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Tuesday 26 July 2016

Corbyn - We Have To Talk

Lyndon Johnson had to ask an old colleague to draft him a speech on the subject of economics. He approved enthusiastically: “It’s exactly what I want to say. I’m not going to change a word. It’s great”. Then he added “But I can tell you something. Nobody else will think so”. And then came the legendary dose of scatology. “Did y’ever think … that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else”. The Johnson metaphor is still relevant today.
It speaks to the problems faced by the Labour Party right now, and would go some way to showing why having half a million members will not necessarily propel The Red Team into power - if those who have invested their faith in Jeremy Corbyn would listen.
Here on Zelo Street, we give those gratuitously attacking politicians and public figures for no good reason short shrift. As a result, many who have pursued the Corbyn leadership for nothing more than self-promotion and the satisfaction of proprietorial or editorial diktat have found adverse comment passed upon them. But that does not mean Corbyn’s shortcomings should be given a free pass, and they have not been.
There are many deficiencies in Corbyn’s leadership, but we need only consider one of them today: his ability to look Prime Ministerial enough to persuade swing voters to back him in a General Election. It is little use having half a million people who think that leadership seems hot to them, when it is a number millions larger that has to be swung behind his banner. He does not look electable to the voters he needs to persuade.
And to underscore this lack of electability has come the latest poll from ICM, which shows General Election voting intention percentages at 43% for the Tories, and 27% for Labour. A Tory lead of 16%. This would translate into the Tories gaining 45 seats, and Labour losing 44. That means ending up with fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983, generally accepted as the recent nadir in Labour electoral fortunes.
But, those protesting will tell, look at the internal strife caused by those dissenting from the Corbyn leadership, and the rotten press coverage. Well, yes, but Ed Miliband was frequently mired in talk of challenges and plots - and his treatment by the right-wing press verged on the vicious. At this stage in the electoral cycle, Labour under Miliband had an 8% lead over the Tories. His worst opinion poll return was a 6% Tory lead.
Every polling measure shows Labour under Corbyn way off the pace, typical being “Best team to run the economy”, which has Theresa May and Philip Hammond on 53%, with Corbyn and John McDonnell on 15%. So many have said it, but I will say it again: there is no path to securing change without securing power. And the most effective way of securing power is to win elections. Right now, Corbyn is on course not to win, but be routed.

All those followers enthusiastically pissing down their legs will not change that. Just because it feels hot to you does not mean those who matter are listening. That is all.


Anonymous said...

Trouble is, does Smith look 'Prime Ministerial' enough to win in 2020, or just lose less badly than Corbyn? Or will Smith just keep the seat warm until he's defenestrated in a year or two's time?

Anonymous said...

If a week is a long time in politics, then three and a half years is the lifespan of the universe. And that's how long Labour, and theoretically Corbyn, have at their disposal to turn things around. Because under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, this Government isn't facing re-election until then unless it loses a Vote of No Confidence, and since the Tories have the majority that's not likely to happen at all.

Anonymous said...

Two points:
UKIP has achieved change (its raison d'etre) without ever coming near a sniff of power. The only election UKIP 'won' was the 2014 European elections with vote share of 26.6%

Corbyn does not have to win in the conventional sense to enter Downing Street. He just needs a suitable hung Parliament with the right arithmetic. Although, at the moment, even that looks improbable.

The Professor, Middlesex, England

Unknown said...

Corbyn "just needs a suitable hung Parliament with the right arithmetic". Not so simple.

That was the LibDem approach. When it finally happened Clegg found they paid a high electoral price for the coalition's unpopular policies and didn't get what they wanted.

Also, potential coalition partners like Libs, SNP are pro-PR. Corbyn and his 'merry band of MPs for life in safe seats' never seem to have any enthusiasm for changing the voting system. Funny that.

rob said...

One point to The Professor

UKIP achieved their success with a "charismatic" leader, a Party united in its aims, and a clear upsurge in the polls which immediately gave them media coverage.

At present the Labour Party is slowly spiralling down in the polls, has virtually been evicted from Scotland, is split,and has a leader with loads of media coverage but for the wrong reason.

Apart from that you are spot on.

A party to win an election doesn't need a totally united Party but one that works together to achieve their distinctive aims. Presently the Labour Party doesn't seem to be able to work together for whatever reason and is a turn off for the electorate as a whole.

Matt said...

Hmm Tim I'm not so sure on this analysis.

Using the ICM polls as a base to an argument against Corbyn`s many deficiencies in leadership doesn't add up I`m afraid. The ICM polls had Labour and the Conservatives near enough level before the referendum in June just over a month ago. Some polls even had Labour 2 points in front at that time.

Corbyn was the same Corbyn in June as he is now. So what has changed?

If you blame the attempt by the PLP to bully and intimidate a polite principled man in the most vicious way by the PLP on Corbyn then that's fair enough but many will see it for what it is. A failed coup by a group of incompetent parliamentarians, thirsty for power which went drastically wrong, exposing all of Labours dirty washing for everyone to see. A divided party is never a good look.

There are a lot of problems ahead for the current government. The economy looks like it is tanking at the moment. The threat of the United Kingdom breaking up, weak pound, postal strikes and unresolved Junior doctors dispute and that is before they attempt to navigate the Brexit negotiations which to my eyes looks like an impossible task.
When people start to realise that the Brexit they voted for doesn't actually let us "take back control" and immigration continues unabated and peoples artificial wealth held in their property has been decimated, prices for goods more expensive then I can see them figures reaching parity again.

