Saturday 28 December 2019


It is now  a given of UK politics that whoever Labour elects as its leader, he or she will be scorned, derided, misrepresented, mocked and denigrated by the 80% of our press that supports the Tories.

In my own adult lifetime Harold Wilson was patronised  for having been a King's Scout, liking HP sauce and apparently decorating a wall inside No 10 with a flight of pottery ducks.  Michael Foot was ridiculed for wearing a reefer jacket (rather than a morning coat) at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.  Neil Kinnock was routinely derided as a "Welsh Windbag."  Ed Milliband  was pilloried for having a Marxist father and inelegantly eating bacon sandwich (hint, hint, he's actually Jewish so should not be eating bacon). *

First prize for having opprobrium dumped on him must go to poor Jeremy Corbyn for having a beard, working an allotment, talking to Irish Terrorists (as did negotiators on behalf of Mrs Thatcher) and whose views on the policies of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians were routinely distorted as being Anti-Semitic.

And the muck stuck.

Whatever conclusions the Labour Party reaches in its inquiries into their defeat, there can be no doubt that the "unsuitability, " to put it mildly,  of Mr Corbyn as prime minister will be top of the bill.

Yet the flaws in the character, actions and opinions of Mr Johnson, which make him completely unfit to be prime minister, were somehow brushed aside or ignored, even though they were publicly identified by leading members of his own party.

If their main priority was to retain power, as opposed to the good of the country, Troy MPs in the last parliament were right to put Johnson on the slate for election as their leader.  Whatever his flaws he had "electability" and had proved it in twice winning the Mayoralty of London,  normally  a Labour-leaning city, and in maintaining a 10 point lead it the opinion polls.

In the four years he has been Labour leader I have tended to admire Mr Corbyn as an honest and decent man who on  issues from the Iraq war to the rights of the Chagos Islanders has been usually right. True he does not seem to have been much good as a party manager or resolver of internal disputes,but I did not expect the electorate to swallow the poison poured on him to the extent that they did.

However, it now seems that the Labour MPs of the last parliament were right.  What I saw then as an unhelpful stab in the back was in fact a realisation that he made the party unelectable and so they tried to get rid of him.

Which leads me, reluctantly, to the conclusion that we maybe need to go backwards, take away the right of party members to choose the leaders, and return it to the MPs.

Whether there is in the ranks of current Labour MPs anyone with a background so saintly as to be impervious to right wing bile I doubt, but from the outside Keir Starmer seems a good bet.  I'm also intrigued by the possibility of David  Lammy, I think the only MP outside my own constituency and party to whom I've ever written (urging him to take on the leadership of the Remain campaign - sadly he didn't bite.)

*Tony Blair seems to have escaped, and Liberal Democrat leaders don't attract such a high profile, though in the brief period of Cleggmania in 2010 the Daily Mail was quick to point our that he had a Russian grandparent,and, not only that, was married to a foreigner!


  1. Re patronising Harold Wilson (a much more able person than Corbyn)

    You forgot the Gannex coat.

    1. Actually a more serious omission was Michael Foot and his donkey/reefer jacket at the Cenotaph. I've added that to the post.

      As for Gannex I don't remember Wilson being ridiculed for that. Rather he set a trend. I would rather have liked one myself, but they were a bit above my league.e. Mr Gannex ran a very flourishing business in Elland but I think he came to a bad end. The factory has been closed for a long time.

  2. talking to Irish Terrorists

    He didn't just talk to the IRA. He supported them with his words and his actions.

    1. He probably supported a united Ireland but I doubt if he was in favour of terrorist methods of achieving one.

    2. Oh, he absolutely was in favour of the use of terrorist methods, if that's what it took, as he repeatedly showed in word and deed throughout the 1980s. He never even bothered to hide it until he became Labour leader, so the public evidence is there for all who have eyes to see.

      Not that it matters any more: the great British public saw him for what he really was and showed him the door. Right restores your faith in democracy, that does.

    3. I'd need to see chapter and verse on that: I haven't followed Corbyn's career sufficiently closely to know. I know it is easy to conflate sympathy for a cause with approval of illicit methods (cg terrorism by some Palestinians). The one does not necessarily follow from the other.

    4. Corbyn was definitely guilty of that very serious crime of "platforming".

  3. The Tory press will always put the knife into Labour,they are the opposition wanting THEIR power. If we were in Labours position we would be the ones being castigated. Before the GE when we were at 20% in the polls we suddenly started sliding,why.? My theory guess??is that when we get to a position where we could take off we become the Tory media's target putting doubt into voters. Our policies are fine the MESSAGING IS CRAP. We should be selling ourselves/policies on the doorstep converting people on them voting for us at the next GE and hopefully break the strangle hold of Labour Tory and media moghuls

    1. I agree. I think we're quite good in our personally delivered literature on local issues but I suspect too little attention is paid to publicising our policies and principles on national and international issues. The philosophy of "we can win anywhere" means that local election winners are often reluctant to publicise our principles and ideals in case we put people off. Letting people know that we are enthusiastic about EU membership, want to welcome migrants and treat them fairly, tax more to fund out welfare state and hospitals etc., may indeed deter some people from voting for us.

      Tom Watson the now retired deputy leader of the Labour Party, admits in yesterday's Guardian (G2 28th December) that in a 2004 by-election he campaigned on the slogan:"Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum-seekers."

      But being loud and proud about our principles is the only way to build up our core vote.

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