The Right-Wing Press is going to town on Jeremy Corbyn, the new Leader of the British Labour Party.
But first things first…Corbyn won that Leadership election with 59% of the votes cast. His opponents got 19% (Andy Burnham), 17% (Yvette Cooper) and 5% (Liz Kendall nee Liz Somebody). This, despite that only twenty “left wing” MPs backed Corbyn. The other candidates who had two hundred MPs backing them were so pisspoor that the ordinary Labour membership clearly hold them in near-contempt.
Frankly, concentrating on Corbyns past should perhaps direct more minds to the dubious past of David Cameron. It is not all Bullingdon Club.
The strange thing is that British politics is conducted on such a narrow base that Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, Skinner are actually held to be beyond the pale and they are actually squeezed out of conventional politics. I use the word “conventional” deliberately because so much of British politics is about “convention”…unwritten rules designed to enforce a bogus form of Stability, Continuity and Legitimacy.
To get to sit on the benches in the House of Commons, it is necessary to take an oath or affirm loyalty to Elizabeth Windsor. It does of course discomfort nationalists from Scotland, Wales and Norn Iron…but it also discomforts republicans on the Labour benches. Even Peter Bottomly, a Tory MP, thinks it is unecessary. For the record, I am completely indifferent to the oath as a line in the sand. From 1993 to 2009, I voted Sinn Féin knowing that they would not take their Commons seats because of this great principle…and from 1970 (Gerry Fitt Republican Labour) to 1993 I voted SDLP on the understanding that they would take seats. Likewise after 2009. I just dont think its important except that it makes me uncomfortable.
Senior Opposition figures like senior Government Minister become members of the “Her Majestys Privy Council”. In 2015, of course, it has little to do with Elizabeth Windsor. It is really the point at which a MP becomes entitled to the address “The Right Honourable….” But its real meaning is that a Government Minister can brief his Opposition Shadow on “privy council terms” (ie privacy). Yet this obviously sensible and civilised understanding is rendered daft by the so-called royal mystique…the ritual sham …of the induction. At some point soon, Jeremy Corbyn will bend his knee to kiss the gloved hand of Elizabeth Windsor.
There is also ritualistic nonsense around the “Queens Speech” a document written by the Government of the day and delivered by Elizabeth Windsor on her throne in the “House of Lords”. The ritual is that a flunkey called Black Rod goes to the House of Commons and the door is slammed in his face, before he is allowed in and tells the MPs that the Queen wants them to go to the Lords. This tradition dates from the 17th century but there is a much more modern tradition where Dennis Skinner, the most left wing of Labour MPs makes a joke about the Monarchy….and the MPs led by Prime Minister who wrote the damned speech and the Opposition Leader, duly file into the Lords….but only as far as the bar of the House. The elected representatives of the People are not good enough to be in the same room as their unelected betters. Of course nationalists dont act on the whim of a so-called foreign monarch….and nor do republican Labourites like Dennis Skinner, John McDonnell and …..Jeremy Corbyn. They sit sullenly in the Commons until their obsequious colleagues return.
Given that Corbyn and McDonnell have already affirmed their loyalty to Elizabeth Windsor….and its a necessary compromise/humiliation to better serve the people who voted for them…..then Corbyn and McDonnell will have to compromise/humiliate themselves to provide a Leadership role.
Some might say it is Tradition. Some might say it is Legitimacy. But really all this crap should be rejected by anyone born after the Age of Enlightenment.
The thing is that nobody on the Left has really been strong enough to stand up and say “This is rubbish and we wont co-operate in it”. Successive Labour leaderships…..Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Callaghan, Kinnock, Smith, B Liar, Brown, Miliband….have all gone along with the farce.
But…it is not just about Party politicians. When one is compromised …all are. Therefore the Media can lampoon Corbyn as “left wing Labour leader” but cannot bring themselves to say that David Cameron is a “right wing Prime Minister”.
This is the same media that hacks your phone and relied on their friends in Parliament to undermine proposals made by Leveson Committee to deal with the abuses.