Those polls would be the same if not worse if "anybody but Corbyn" was in charge. Voting for a divided party is difficult but if Corbyn left then you would be voting for a party of incompetent back stabbers, led by a backstabber with a dwindling incensed membership.

JSG said...

@Anonymous "under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, this Government isn't facing re-election until then unless it loses a Vote of No Confidence."

Not quite. Section 2 of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 also provides a mechanism whereby the government can trigger an early General Election by tabling a motion "That there shall be an early parliamentary general election" and obtaining the support of two thirds of all MPs (not simply of all MPs who vote for or against the motion, so abstentions count against it).

Certainly, Labour could abstain on the motion and thus prevent an election, but this would leave them with the task of explaining why they'd changed their minds since earlier this month, when (to quote The Independent of 11 July)

Labour’s election coordinator Jon Trickett said it was crucial for the country to have a “democratically elected Prime Minister” and branded Ms May’s election a “coronation”.

“It now looks likely that we are about to have the coronation of a new Conservative Prime Minister,” he said.

“It is crucial, given the instability caused by the Brexit vote, that the country has a democratically elected Prime Minister. I am now putting the whole of the party on a General Election footing.

“It is time for the Labour Party to unite and ensure the millions of people in the country left behind by the Tories' failed economic policies, have the opportunity to elect a Labour government.”

I thought at the time that Labour should be careful what they wish for, and nothing that's happened since has changed this view.

Anonymous said...

JSG - you are right of course. I had crossed that off the list of possibilities rather peremptorily, since I couldn't imagine any circumstances in which it would apply (and still can't). Those circumstances might arise of course but there is no sign of them at present. As for Mr Trickett's bold declaration, I suppose Labour's get-out in those circumstances would be that he was speaking with his 'Director of Elections' hat on, and so what he said doesn't reflect a formal Labour decision. It would still look bad, there's no denying that.

faddly said...

JSG - or government could contrive a No Confidence Vote in itself, or repeal the FTPA, or be brought down by disillusioned brexiteer backbenchers voting with opposition.

Unknown said...

Labour are between a rock and a hard place if May goes for 2/3rds option; don't lend support and look weak, or go with it and pray the home CLPs don't choose more Corbyn-friendly candidates to stand. Either way, oblivion beckons, and almost certainly a split. They brought it on themselves.

Steve Rogers said...

Seriously Tim? How on earth could anyone look electable to anyone inside or outside the Labour Party when it's in the middle of an appallingly embarrassing civil war? Of course Corbyn doesn't look Prime Ministerial - he doesn't have a proper shadow government. Perhaps if the Labour war ever reaches a resolution, give it six months and THEN look at the polls. Your article makes as much sense as complaining you're not getting good service at a shop that's on fire.

Man From Atlan said...

I think your point is Corbyn needs to bring in policies to appeal to voters in the next G.E. whenever? Surely he needs to have a united party first, and a team behind him as well? He needs to win the review first, rest should follow. Give him a chance!

Anonymous said...

"The High Court has heard the Labour Party's rules were misapplied when Jeremy Corbyn was issued a place on the leadership ballot"
These are the exact words used by the BBC on its Radio 4 6pm news headlines on Monday 26th July.

A very mischievous headline. This could easily be mistaken as the court's ruling rather than a submission given to the court by a lawyer acting for a wealthy donor with links to Progress and Tony Blair.

No doubt the news editor had a little chuckle at the misleading headline but as a number of university reports that have been analysing media reporting of Corbyn have concluded that clear and blatant bias is bad for democracy.

The British public deserve better than this from the BBC

Anonymous said...

Is it only me that thinks that the Rob Brydon character in Gavin and Stacey is doing a fair impression of a labour MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership?
That said it would need a polished actor to deliver the faux leftist script supplied by PR companies linked to Blairite "progressives" at a bare faced smarmfest in Orgreave.
Where next Owen? a red shell suited photo op at Hillsborough telling everyone to "calm down, calm down"?
Get some metal polish for that brass neck, comrade!

Unknown said...

What does "prime ministerial" mean?

There are lots of these terms bandied about. They just seem to be either vague or to allude to characteristics and qualities that make sense to media political commentators but don't have anything to do with the job.

If the media don't think someone is "credible," but credibility is simply defined as the qualities that appeal to the media, then this is both tautological and contentless.

Really we want to be asking why the media is so spoiled that it would rather be reporting on its own prejudices about what a candidate looks like than on the manifest ineptitude of the Tory government and the intellectual bankruptcy of their policies.

Steve Rogers said...

Labour probably can't rebuild itself in time to win the next General Election. But it almost certainly wasn't going to win it anyway, so it doesn't matter. I've never been a member and have rarely voted for a Labour candidate, but it's just insane to criticise Corbyn’s revolution for not happening impossibly fast. This is a big deal not just another boring five years.

Steve Rogers said...

Phil McDuff, absolutely spot-on.

johnny conspiranoid said...

And then there is the question of how the Tory government is going to cope with the next financial crash brought on by the failure of the Italian banks with all their bad debtors.