Friday, 28 April 2017

The Corbyn Effect

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Oliver Kamm is a regular contributor in The Times, but in this opinion piece for CAPX he gives Jeremy Corbyn both barrels over his inept leadership of the Labour Party. 

Harsh but true words, if you ask me.

Corbyn leaves Labour voters with no good options

By Oliver Kamm

Photo: Jack Taylor / Getty Images

  • Jeremy Corbyn's leadership operates first as farce, then as tragedy
  • Labour deserves a hammering on June 8. And politics will be better for it
  • Despite Corbyn, capable and moderate Labour MPs deserve support
If there’s one aspect of British public life that’s impossible to overstate, it’s Jeremy Corbyn’s uselessness and unfitness for public office. This poses a dilemma for voters on the moderate Left. Here’s the best advice I can give, and it’s not very good.

Early in Corbyn’s parliamentary career a Guardian leader noted that he was a fool and a further three decades have done nothing to bolster his reputation for acuity. As Labour leader, in title if nothing else, his deficiencies are daily revealed in the platitudes he offers in lieu of policies and in his tenuous grasp of detail.

His inability to think on his feet is cruelly exposed in the habit of doggedly sticking to a script (including on one occasion reading out the stage directions) in parliamentary exchanges or from platforms. In television interviews he rapidly loses his temper owing to the immovable constraint that he doesn’t know anything about anything. The lack of respect he inspires among Conservatives is as nothing to the derision with which he’s treated on his own side.

I stress Corbyn’s personal deficiencies because they explain why he’s managed to confound pundits’ expectations since being elected leader in 2015. Instead of steering the party to the far left, he’s driven it into the ground. Rather than having bad ideas, he has no ideas at all and scarcely a thought in his head. Labour has no policies on the economy and gives no indication of what it regards as the appropriate level for the budget deficit and public debt.

And it has nothing to say on Brexit, the biggest policy question facing Britain in a generation. Having spent a political lifetime talking only with people who agree with him, Corbyn has imbibed instincts (it would be stretching it to describe them as views) that range from dim to disgusting. On the far end of that spectrum, he’s denied the war crimes of Slobodan Milosevic and allied with revolutionary Venezuela, Hamas, Hezbollah and Provisional Sinn Fein.

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Karl Marx famously remarked that history repeats itself “first as tragedy, then as farce”. Corbyn’s leadership operates the other way round. His leadership is initially risible and ultimately a tragedy for the quality of British political life.

I’ve usually voted Labour, on the grounds that, for all its historic errors and failings, the party has immense achievements to its name. These include founding the NHS, which is an efficient and equitable model of health provision; playing a leading role in creating Nato, which defeated Soviet totalitarianism; and presiding over social reforms, like civil partnerships, a minimum wage and the abolition of capital punishment, that have made Britain a freer and more civilised place.

I even voted Labour in 2015, under the obviously untalented Ed Miliband, primarily because of the European issue.

Corbyn is a case apart. He’s ensured that Labour will get hammered on 8 June. The party amply deserves that fate and politics will be better for it. Britain has fragmented in ways that appear for the moment to guarantee political stasis: Tory dominance in England and an SNP monolith in Scotland.

It would work better if there were rational, moderate parties of centre-left and centre-right that seriously challenged and competed with each other. But we are where we are.

We have a dogmatic Conservative government determined to leave the Single Market whether or not it has a plan to do so. Like almost all economists and economic commentators, I believe this will damage Britain by constraining flows of goods, services, investment and labour. It also risks making this country a less vibrant and tolerant place. Immigration has benefited Britain economically and culturally and we need more of it.

In addition to its hardline stance against the single market, the government feels so little pressure that it can advance divisive policies like grammar schools.

For those who want this stopped, and Britain to be more equal and internationalist, there are no good options. But the best answer so far comes from Tony Blair. He’s said that voters should pick candidates from whichever party is prepared to hold the government to account over Brexit. He did not explicitly add – but it’s implied by the very fact that he didn’t urge a Labour vote – that Corbyn deserves no residual loyalty at all from Labour voters. On the contrary, Corbyn needs to be bloodied and indelibly associated with the coming disaster.

As it happens, my MP, Meg Hillier (Hackney South & Shoreditch) is a more outspoken critic of Brexit than most. She was among the 47 Labour MPs who voted against triggering Article 50.

As the party is careering to electoral catastrophe, I’d prefer its capable and moderate representatives to still be in place and prepared to fight for this country’s place in Europe. If Ms Hillier hadn’t voted that way, I’d be backing the Lib Dems.

