The scale of Labour’s defeat last night was not quite as great as the exit poll suggested, but it was bad. So by this morning, a less than totally orderly queue was forming, consisting mainly of those claiming to support Labour, and telling the world that they had been predicting such a result for some time, even though they all kept it to themselves.
And the object of these not particularly august individuals was the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who has already confirmed that he will not lead the party into another General Election. Moreover, he will step down in the New Year after what he has called a period of reflection. This has already been seized upon by media pundits as if it were some yet more dastardly deed from the Rotten Old Lefty Allotment Keeper™.
ITV’s Paul Brand, who might have been expected to stop and think after being drawn into the totally false “Tory SpAd punched outside Leeds General Infirmary” story, instead leapt to pitch his ninepence worth: “BREAKING: Jeremy Corbyn says he will stand down ‘in the early part of next year’. That leaves a out of wriggle room to help install a successor in his image”. The supposedly responsible media is already on to the conspiracy theories.
Others are gaining instant 20/20 hindsight, as with that shambling line-up of has-beens, to lay into Jezza. But for what? Being democratically elected to the party leadership? Agreeing to be bound by the decisions reached by Conference? Wanting to not only save, but strengthen, the NHS? Wanting the best start in life for children? Vowing to banish homelessness and poverty? Soil the bed, that’s one hell of a flimsy charge sheet.
How about all the abuse heaped on him by the press? Ah, but we are told, if only a more “normal”, more “centre-left” leader without the baggage of Corbyn, and his past associations, had been in charge, Labour would have romped home. Some have short memories: remember Ed Miliband’s leadership? The press abuse even extended to anti-Semitic attacks on the memory of his late father Ralph Miliband.
Until 2200 hours yesterday, none of that righteous rabble knew what was going to happen when the country went to the polls. Only after the exit poll did they become not only tediously righteous, but knowledgeable in the retelling. As I type, Jack Straw, forever tainted by allegations of involvement in extraordinary rendition, is pontificating on Labour’s electoral failure. The last Labour campaign he was involved in did worse.
Gordon Brown’s 2010 effort garnered a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Corbyn’s; so did Miliband’s in 2015. Yet here are all the passed-over Majors turning up like so many bad pennies to tell us that they know better. This is so much aimless drivel: Corbyn played the hand dealt him as best he could. This allegedly dangerous man used nothing more than the force of argument and employed only democratic means.
For this we should condemn him? No, we should not. And I will not. No blaming the left, no blaming Blairites, no blaming Brownites, no blaming Momentum, no blaming Centrists, no blaming manifestos, no blaming the members. Don’t even think about going there.
Labour’s membership will decide who next leads the party, and the policies pursued. As to those outside the party claiming to have the answers - join up or shut up. That is all.
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