After the reshuffle, Labour supporter Craig Robertson is nonplussed with his leader’s first few months.
I do not have a problem with Jeremy Corbyn’s policies or ideals. In fact, I think his plans for benefits, housing and tuition fees are outstanding and we could do with a few more people putting principles before popularity. What angers me about Corbyn is not what he says, but how he says it, the way he represents the party and the 60% of the country who voted against the Conservatives.
When the Labour leadership campaign finished and Jeremy Corbyn was the surprise winner, I was shocked to hear about the calls for his head. After all, as we are so often reminded, he was given a huge mandate from Labour supporters to lead the party out of the wretched Miliband years and into a new era. I, for one, was excited by the prospect of a new age where honesty and principles would be the cornerstones of the party.
This honeymoon period lasted roughly half a week. He then proceeded to refuse to sing the British national anthem at a public event. Personally, I don’t care. However, there are a great number of people who outnumber me and find that the leader of the opposition failing to sing their anthem is a disgrace.
This defiance is where the problem started for Corbyn. Once elected leader of the party, he became restricted in what he could do or say. It’s no longer about his personal views; what the party believes is what matters now.
The role of party leader should be about representing the views of the MPs and the voters. They have to both be able to take a stand for what is right and be flexible enough to adjust to different situations when times change. Their job is to help their party to perform as well as possible in local, national and international elections, not pursuing a personal agenda.
Ed Miliband will be remembered for his defeat in the May election, one of the reasons being he leaned too far left instead of bending his views a little to voters in the centre. To win an election Corbyn is going to have to adjust and so far he has shown no evidence he will be able to do so. The staunch Corbynites who followed his campaign from the start will see his defiance on key issues as brave, as something to admire. However to the vast majority of people he comes across as detached from reality. Just look at his views on Trident. Even if he doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons, announcing he will never use them in any circumstances first of all makes Britain appear far less threatening to her enemies, and more importantly defeats the purpose of paying billions a year for them as they are no longer the deterrent they were supposed to be.
This extends to his treatment of the Syria vote. He may or may not have been in the right over the issue, but his refusal to properly engage his own Shadow Cabinet and then go behind their backs to email the rest of the party showed a lack of class, something that time alone cannot improve (just look at David Cameron’s comments about the leader of the opposition being a terrorist sympathiser).
Despite these failings, Corbyn appeared to get back on track somewhat, focusing on the important issues and holding the government accountable for the mistakes that they continue to make. And then, the reshuffle happened. The irony of having one of the most disloyal Labour Party members in history throw a strop because everyone else didn’t agree with his views and back him on decisions in which they were given a free vote in is an absolute joke. I don’t see Corbyn himself as a bad man but the way in which some of his core followers, including the shadow chancellor, talk about his “mandate to rule” makes it sound like he has a divine right to be leader of the party. It should be an honour to be the Labour leader but that does not mean it will not be without hardship and Corbyn should have been prepared to take criticism of his positions when he decided to run for the job.
As a new left-wing alternative Jeremy Corbyn was supposed to throw us forwards into a new age of politics. Now, more than ever, that new age looks to be beyond our grasp.