Ironically, the only reputable argument for a Labour vote in a case like this – that the cause is so doomed that it can do no damage – positively requires that Corbyn suffer crushing humiliation.

I take no pleasure in hoping that he does and knowing that he will, and even less pleasure in being unable to record a Labour vote with the explicit caveat of “contempt for Corbyn”.

Corbyn Cant' Cut It (28/03/17)

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Matthew Norman hits the nail on the head with this column in The Independent in which he argues that the Tories have no need to call a snap general election because under Jeremy Corbyn's inept leadership the Labour Party is in the process of destroying itself.

Norman is also right to say that Jezza's recent 'don't panic' unity call to the Labour Party is the worst performance YouTube has witnessed since the appearance of Gordon Brown and his  'rictus grin' in the wake of the great MPs' expenses scandal.

The truth is that to win a general election Labour needs a leader who can reach out to uncommitted voters beyond the narrow confines of party and trade union activists - and that's a quality Jeremy Corbyn simply doesn't possess.

Of course Theresa May isn’t calling a snap election, Labour is doing a fine job of destroying itself

It was Napoleon who advised against interfering ‘with an enemy while he's in the process of destroying himself’

By Matthew Norman - The Independent
While the Government prepares for the negotiations that will define our future, Labour seeks sanctuary from its irrelevance within its tragicomic internal affairs - Getty

If Theresa May’s government had form in executing a tyre-melting U-turn, on some minor Budget measure or whatever, you might sprinkle any pledge from No 10 with the contents of the Saxa warehouse.

As it is, what reason could there be to doubt Downing Street’s word that the Prime Minister won’t add a snap general election to the local elections on 4 May.

The force is so strong with this one that many of her own whips and backbenchers are baffled. Why wouldn’t she want to celebrate Star Wars Day by unsheathing her trusty light sabre and lopping off Labour’s head?

Among various explanations is protecting the brand. She approved the Budget but didn’t deliver it, and the punters still trust her word. Reversing a categorical promise would undermine that.

Another theory is that the last thing she needs right now is a huge majority. The power of 20 (comparatively) centrist Tory MPs to derail legislation partly nullifies the frothing Brexit right wing to whom compromise is a synonym for treachery. David Cameron needed protection from his nutters (in that case from his Liberal Democrat partners), and so might she.

Can't Cut The Mustard (22/09/17)

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I listened to quite the most devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership abilities on Radio 5 Live, the other day, from his first wife Jane Chapman.

Now this was not the bitter rant of a woman scorned, not least because Jane voted for her former husband first time around when he won the Labour leadership in 2015.

Nor was this 'uninformed' opinion of someone with an axe to grind since Jane is now widely regarded Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln and a visiting Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge.

Nonetheless Jane's view was that Jeremy had failed to mark his mark in any of the roles he has played throughout his life as a local government councillor, a trade union official and/or as a Labour MP, observing that:
  • as a local councillor Jeremy chaired nothing more important than a council sub-committee
  • Jeremy's trade union career never progressed beyond the 'entry level' rank
  • as Labour MP for 32 years Jeremy never took on any position of responsibility - not even that as the chair of a parliamentary select committee 
So without rancour or any hint of personal animosity, Professor Chapman essentially came to the same view as the vast majority of Labour MPs - that Jeremy Corbyn does not possess the skills for the job of Labour leader.

Which is, of course, my considered view as well.


'Bog Standard' Officials (24/06/16)

Jeremy Corbyn appearing on The Last Leg

I was unfazed one way or the other by Jeremy Corbyn's appearance on 'The Last Leg' TV programme which had the Labour leader arrive in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, dressed in a dinner suit and a full-length white fur coat.

After all if you have an image problem, then why not do something out of the ordinary to confound and confuse your political opponents.

But no, my real problem with Jeremy is that in answer to a 'dolly' question about how he would rank the importance of the next week's EU referendum on a scale of 1 to 10, Jezza responded with the unbelievably lame answer of "7 to 7 and a half".

Now when so much is at stake in next week's referendum, you would think a Labour leader worth his mettle would have emphasised, in the strongest possible terms, the very real threat to the UK economy, jobs and investment posed by the country's withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

So Jeremy's a complete fool if you ask me, a political half-wit, but that's what you get if you elect as Labour leader a man who rose to the dizzying ranks of 'bog standard' union official before finding a niche as a backbench Labour MP in the House of Commons for the next 32 years.

And while there are some decent trade union officials around, believe me there are plenty of complete 'duds' in the ranks too, as the Labour party and the country is finding out to its cost.