is probably why the MPs are so scared.

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  • terence patrick hewett

    Labour’s biggest problem is that they forgot what they were there for: they abused, insulted and betrayed those whom they were pledged to support: and now they are b*ggered.

  • Christopher Mahon

    Nooooooo!

    Why is this so hard to understand?

    He is not a good leader, he is not a good politician. He does not connect with the electorate across the country.

    People touting the polls today. We were above 40% at the same time under Miliband.

    The times have changed, yes. Blairite neoliberalism can’t be the answer. Yes. We cannot be London centric again, yes! We all know that inequality and climate change and exploitation of labour is the issue of our age. The problem is no one outside the lefty circle is listening or hears us.

    We have got to connect to voters outside London, in England before they leave labour for UKIP or worse. This is not theoretical, we’ve just had a referendum poll and we know what happened after the Scotland referendum when we failed to connect.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I hadn’t realised that Turgon had such a droll sense of humour.

    ‘Probably the daftest political idea in the world ‘ was appointing Jeremy Corbyn leader of a major political party in the first place.

    A man who had spent over thirty years as an elected politician, was over 65 years of age, and no one other than a political geek had ever heard of.

    His claim to fame being that he has voted against his own party on more than 500 occasions.

    You can imagine the relying cry ” We must show a united front to the voters, stick together and show your loyalty to the party and we will prevail! “.

    You can also imagine the response.

    Corbyn isn’t fit to lead, he isn’t capable of inspiring confidence and couldn’t lead a conga line.

    If Labour replace him with a more believable leader and campaign the next election under a promise to return to the EU there’s every chance they would win.

    Unless of course it’s progressed too far by that stage.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Disagree, here’s why …

    He’s a good constituency politician that does connect with his own electorate. It would be nice to have more Labour match his character, initiative and discipline and make themselves leaders in their own constituency.

    His opponents struggle to deal with the challenges they face in their own constituency. Rather than take responsibility they pass the buck.

    His opponents are not looking for a leader, leaders delegate responsibility and trusts his team to do a job for him, instead these opponents are looking for a patriarch or a matriarch who tells them what to do. They need a grow up mentally.

    Tony Blair has had a lot of problems, at least he hasn’t tried to build the party in his own image, he let people he’d ideologically disagree with on the left try to get the party into government. By contrast I feel the Labour rebels actually want to go full on Orphan Black Clone Club here.

    As backbenchers the likes of Corbyn and Abbott were facing a potential rise of UKIP in their own backyards, they managed to stand up to it. I feel many Labour MPs are getting lazy and complacent even running scared of the UKIP threat … they need to struggle with the new norm and support people.

  • On the fence!

    Corbyn brought this entirely on himself. He set himself up with a foot on both stools and now post referendum the stools are being pulled in opposite directions.

    Contrast this with where he’d be today if he’d publicly stuck to his career long opposition of the EU. Easily the highest ranking elected politician in the UK holding the same view as the majority of the UK public.

  • terence patrick hewett

    First of all politicians should stop underestimating peoples intelligence: they should stop the idea that politics is something that should be done to people.

    Donald Tusk quoted Nietzsche:

    “what does not kill you makes you stronger”

    I will give you another quote from Nietzsche:

    ‘I believe,’ said Nietzsche, ‘that the mob, the mass, the herd, will always be despicable’

    The German press reaction, Spiegel et al are describing those who voted “out” as “irrational” and “emotional.” The same words, the very same words used against women’s suffrage in the late 19th early 20th century: which I believe says a very great deal about their understanding of liberal democracy.

    They fear that the demos behave like crowds: that they would be suggestible, impulsive, irrational, emotional, inconstant and capable only of thinking in images – in short just like women!!!

    The left are steeped in Hegel, Nietzsche and Kant and their petticoat is showing.

    You might do well to start with Occam’s Razor and bin the lot.

  • mickfealty

    Turgon,

    The Labour party will a very big problem in actually dispatching Mr C. Killing off Labour leaders is notoriously difficult. But they do allow time to allow the challengers put their views and sell themselves. They do have the summer to do it.

    The paradox of Corbyn is that his huge activist base are metropolitan types of the sort that what’s left of the current voter base don’t want. That he shared their feelings about the EU should have made them responsive to a Eurocritical Remain campaign.

    But it doesn’t seem to be working that way. For what it is worth I think Corbyn’s instinct to engage with ordinary people rather than the Westminster bubble is half right. People respond to stories of ordinary people they recognise as genuinely human.

    As opposed to the products of a machine. But for me it’s this disjuncture that needs to be addressed. People vote in numbers when they believe it will have a meaningful effect on their lives. That’s Labour’s problem, regardless of who leads them.

