Labour Must Rally Around Its Leader. When it elects a new one.

I’m one of those spineless, egotistical, morally abhorrent young people who wouldn’t mind seeing Jeremy Corbyn step aside. There, I’ve said it. Criticise me how you like: call me a right-wing Blairite Tory sympathiser for all I care, but hear me out; I’m a supporter of the ideas but not the execution.

First, some facts. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister, I wasn’t even born. I live in an area that despises him as much as any. I joined the Labour Party in February 2015, following a small dose of gentle cajoling by my friends. I voted for Corbyn and Tom Watson in the leadership election, and was pleased when a man of principle, compassion and kindness was elected. But, as a leader, Corbyn has failed to live up to many people’s expectations.

Jess Phillips, one of a whole host of big names to resign from the opposition team, described a paradox. She said that, after all of his efforts, Corbyn has ‘made it all about him’. Rallying around a leader is to be encouraged, but Corbyn hasn’t really shown himself to be a uniting force as leader.

The first problem lies in his ‘kinder, straight-talking politics’. I totally agree with the sentiment. I think the whole population would agree that we need an influx of truth and honesty if we want to heal the schism between the political classes and the people. However the interpretation that includes taking a back-seat on issues is objectionable. A leader can be perfectly kind and courteous, and still effective in holding to account a shambolic government, something Corbyn has not done effectively.

we need to look more clearly at the huge vote of no confidence

The Conservative majority in the Commons is a slender 12, meaning the chances of rebellion and government defeats are - in theory - going to be very common, especially with prominent rebels and sceptics adorning the government benches. And yet, in months since Corbyn took over, the lack of a clear plan has meant scarce opportunity for defeat; at PMQs, Cameron has acted with disdain towards Corbyn, and arguably the only person to really gain concessions has been the calculating leader of the Scottish Nationalists, Angus Robertson.

The vote to Leave was not Corbyn’s fault, but some responsibility must lie at his door. The Labour Party has had a problem connecting with its core support for years following the New Labour days. If there is any crumb of comfort to be taken from the referendum, it is that it is now abundantly clear what the message from working class voters towards the Labour Party is. Corbyn worked hard, but the media presence goes both ways; it wasn’t his fault that the media wasn’t kind, but if he had had a clearer, louder message, the media would have broadcast it. Ironically, the statement that got the most traction - going on Andrew Marr and telling viewers concerned about immigration that there could be no upper limit on numbers - wasn’t in Labour’s interest: it was his ‘no new taxes’ moment.

The word democracy is something of a buzzword in Britain at the moment: Europe, the Conservative leadership race and now the Labour ‘coup’ have all been criticised for being un- and anti-democratic. The latter has led to abuse of MPs who have genuine concerns about Corbyn’s leadership. Instead of abuse, we need to look more clearly at the huge vote of no confidence by elected representatives who spend every working day with Corbyn and his team, rather than ridicule them as traitors. A move to deselect MPs who disagree with Corbyn’s views would mark a hugely negative turning point in the history of the Labour Party, and would go against the tenets of the representative democracy we live in.

IS CORBYN REALLY THE LEADER THE PARTY AND THE WIDER POPULACE CAN UNITE UNDER?

The final mistake Corbyn has made is his poor media presence. Part of his appeal was that he wasn’t a cosmopolitan ‘suit’, that he was honest and straight-talking about the issues facing the Party. What has transpired is a poorly-run media campaign, led by the incompetent Seamus Milne, and a whole host of gaffes that haven’t reinforced an image of sound, capable leadership. There have been highlights; his appearance on The Last Leg was something special indeed. But the rows about anti-Semitism, the national anthem saga, Ken Livingstone’s bizarre remarks and poor showings at national events have proved easy pickings for opponents.

I really hope Angela Eagle doesn’t stand as an alternative candidate to Corbyn. This would be disastrously counterintuitive move. Eagle, as one acerbic Twitter user remarked midweek, has ‘the charisma of a dry cornflake’: a challenge from her would only succeed in entrenching Corbyn’s support and exacerbating the gulf between the membership and the PLP. Jess Phillips, Dan Jarvis or Lisa Nandy could be three alternatives.

Corbyn’s tenure as a local MP is admirable, and there is a lot to admire about the man. His work in Islington has been rightly lauded; his lifelong campaigning for justice, tolerance and socialism are highly commendable too. He has done some good for Labour as leader as well: it was refreshing to be able to have an open debate about Syria and on the EU: he has increased the membership significantly. He is certainly a different politician, that much is true. But is he really the leader the party and the wider populace can unite under? Not in my eyes any more.

Hugh Morris

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