It is all very cosy. Because the Media…speaking truth to power ….are reliant on the politicians …and vice versa. The Journalists and politicians talk to each other on “lobby terms”, not that different from the “privy council terms”. The confidentiality is not that much different. While a Privy Councillor is only required to kiss the gloved hand of Elizabeth Windsor…lobby journalists and Westminster politicians are required to kiss each others arses.
So anything that breaks that cosy relationship is a good thing. But I suspect John McDonnell will be a lightening rod for media criticism. Likewise Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader and scourge of the Murdoch media. They wont forget.
So if McDonnell makes a light-hearted remark that he would (like to have gone back in time) to have assassinated Margaret Thatcher, there is a certain over-reaction. But those who have not laughed at that or who are otherwise without sin, may cast the first stone.
Likewise McDonnell is vilified in the press for seeming to praise the IRA. In fact, in 2003, when McDonnell was saying this openly and in context, successive Labour Secretary of States and assorted spooks in the Norn Iron Office were building up Sinn Féin-IRA.
Of course there have always been people off-message at the left of the Labour Party. They abhor patronage and shun any offers of advancement. They keep the Labour front bench honest. Old men like me can remember the 1970s….Eric Heffer, the Liverpool lefty and devout member of the Church of England, Ian Mikardo from East End of London and the House of Commons “bookie” and the wonderful Joan Maynard from Sheffield….Stalins Granny but she was one of the few Labour MPs to understand agricultural workers.
The Beast of Bolsover…Dennis Skinner (83) was a young man then. Yet heis the bridge between that era and the 21st century and Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
I doubt if one third of approx Labour MPs are women and Corbyn fulfilled his promise that his Shadow Cabinet would have a gender balance….and he kept that promise, 16 women and 15 men. And yet he is criticised because none of the “Great Offices of State” (Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Exchequer) have gone to women. Isnt it obvious that two defeated Leadership contenders, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall might well be in those roles if they had not publicly declared that they would not serve under Corbyn? Is it not as equally obvious that Rachel Reeves and Caroline Flint would have been included if they had not publicly stated they would not serve?
And for those who have any doubts about people (men AND women) being promoted beyond their ability….can I just mention two people who served in these “Great Offices of State” under Tony B Liar….Jaqui Smith (Home Secretary) and Margaret Beckett (Foreign Secretary). That would be the same Margaret Beckett who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Leadership to open up debate …and then publicly announced she would not vote for him. Clearly she is useless.
But every action and inaction of Jeremy Corbyn will be condemned in the newspapers. Pointedly he did not sing the British National Anthem at a Church Service for the British Air Force. Well lest we forget, the man is not a Christian and he is a republican. “God Save The Queen” would have choked him. But lest we also forget this is a Tory Government who has let its soldiers and ex-soldiers down…any progress with the Chilcott Report? Yet Jeremys dignified silence was at least as respectful as Defence Minister Michael Fallon who was animatedly singing …for the TV cameras.
Make no mistake. Nobody expected Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour Leader. Certainly Jeremy Corbyn did not expect it. Yet his victory is a fitting rebuke to the useless careerists who have blustered and bluffed their way to the top of the Labour Party…..Liz Kendall, Chukka Umanna, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Caroline Flint….
Of course these useless posers will be back….they will be plotting already.
Corbyn will not be Leader for long. The Tories, the Press, the Spooks, the Royal Courtiers, the disgruntled majority of his own Party WILL get him. The only problem for them is keeping the blood off their hands because tens of thousands of ordinary Labour Party members will be unforgiving.
Maybe there will be a re-allignment on the left because I cant see any way that Labour can ever form a majority government in “United Kingdom” or in the “DisUnited Kingdom”. It just does not look possible…and in any normal usage of the word the Corbyn Leadership will be a failure. It will collapse sooner rather than later.
But sometimes short term failure means long term success….and the redeeming feature will be that Corbyn and McDonnell will implode the entire House of Cards and show what British Politics and Media really is.