Corbyn: A Failure of a Leader
This is in no way an endorsement of Owen Smith, whom I have many problems with too. Neither is it an attack on the state of the left-wing of the Labour Party as a whole, as many better articles have been written on it. This analysis focuses solely on Corbyn himself.
I won’t deny that Corbyn has been treated badly by the media. He has, and I think it would be completely out of touch with reality to disagree with that. But his failings cannot be blamed time and time again on the media’s narrative. Sadiq Khan won the London mayoral vote despite the Evening Standard passionately supporting his opponent. David Cameron became Tory leader even though he was disliked by the Daily Mail, Telegraph, and The Times.
Finally, this is not meant to be an article examining the in-depth effects Corbyn has had on the Labour Party. There’s no complex critique here. This is simply an article to compile all evidence that Corbyn is not fit to be Labour leader.
The main (but certainly not the only!) criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is that he is incompetent. The media have said this happens over and over. Late press releases and a general hostility towards media make it impossible for Corbyn to succeed.
One example was Corbyn’s decision to announce Labour’s inquiry into anti-Semitism at 8.07pm, on a Friday. As a result, most of the next day’s papers ran negative headlines on the issue. They would have been neutralised if journalists been briefed a few hours earlier. This happened again with Labour’s response to the new Tory Obesity Strategy, announcing it at 10:15pm and then being mystified as to why it did not receive more coverage. And then it happened yet again with Corbyn’s response to Theresa May’s grammar school policy, releasing it on a Sunday morning and completely missing the Sunday papers.
Not only are his announcements late, but sometimes he isn’t there at all. When Theresa May became PM, Labour immediately called for a General Election. Jeremy Corbyn’s name wasn’t even on the Labour party announcement, nor did he make any sort of announcement or statement about the call for a general election — because he was at a Solidarity for Cuba event.
He’s made far too many policy blunders, which damages his credibility. On national television, Jeremy Corbyn refused to back a shoot-to-kill policy if a Paris-style machine gun attack happened in London. He then changed his mind and backtracked a day later. His prepared speech at the anti-Semitism inquiry launch compared Israel to ISIS. Straight after that, he decided on Shami Chakrabarti’s nomination for a life peerage (despite saying he would not nominate anyone for peerage), and because she had just finished the report which some consider to be a whitewash — and it could look awfully like a reward for that.
Many of his economic advisors, from the creator of ‘Corbynomics’ Richard Murphy, Thomas Piketty, and David Blanchflower have stopped advising Corbyn due to the “shambolic” and “incompetent” state of the Labour Leadership. One explained that they quit because the Leadership has “no policy direction, no messaging, no direction, no co-ordination, no nothing.” Another said “Corbyn doesn’t seem to care about being a leader of an opposition party. He seems more interested in addressing crowds of supporters around the country.”
These are not Blairite shills. These are economists that Corbyn handpicked to advise him on policy, all of which have resigned due to the actions of the Labour Leadership. Or they’re Corbyn’s head of policy and veteran Labour figure Neale Coleman, who quit after being ignored in policy talks.
Failure to act as leader
What Jeremy does is, he stands passively by while bad things happen. When Diane Abbott attacked Jo Cox for writing an article with [the former Conservative cabinet minister] Andrew Mitchell about international development, Jeremy Corbyn did not utter a single word articulating his strategy when asked at the PLP meeting whether his front bench should be attacking new-intake MPs. He didn’t even speak…
That’s a quote from my own MP, Peter Kyle.
Corbyn has constantly failed to fulfil his duty as Labour Party leader. For example, when Ruth Smeeth (a Labour MP) was viciously attacked at the launch of the Labour anti-Semitism report, he sat quietly by and didn’t even open his mouth. Instead, he chose to go over and happily chatted to the man who had made her burst into tears.
