I am not supporting Jeremy Corbyn in his bid to retain the Labour leadership. But nor am I supporting his challenger Owen Smith. Nor am I in league with any interest group, cabal, conspiracy, or media organisation. So what you read on Zelo Street is how I see it. No other body has influence, or holds sway, over this blog. Why the need to stress this? Because, sadly, the mindset of many Corbyn followers necessitates it.
You talking about me?
Hardly a comment on Jezza goes by without complaints of bias, partiality, closet Smith support: I lose count of the “Your stuff is usually very good BUT” comments. Zelo Street has called out the press’ more ridiculous attempts to demonise Corbyn. It will also call out the more ridiculous attempts to justify his and his pals’ mis-steps. That is what freedom of speech is about - it’s not a freedom only to hear what you want to.
So we come to the latest manifestation of the Corbyn camp pulling off another “One step forward, two steps back” stunt, this one from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, usually one of Jezza’s more reliable lieutenants, who has suggested that Richard Branson should be stripped of his knighthood, because he is not currently resident in the UK, and not because of the Traingate row that involved his pal Jezza, honestly.
The Labour-supporting Mirror has put it plainly. “Labour calls for Richard Branson to be STRIPPED of his knighthood after Jeremy Corbyn Traingate row … John McDonnell slams the Virgin billionaire as a ‘tax exile who thinks he can try and intervene and undermine our democracy’”. And how has Branson intervened to undermine our democracy? God knows. But no doubt there will be a justification along soon.
And what would be the reasoning? Branson, as founder of Virgin Group, has a minority stake in the train operator that so irked Corbyn - 90% of Virgin Trains East Coast is held by Stagecoach Group. No move has yet been made to strip Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter of his knighthood, despite the latter’s past support for the Tories’ controversial “Section 28” law which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality.
Moreover, how does Traingate “undermine our democracy”? Did anyone become disenfranchised as a result? Was freedom of speech somehow curtailed? Or is a train carrying more passengers than its seating capacity deemed the ultimate mark of shame? If it is, that would disqualify the operators of every franchise awarded since the system was introduced - as well as Good Old British Rail, who did it too.
Whichever way McDonnell’s pronouncements are looked at, they do not make sense. If a future Government were to take rail franchises into public ownership, I doubt that it would fuss Branson, Souter or any of the other current participants. Sticking their bugle into that controversy is not where their heads are at. And if a future Government wanted to reform the honours system - fine, let them get elected and then get on with it.
The problem for Corbyn, McDonnell and the rest is that right now they are not going to get elected. And spare me the “look over there at Owen Smith”. Stop blaming him, stop blaming Branson, stop blaming pundits and bloggers who say you are wrong, and get real. Because without getting real, there isn’t going to be another Labour Government. Ever.