Time was when left-leaning website The Canary was four square behind Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever the rest of the media said about the Labour leader - and the adverse comment has of late spread to the Guardian and Independent, as well as the usual right-wing suspects - The Canary would reassure Team Corbyn that whatever they did was The Right Thing. That came to a sudden and unexpected halt yesterday.
Under the by-line of Kerry-Anne Mendoza - yes, it’s “The Mendoza Woman” again - readers were given the bad news: “Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to support the government on Article 50 is a colossal mistake”, going on to tell “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will order his MPs to back the government when parliament votes on triggering Article 50, which begins the process of Britain leaving the EU. In doing so without firm guarantees against a hard Tory Brexit, Corbyn has made a colossal mistake. And it may well sink him”.
Some statements of the all too obvious follow, such as “the left-wing Brexit of greater democracy and protection from radical neoliberal austerity is never going to happen under this current government. The Brexit of Theresa May is about quite the opposite”. Jezza was on a hiding to nothing however he responded on Article 50. But.
Ms Mendoza puts it directly: “Corbyn’s team argues that it’s acting to support the pro-Brexit democratic mandate expressed by the people of Britain, but that it stands opposed to a hard Tory Brexit … But the decision to force Labour MPs to back the government on the vote, before assurances have been made on those amendments, removes the bargaining power of Labour and the other opposition parties”. And there is more.
“Opposition to a Tory Brexit is shared by virtually the entire fleet of opposition parties - from the SNP to the Greens, and a majority of the Labour party … Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are poised to hold a second independence referendum to keep Scotland in the EU … the Greens and the Lib Dems are agitating against the decision vociferously. With this one decision, Corbyn has separated himself from all potential left-of-centre allies”.
How far detached Jezza and his inner circle have become has come clear as developments show: many grassroots Labour members want Corbyn to oppose the triggering of Article 50. Heidi Alexander has put down a Commons motion to throw the Tories’ Article 50 Bill out. Tulip Siddiq (just resigned from the opposition front bench), Owen Smith, Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw are among those backing her.
A substantial majority of Labour voters backed the Remain side in the referendum. Who speaks for them if the leadership of their chosen party backs the Government? Tim Farron? There is, as Ms Alexander says, considerable disquiet at the way Theresa May is marching the country towards the cliff edge. People are crying out for leadership.
Leadership is unqualified commitment to the major anxiety of the people. Jeremy Corbyn knows that. He also knows the source of that anxiety. So he knows what he needs to do. And if he fails to lead, others will lead instead. That is why The Canary had little alternative but to call him out on his Article 50 stance - it should be the Tories on the defensive.
Jeremy Corbyn is not yet finished. But unless he shows leadership, he may soon be.