POOR OLD JEREMY CORBYN. He must know that the worse he does on 8 June the better most Labour MPs will like it. Indeed, an absolutely disastrous performance by Labour in the forthcoming UK general election is about the only outcome likely to convince the rank-and-file “Corbynistas” that their brave experiment has to end. They tried, and then tried again, to impose a left-wing leader on a right-wing caucus. Couldn’t be done.
The diehards will resist this bleak conclusion. “The ‘New Labour’ brigade imposed Tony Blair on what was still a left-wing party,” they’ll object, “and that worked.” Of course it did! Because taming the left-wing Labour Party was in the interests of the British ruling-class. And didn’t it show! What did people think when Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun came out for Blair’s New Labour Party? That the media baron had had a Road-to-Damascus conversion to democratic socialism? No, of course not. It simply meant that it was now possible to swap around Britain’s two main political parties in perfect safety.
It’s like stroking a cat. If you stroke it the way the cat likes it – from its head to its tail – then puss will purr and smooch. But, if you stroke it from the tail to the head – against the natural set of its coat – it will claw your arm to ribbons.
And that is, of course, what the British Establishment has done to poor old Jeremy. It’s torn him to ribbons. And when I say the British Establishment, I mean the entire British Establishment. Because it hasn’t just been The Times and The Telegraph, The Sun and The Daily Mail that have bagged Corbyn; it’s been The Guardian, The Observer and The Daily Mirror as well. And just about every left-wing pundit, every former Labour leader, and all but a handful of Labour MPs have joined in the kicking. The poor bugger never stood a chance.
It could all have been so different if, by some weird political magic, the British Labour Party caucus had emitted a long sigh and said: “Well, bugger me! We did not see that coming. Jeremy Bloody Corbyn. Only signed his nomination form to give the loonies someone to vote for. Who knew there were so many of them! Still, we set up the voting system, so we all have a moral obligation to live with the result – no matter how utterly bizarre and unexpected!”
If they had done that. If the most knowledgeable and talented of Corbyn’s colleagues had gathered around him, shook his hand, and offered him the benefit of their many years’ experience as ministers, whips, economic number-crunchers and handlers of the media, how very much more competitive Labour would now be looking.
Instead of a frail old lefty: hollowed out by stress and lacking in anything remotely resembling the confidence that all leaders simply must have in order to instil confidence in the electorate; the British voters would be cheering on the easy-going and transparently genuine idealist that Labour’s new three-quid-supporters had applauded in town halls and community centres up and down the country in 2015.
Except, of course, that same weird magic would have had to have transformed hard-line Blairites into fire-breathing champions of the sort of economic and social policies promoted by Tony Benn in the early 1980s. Neoliberalism would have had to have been chucked, unceremoniously, into the dustbin of history – and not just by the erstwhile followers of Tony Blair, but also by every left-wing and centre-left political journalist with a pass to the Palace of Westminster. Everyone from Polly Toynbee to Andrew Rawnsley. Along with their editors and publishers.
Even then it’s unlikely to have been enough. Not unless the magic extended to the hearts and minds of what used to be called the British working-class. The ordinary voters of England, Scotland and Wales would need to have heard Corbyn’s promises to re-nationalise the railways, scrap the Trident missile system, and restore the NHS to health – and cheered themselves hoarse.
But they didn’t do that, did they. They were too busy spitting on beneficiaries and Muslim immigrants and Polish builders. Too ready to listen to the racist rantings of Nigel Farage. Too caught up in some Mel Gibson fantasy of William Wallace sending proud Edward’s army homeward to think again. Too raddled with the rancid values of reality television to recognise – let alone receive – the holy ‘Spirit of 45’ which Corbyn was offering. Perhaps if the Labour leader had sung ‘Jerusalem’ on Britain’s Got Talent they would have heard him. Perhaps not. The British proletariat, which had once marched proudly behind Labour’s red flag, has moved beyond the reach of even the most powerful political magic.
Which is why Corbyn’s caucus enemies will, for the next seven weeks, form an orderly queue behind their despised leader so that, one by one, day after day, they can stab him in the back. And when he’s down, and the Tories’ Teresa May has gone back up to Number Ten, then Corbyn’s dwindling band of comrades will whisper quietly and tearfully and finally:
“Jeremy, it’s time to go.”
And everything will return to normal.