Owen, I don’t believe that you’re a Blairite or an Establishment sell-out. I’ve followed your work for a long time and have read both your books, which I always recommend to people. I have great respect for your opinion and I am heartened by the fact that we have a true left-wing voice in the media, lonely though that voice may be.
The points you raise are not invalid — not in the slightest. They are all important questions that we need solutions for. But I believe that you are asking for too much too soon. I think in your explosion of hope, you have been a little keen in expecting Labour socialism to take root so quickly.
A key issue, I feel — one that I think defines the framework by which Corbyn’s leadership can be analysed far more than any other — is the fact that Corbyn, his team and his supporters genuinely did not expect to win. In all probability, their only expectation was to try and shift the debate and the Party’s internal ‘Overton Window’ a little to the left. So when he DID win, it was as much as shock to him and his supporters as it was to the Establishment.
Do you not think it’s possible that all of the questions you raise have also occurred to the leadership team? And that perhaps the reason why there have been no answers is that progress has been stymied and slowed by the constant firefighting that the leadership has had to engage in? Remember, he came from the backbenches, he has had no experience of running even a junior shadow ministerial brief. So to then take on what is essentially the Shadow Prime Minister role is a huge learning curve. But there is evidence that he is learning and learning quickly. Given a little more time, those issues you raise will crystallise and then solutions can be found for.
The polls paint a particular picture, true. But the polls are a snapshot — they don’t pain the whole picture. I’m not going to use the argument that polls can be wrong or anything like that. The argument I’m making is that the polls don’t provide REASONS. If a poll shows people are not confident with Corbyn’s economic competence, that’s the only information that poll provides. It doesn’t say whether the poll was taken just after another media attack or another anti-Corbyn briefing from within the Party. All those things have an effect.
I do acknowledge that YOU acknowledge that there are other factors that affect poll ratings, but I think you haven’t really given it enough credence. We have two issues at work here: both Corbyn learning on-the-job and the hostility of the media and the PLP. Trying to make headway against both those things is going to be hard.
Corbyn’s biggest mistake was trying to be inclusive when he filled his Shadow Cabinet, because he brought into the tent a large group of people who were determined to see him fail. His charitable and inclusive nature caused him enormous harm. Having to deal with people attacking him from all sides means that he has had to spend much more time than any other Labour leader trying to gain footholds. No Labour leader, none, has had the sheer poison that has been directed at him. Not even Ed Miliband who was hideously pilloried in the media and had Ed Balls bullying him on economic policy.
As I say, the issues you raise are valid ones and they do need solutions, but I feel you are raising them not because you’re some kind of stooge or stool-pigeon — the idea is patently absurd — but because, like so many of us, you invested so much hope in the project that because progress has been slow you feel disheartened by it. You have to give the project more time. In a way, your thinking has certain similarities to those who have gone along with the coup plotters — they think that 10 months is enough time. But it really isn’t. The Corbyn Project needs more time and a space in which to mature. You have the ability to contribute to that. Don’t give up on it yet.