This wasn’t the only time Corbyn failed to tackle abuse. Nearly half of female Labour MPs have called for him to do more to stop and prevent abuse in the party. A National Executive member was reduced to tears as she called for Corbyn to do more to stop bullying. Yet how does Corbyn tell MPs to deal with abuse? Ignore it. When questioned about abuse, he constantly makes it about himself or fails to address specific problems of sexism or anti-Semitism, and just condemns abuse as a whole.
He has failed time and time again to successfully run the Shadow Cabinet. Thangam Debbonaire gave an account of how she was given a position without being asked and then sacked almost immediately, but not told for six weeks. Lilian Greenwood take about the constant disorganisation of serving as Shadow Transport Secretary, including when Corbyn suggested changing party policy on HS2 without consulting her, and being constantly undermined on issues like the EU. Corbyn even went as far as threatening to call up an MP’s dad for publicly disagreeing with him.
Finally, the issue of the EU referendum. Corbyn did not properly convey the message that Labour wanted to Remain, to the extent that half of Labour voters had no idea what Labour’s position was. Right from the start, Corbyn missed the first day of the Labour ‘Remain‘ campaign so he could attend an anti-nuclear weapons rally instead. He performed so poorly that leaked emails show that during the EU referendum campaign, Labour party ‘Remain’ campaigners came to the conclusion that the Corbyn Team were deliberately sabotaging their efforts.
Not only is Corbyn failing to do his job properly, but the public hate him too.
Fewer than 1 in 5 voters would prefer Corbyn to Theresa May as PM. One poll showed that one in three Labour voters think Theresa May would make a better Prime Minister than their own party leader and — most heartbreakingly of all — 18 to 24 year olds preferred May. Corbyn’s approval rating is just as low with those who plan to vote as it is with people unlikely to vote — an often cited demographic to save us in future elections.
Corbyn began his leadership with a net negative rating. (Ed Miliband — who went on to lose — started with a net 19% positive approval rating); it has since fallen to minus 41%. At this stage in the electoral cycle, Ed Miliband’s Labour had a clear lead over the Tories — and then went on to lose. But Labour haven’t been ahead at all, and are now 11 points behind, breaking records for the weakest opposition party.
If you don’t trust the polls, why not look at real elections. Labour is currently third in Scotland, behind the Tories (in Scotland!!!). Labour have lost their majority in the Welsh Assembly. Corbyn failed to do as well as Ed Miliband in both council elections and by-elections, which has been documented here.
This isn’t just the weakness of Labour as a whole. Labour would receive a 12-point boost if he resigned, or that the 10 point deficit between Labour and the Tories, actually increases to 15 points when Corbyn is mentioned by name. Neither was it the result of the coup, since we have been sliding in the polls since mid-March, long before any MP resigned.
The fact is, every large-scale study into why Labour lost the 2015 general election came to the same conclusion: Labour was not trusted on the economy. Don’t take my word for it: listen to John McDonnell. During the leadership election last year he wrote: “It is inarguable that no modern party leader can win an election if behind in the polls on economic competence.” According to ICM in mid-July, “on the team better able to manage the economy,” 53% of Britons opted for Theresa May and Philip Hammond, while 15% opted for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Even within our own party, 4 million people who voted Labour last year (that’s almost half!) do not trust Corbyn on the economy.
Corbyn is even more unpopular than Nigel Farage!
There’s also a perception that Corbyn somehow has completely agreeable views, even if he isn’t doing a good job. This is completely and utterly untrue. Time after time, Corbyn has supported murderers and radicals that deserve no public platform.
He has praised and supported Raed Salah, who has been charged with inciting racial hatred and violence, and has claimed the Jews were behind 9/11. Corbyn has said: ‘Salah is a very honoured citizen’ and ‘Salah’s is a voice that must be heard’. Corbyn also wrote in defence of a vicar who suggested that 9/11 was an inside job by the Jews, and refuses to rule out allowing George Galloway to rejoin Labour, despite so many deplorable comments that he’s made in the past.
