JEREMY CORBYN’S Labour is unlikely to win the June general election in the United Kingdom. At one point in Corbyn’s leadership campaign, though I believed it was unlikely, I thought it was possible that he could win a general election. Caught up in the idealistic masses rallying, the promise of a new, kinder politics and the idea of change, it is perhaps forgivable to have thought just for a second that Britain was finally moving in the direction of democratic socialism.
His landslide victory to become Labour leader gave him a large mandate to run the party on his terms. But some were unhappy with his leadership from the beginning. He was never going to be a conventional Labour leader. He was never going to be a Brown or a Blair. And he would have offended and lost his supporters who were called upon for a second time to cement his position in another leadership election.
The fact that he was never going to be a Blair or a Brown was received poorly by some Labour figures and supporters. Maybe they were right to question his abilities to lead Europe’s biggest left-of-centre party. Eventually, Brexit proved to us what many had suspected: that Britain didn’t want a kinder politics. The Brexiteers wanted a different kind of change, and Corbyn was the opposite of this different change.
The Brexit vote was not as unexpected as some might have us believe. Yes, the polls were suggesting that there was a slim majority in favour of ‘remain’, but there were many who said that Brexit was, if not probable, at least very possible.
Anger can manifest in many ways. After years of austerity and the political establishment ignoring concerns raised about housing, education and immigration, the ordinary working person was finally given a say. If people are presented with a referendum during a period of worldwide anger at the political establishment, they are being invited to vent their anger in the ballot box.
That’s not to say that all Leave voters did so to piss off Cameron. But protest votes are common and such a major decision should not have been put to the people in this political climate. People can (evidently) make the wrong decision and referendums can go wrong; the people of Columbia voted against a peace process that would have ended a decades old conflict because they wanted to kick their government in the face.
Corbyn voted to remain but many felt his heart was not in it. Even if he did, many of his far-left supporters could not have voted to remain in a capitalist union with other capitalist states, surely.
But this notion of Corbyn lacking in the leadership skills department is somewhat of a fallacy. He went from being a dangerous terrorist sympathiser who was a threat to Britain’s national security to a weak man who can just about lead a movement but not a party and certainly not a country.
The media haven’t helped his case either, but it cannot be denied that he has brought some of it on himself; he should be advised better and that is partially his fault too. Refusing to sing the national anthem was ill-advised at best, even if he is a proud republican. What would middle England think of that? And that is the question Labour has forgotten in the past few years.
But anyway, back to the main point. What makes a great leader and why does Britain need a great leader in the first place?
To fight Britain’s corner in Europe? Maybe. But when Corbyn was elected leader of Labour, the prospect of a Brexit seemed slim.
All things can be understood better by looking at the Greeks, Ancient or contemporary – a look south-east to our European neighbours always yields answers.
The British should take a good look at an ancient Greek word ‘isegoria’, meaning freedom of expression. More subtly, it means that there should be equal rights given to everyone’s views. The ideas or views should to be listened to and judged at face value, and be critiqued unattached to the individual. Don’t shoot the messenger, listen to the message, essentially.
There are two arguments that can be made then. One is that the British electorate and media should begin listening to the policies of New-Old Labour and stop slating the leader. The other is that the so-called coup by some Labour figures was quite rational, as they knew the mood of the public in Britain and their want, if not need, for a strong leader.
A strong leader, in the words of Blair’s spin-doctor Alastair Darling, is obsessed with power. That, again in his opinion, is not a bad thing. In fact, Darling believes it to be the most important thing.
Former SYRIZA Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, in response to a question about why he doesn’t like Putin, said that only societies in distress need strong leaders. If a country has no problems, he said, there is no need for a mighty person to save his or her people.
Now, after the English and Welsh have decided to resign from the EU, Britain really is distressed. But it’s almost as if it is natural to look for a savior in times of crisis, or in the aftermath of crises. Corbyn doesn’t have the charisma and might of a Putin or an Erdogan, a Blair or an Obama, or a Thatcher or a May.
And if that’s what people want, how can Corbyn expect to change Britain for the better, or even prevent the destruction of the country by the Tories (if it’s still possible)?
If Corbynites are serious about change, then surely they must be now removing their heads from the sand and seeing the UK in a broader spectrum of the global political climate.
Though it might not be ideal, it is more productive to be honest and pragmatic.
Strongmen and strongwomen are, seemingly, in demand after a recession. After the Great Depression, fascists took power in Europe. Following the mid-70s recession, we got Thatcher and Raegan. After the Crash of ‘08, we have been left with a new right sweeping across the continent and America.
When the austerity cuts still haven’t properly healed and scabbed over, people don’t only want change, they want a restoration of their pride. The ‘other’ becomes a relevant concept again and reminiscing about great days gone by is dangerously widespread. Labour missed a trick. Without a clear vision or strategy, the Momentum movement was doomed to fail. It’s not too late, but one must begin to wonder if Jeremy Corbyn is really able to get his point across to the people he needs to win back. (We should be clear that those who fought him in the leadership campaign wouldn’t have won a general election either.)
Labour needs leadership, a clear strategy, unity and radical policies. If they lose this general election, their members – especially those in Momentum – need to realise that to make changes to society, you need to win an election. And Brexit showed us the direction the British electorate is running in.
Labour’s best hope is regrouping after the June elections and planning for the future. Labour needs to win back the average Englishman and Englishwoman, as it’s unlikely that ‘isegoria’ will take hold in post-Brexit Britain, unfortunately.