    There’s no telling how far they will fall before they twig. Getting rid of Corbyn will be tough, as you say, if they don’t have a suitable match for the times that are in it. Here’s a few thoughts I banged out on FB last night…

  • mickfealty

    That’s useful Terrence…

  • hgreen

    The ousting of Corbyn would IMO signal a major problem for UK democracy. For the first time in years 1000’s of people young and old joined labour following the election of Corbyn. People like myself became members of a political party for the first time in their lives. If Corbyn goes most of these new members will drift away. The saying that “they are all the same” will never be more true.

  • It was the second time in recent history thousands of people joined a political party. They joined the Green Parties in early 2015. Now the Cobynites can come back to the Green Party.

  • hgreen

    Difficult to connect with voters, what ever that means, when your party is divided and your fellow MPs want you out.

  • hgreen

    We will do.

  • hgreen

    Nonsense. He’s been getting a hammering for the last 9 months.

  • notimetoshine

    But some of the most famous of those intellectuals and politicians who believed in and helped give birth to liberal democracy were terrified of the mob, the mass, the herd. As was noted in Gordon Wood’s excellent Empire of Liberty on the early years of the American Republic, the framers of the constitution were terrified of the irrationality and passions of the mob.

    Indeed British liberal democracy was both scathing and terrified of the mob. One only has to look at the reactions to the French revolution, even amongst many of the radical whigs in Britain the fear of the mob was almost visceral. Burke being a perfect example in the UK.

    So I would say they have quite the understanding of liberal democracy.

  • terence patrick hewett

    In many respects you are correct: the overiding ethos was:

    I am not one of the masses. I am someone special. I am an intellectual – one of the elite. Therefore my emotional responses, obviously, are far more sensitive and subtle than those of my cleaning lady.

    Unfortunately liberal democracy depends on the principle that both the Colonels Lady and Rosie O’Grady having a very good idea where their self interest lies.

  • On the fence!

    How is it nonsense?????? If you hadn’t noticed, currently elected Members of Parliament who are in tune with the majority of the UK electorate on the EU issue are a bit thin on the ground at the minute!

    Given then that he’d also have been leader of the party who traditionally draw their support from the very communities who carried the vote in favor of Brexit, there would have been little trouble in many of them getting behind him now.

    Finally add in the turmoil triggered among your political opposition at domestic level by the “out” vote, and it’s not hard to see that he could now have been sitting much prettier than he’s been since he took on the leadership role.

    But he choose to abandon his true convictions to follow what he thought to be the winning side. Bit ironic abandoning your principles just to win, and then loosing!

    Slap it up him.

  • hgreen

    He didn’t abandon his convictions. He took a balanced view that on the whole we were better off staying in and working for change. Only the most rabid exiters saw this as a simple decision. No doubt he also didn’t want to be on the same side of the argument as racists and liars.

  • On the fence!

    “racists and liars”

    Oh here we go again, more of the sanctimonious claptrap from “remain”.

    While every “out” voter continues to be labelled as some sort of xenophobic retard, there’s little point in any discussion!

  • articles

    Last time I looked Jeremy was standing to the left of would be Prime Ministers Neil Kinnock, Ed Milliband, Michael Foot etc . Jeremy is a leftover from a bygone age, rather like when you meet an old school friend from the seventies only to find his political views have not changed in any shape or form (and even more dispiriting his children are spouting the same anti American, anti capitalist, anti Israel mantras) and have been preserved in an ideological aspic.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Have to agree with that, he even adopts that ridiculous habit of dressing down in order to show his solidarity with the workers.

    I’m prepared to accept that Dennis Skinner dresses like that because he isn’t concerned as to his image and feels comfortable dressing like a school teacher – back in the day when I went to school – but with Corbyn it strikes me as being done for effect.

    He comes from a well off background and was privately educated.

    There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, most of us are concerned with someones ability rather than their ‘right on ‘ credentials.

    The whole UK political scene is in turmoil right now and we can only hope that it resolves itself without extremists from left or right taking advantage.

  • Chingford Man

    Labour betrayed working people in 2004 when it failed to impose transitional controls on migration from eastern Europe. Labour saw it as part of the diversity agenda with which it could beat the Tories. But it failed to anticipate that mass migration would cause serious hurt to the communities of its core vote. Even when that started to hit home, its allegiance to the internationalism of the EU meant it could not address that problem.

    Cameron’s unwisely granted (for him) referendum enabled Labour voters to punish Labour without (yet) voting for another party. Instead of coming to terms with this rebuff, Corbyn’s colleagues have launched a coup out of the belief that Corbyn is the one responsible for the rebuff.