Between 2009 and 2012, Corbyn was paid £20,000 to appear five times on the totalitarian Iranian regime’s propaganda channel, banned in the UK for its role in filming the tortured forced-confession of Iranian liberal journalist Maziar Bahari. By hosting interviews, Corbyn gives the propaganda the ‘credibility’ of a Western politician to a regime that executes gay people, democracy activists, Kurds, and orders the rape of female prisoners. He’s also been filmed saying Hezbollah are an organisation committed to peace and social justice (hint: they aren’t).
Corbyn also actively hindered peace in Northern Ireland, by voting against the peace process and the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Parliament, and openly speaking out against it in Parliament. In 2015, on BBC Radio Ulster, Corbyn refused five times to specifically condemn IRA violence and terrorism. He hung up rather than answer the question. Corbyn was also general secretary of the editorial board of the journal Labour Briefing, which supported IRA violence and explicitly backed the Brighton Hotel Bombing. The board said it ‘reaffirmed its support for, and solidarity with, the Irish republican movement’, and added that ‘the British only sit up and take notice when they are bombed into it’.
To all far left reader, Corbyn is against alliances with the Greens and Plaid Cymru, and bizarrely against proportional representation. These are key issues in progressive politics, and Corbyn doesn’t respect either.
Finally, a couple of bizarre views. He wants to stop Trident but said we should still spend billions building worthless submarines without nuclear warheads to keep the unions happy. He’s also supported homeopathy,and suggested that the Falkland Islands should be shared with Argentina, ignoring a referendum in which 99.8 per cent of the islanders voted to remain British.
Shattering a Few Myths
Despite all this, Corbyn’s supporters are still insistent that he can and should win. They will say that he is an ‘honest politician’, despite having lied about Labour’s position in the polls and his position on Article 50 the day after Brexit in the same debate. They claim that Corbyn isn’t a career politician, despite having only worked in politics his whole life.
Another argument is that we should ignore opinion polls due to the huge rallies drawn by Corbyn, missing the point that those people have always voted left, and it’s Tories and UKIP voters we need to be winning over. This argument also forgets that Michael Foot used to draw huge rallies, yet lost by a landslide.
Something I constantly hear is that the resignations from the Shadow Cabinet were all by ‘Tory-Lite shills’. This is simply false. Many solid left MPs like Stella Creasy (who worked tirelessly to push regulation of payday lenders through Parliament), or Tom Watson (Who helped topple Blair himself) attempted to negotiate with Corbyn but in the end felt like the right thing to do was to speak out against him.
Neither was the entire PLP opposed to him from the start. Many centrists like Seema Malhotra and Chris Bryant choose to service in his Shadow Cabinet, and the pre-coup criticisms were actually just a few and not unusual when it comes to party politics generally, not to mention they were genuine criticisms (much of which is addressed in this article).
There’s also a falsity that Corbyn is somehow a representative of the working class, when he is anything but. Three quarters of Labour members are middle class, and wealthy city-dwellers are massively overrepresented in those that joined Labour to support Corbyn in recent months.
Finally, countless victories have been claimed for Corbyn, when they simply weren’t won by him. Reversals to tax credits were primarily down to Tory backbench unrest and disability cuts down to a defence by the Labour Lords team led by Owen Smith. The fiscal target u-turn was abandoned by Osborne the day after Theresa May, the then frontrunner for PM, said she didn’t support it. The Tories have abandoned policies because their majority is weak, not because of Corbyn’s efforts.
If the last two thousand words haven’t convinced you that Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t be leader of the Labour Party, then there isn’t anything in the world that will. To those that do, just know that about 6 months ago, I was a massive supporter of Corbyn. But in the end, I find that the more you read on him, and the closer you follow the polls, the more and more you start to drift away from support for him.
I truly do want Labour to be a far left party. I’m further left than Corbyn on many issues. But until then, I want this country to be one I’m at least somewhat proud of. I want this country to be one that stands up against cuts for vital public services, one that fights for equality and social mobility. And Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party will never be in a place to achieve that. It will never be able to increase funding for the NHS, or pioneer trans rights, or renationalise the railways, because it will never be in government. And that alone, should be enough to sway your support.