5 Points Where I Lost Faith in Jeremy Corbyn
- The EU Referendum
I don’t believe Corbyn lost the election for Vote Remain, let me get that out of the way. The reasons Vote Leave won are much more complicated than any one person, and have roots going back many, many years ago. That being said, Jeremy’s performance as figurehead of a Labour Party which was overwhelmingly in support of staying in the EU, was utterly dire. Defence of Corbyn’s efforts usually refer to the number of events he attended across the country. Well let me tell you, quantity most definitely wasn’t quality. Throughout the whole campaign, Corbyn’s sentiment and enthusiasm toward the EU could only be described as lukewarm (claims that Corbyn’s Office watered down his speeches may explain this). Corbyn’s contributions in favour of Remain would more often than not come tempered with the caveat that the EU was “far from perfect”, and he’d often put much emphasis on EU reform. Now, whilst those may be legitimate points for discussion in normal times, it’s important to remember that this was in the thick of an absolutely crucial vote to stay or leave the EU. Never mind reform — we needed to win the vote to stay in the bleeding thing for that argument to bear any relevance.
Less than two weeks before the referendum, Corbyn appeared on the popular Channel 4 topical comedy show ‘The Last Leg’ , where he was asked to rate his enthusiasm for the EU on a scale of 1–10. Corbyn’s response? Less than two weeks before the vote, on prime time telly, on a show which attracts a predominantly younger audience and is usually one of the top ten trends on Twitter: Corbyn’s answer was a reluctant “seven, seven and a half out of ten”. With that level of enthusiasm, so close to the referendum, with every media appearance counting more and more, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Leader of the Labour Party was far from convinced that voting Remain was in the best interests of the country.
And then there was the aftermath of the EU Referendum. The day after the UK voted to leave the EU, leaving 48% of the population thoroughly devastated (and many from the 52% already regretful), Jeremy Corbyn had this to say:
“The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union.”
Now, there’s been a lot of debate centred around Corbyn’s use of the word ‘now’, with some people arguing that he did not mean imminently. But even still, to be even talking about invoking Article 50 the day after the Referendum result — with the country completely shell-shocked by the result, and with that result bringing so much uncertainty for so many aspects of life— was just plain reckless. As the Leader of the Labour Party, and a significant figurehead for the Remain campaign, Corbyn should have used that appearance as an opportunity to reassure those he leads and represents that he would work to ensure that their fears and concerns would be addressed throughout the Brexit process, not call for those fears and concerns to come sooner.
2. Thangham Debbonaire MP
Corbyn’s tenure as Leader has on occasion been described as shambolic, but this particular incident has to be one of the most extreme. For those of you who haven’t already read about it — Thangham Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, was in the middle of receiving cancer treatment when she found out Corbyn had appointed her to the Shadow Cabinet. No advance warning, no courtesy call. Complete surprise. Debbonaire was conflicted. She was flattered to have been considered, but had not yet completed her treatment. She decided to “tough it out and try to do the job” as best as she could. For the following few weeks, she tried to embrace the role as Shadow Minister for Arts and Culture, focusing on arts organisations in her local area of Bristol. Each week, she rang the Shadow Secretary of State, Maria Eagle, to discuss the role, only to be told repeatedly that Corbyn would be ringing her. She started to detect that something was wrong, and her instincts proved correct. When Corbyn eventually called, it transpired that he had accidentally assigned Debbonaire to a brief that was already part of a role he had given to another MP, Chi Onwurah. The day after appointing Debbonaire to the Shadow Cabinet without telling her, Corbyn sacked her without telling her. So for six weeks, Debbonaire was working on the assumption that she was the Shadow Minister for Arts and Culture, whilst also undergoing daily cancer treatments. Corbyn’s explanation? “I didn’t want to bother you”.
You can read Debbonaire’s statement on her website using the following link.
3. His silence on the day Theresa May was effectively announced as the next PM.
Theresa May became David Cameron’s successor as Prime Minister on Thursday 14th July. Except, we knew days before then. Due to Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Tory leadership race, and the announcement that there would be no further contenders, Theresa May was announced as our next Prime Minister on Tuesday 12th July. This was fairly big news as I’m sure you’ll agree, and the news networks covered the day’s events extensively, with soundbites from across the spectrum. But there was one notable absence. Whilst commentators speculated on the possible direction of a future Tory government under May, the Leader of the Opposition attended a Cuban Solidarity event. Not a word, not a tweet from the Labour Leader that day. In a job description for ‘Leader of the Labour Party’, offering up a prompt response for significant news stories such as the announcement of a new Tory Prime Minister would be underlined several times. Only when May officially became Prime Minister on Thursday did Corbyn release a statement. In this day and age of round-the-clock coverage and commentary, almost two days without the Leader of the Opposition providing a clear response in acknowledgement of this momentous news just felt unprofessional. In that period of time, Corbyn’s silence served to exacerbate the feeling that Labour offered no effective opposition to the Tories.
4. Jeremy voted against protecting NEC members from abuse.
When the NEC met to determine the Labour Party rules on the leadership challenge and subsequent election, members were asked to vote on whether the question of Corbyn’s right to be on the ballot should be conducted as a secret ballot. Given that some members of the NEC — who are mostly ordinary Party members, by the way — had reportedly received threats and intimidation in the run up to the meeting, you’d have thought that Corbyn and his supporters on the NEC — with their new, “gentler” politics — would have taken this one opportunity to protect NEC members from receiving further abuse. Not so. Corbyn and his NEC supporters voted against a secret ballot, and against protecting his fellow NEC members from becoming targets for abuse. Some have argued that Corbyn was simply voting to ensure transparency in the process, but when members of the NEC had reported intimidation and bullying in the run up to the vote, this should have been trumped by duty of care for fellow NEC members. Corbyn — Leader of the Party, with a certain responsibility to ensure duty of care — will have been well aware of the human consequences of having an open ballot, and yet he chose to buck that responsibility and ignore those consequences.
5. We’re now 14 points behind the Tories, and 52% of the public think Theresa May would make the best Prime Minister, compared with 18% for Jeremy, and 30% for ‘Don’t Know’.
This should require no explanation.