    This is priceless stupidity and I welcome it as this could deliver a lot of northern seats to UKIP at the next election.

  • Gopher

    Labours biggest problem like the countries is they is they opened the franchise that favoured the most motivated. The most motivated arnt always the most reasonable. Try getting that genie back in the bottle. Its new party time with a leader decided by that parliamentary party

  • Sherdy

    How crazy is the English Labour Party?
    At a time when the Tories are totally divided and bickering with each other, Labour only needed to sit on their hands to benefit politically.
    But Labour go into open warfare over Corbyn’s lacklustre campaign for the Remain side of the referendum.
    But what had Corbyn to do with the campaign?
    Nothing!
    It was entirely the brainchild of Cameron and the Tories, who played unbelievably bad tactics to the extent that, had Labour any sense, the divided Tories could have been running for cover.
    But now they owe their rescue to the Labour rebels – congratulations, you fools!

  • Anglo-Irish

    You could of course say the same thing about the Conservative party.

    Labour committed political suicide twice by choosing the wrong Milliband and then replacing him with an unelectable nonentity with a track record of being disruptive to his own party and absolutely no charisma or public image.

    So, Conservative party in power for the next generation.

    At which point they decide to go into meltdown, tear each other apart and start to make Labour electable again, except that they are also acting like morons.

    Shame the Liberals are also crap really.

    It’s true what Mark Twain said ” When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained “.

  • hgreen

    Yea I know. The last thing a political party needs is a motivated membership.

  • mickfealty

    Calm it you two!! Just putting this here to stimulate some actual thought. It’s by Henry Farrell, an Irish academic at GW University in DC and is from 2006:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/97ce734b6a7c8b25cf23515de28030b74730771c804a136e42ecdc488c1b81af.jpg

  • Granni Trixie

    But is it not that they sniffed a General Election sooner rather than later, one which they couldn’t face with “Jeremy” at the helm hence the Brexit result reason was merely a hook for doing what was always on the cards before the next GE.

    Lets see if there is merit in chaos theory.

  • leoinlisbon

    I think you fail to understand how limited Jeremy Corbyn’s concerns are. He clearly cares about some things ‘outside the Westminister bubble’ but he appears astonishingly indifferent to others.
    He has always taken a keen interest in Ireland but almost none in Scotland. You might say that, given the level of political violence in Northern Ireland, this was admirable but – if you want a successful Labour Party – indifference to Scotland is bizarre.
    Similarly, gay rights is clearly for him a priority but the disintegration of working class Northern England does not seem to energize him.
    Finally, his recent support for socialism in Venzuela makes him appear to be a typical out-of-touch leftist looking for a cause he can believe in.
    The timing and manner of the coup can be criticized but the central fact is that Jeremy is not up to the job.

  • On the fence!

    “Just putting this here to stimulate some actual thought.”

    Which of-course as an “outer” I didn’t do beforehand, right?

    Wrong again! My main work is fairly seasonal and for the past number of years I’ve received a nice Single Farm Payment cheque around the end of November which helps carry me through the winter until business picks up in late February. So I gave my decision A LOT of thought, both at personal and national level.

    Then again, my thoughts and opinions are probably worth a bit less than those of a “remainer”, just the same as my vote appears to have been!!!!!!

    *edit* – oh, and I did read your article, but with respect I refer you back to the final two lines of my previous post.

  • mickfealty

    It wasn’t a challenge OTF.

  • kensei

    The problem is that getting rid of Corbyn does’t staunch the bleeding. The right of the party have been contemptuous of Corbyn from the get go, partly in fear he might succeed.

    If they succeed in ousting him – not guaranteed as of this minute, and dear lord if you mount a coup you only do so with the guarantee that you definitely will 100% win – there will be calls to come together, heal the party etc. Why exactly should the left of the party acquiesce? They’ve been docile for 20 years, have just established a large activist base and voice in the membership and have seen the impact a persistent, organised and loud group can have within a party over the long term via the EU Referendum.

    This is madness.

  • John Collins

    You can add Daniel O’Connell to this list. He witnessed the worst excesses of the French Revolution, when a student in Paris, and never forgot it. He was certainly no proponent of Universal Suffrage.

  • notimetoshine

    Oh I didn’t know that, though I remember an English lecturer mentioning something along those lines. But then I suppose it’s not surprising really, 19th century (and early 20th century) European nationalism was incredibly regressive, John Mitchel comes to mind.

  • Petronius

    It is indeed very disturbing to me that we seem to be returning to an age when rulers viewed the working class as less entitled to a political voice than the bourgeoisie and upper classes.