Labour’s Corbyn Crisis illuminates a key democratic barrier
The parliamentary Labour Party seem determined to self destruct.
Last week they were delivered a political gift as their Tory foe infected the country with an unprecedented and self inflicted national crisis. A Sunday league football team could have formulated a strategy for taking advantage of the crisis. In Scotland, Kezia Dugdale has been doing just that laying into Ruth Davidson at every opportunity. However, at UK level, in a show of almost unparalleled stupidity, they have instead managed to make themselves look more culpable than the Tories.
All this despite the fact that Corbyn has the backing of the majority of Labour members and that he has performed reasonably well in elections and by-elections. That Labour voters voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and that Corbyn has the support of the majority of them. Due to the disloyalty of the parliamentary Labour party Corbyn has exited the referendum period looking like the main villain.
If people had stood by him in this fraught time it would have been easy to take a lead in the polls. Yet, one by one, in a slow drawn out attention grabbing process, his fellow MPs have sneaked up and stabbed him in the back.
Aside from highlighting Labour’s seemingly infinite talent of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the planned usurping of Corbyn does highlight one of the fundamental flaws in our political system: it shines a spotlight on how narrow our political options have become. The parliamentary Labour party are trying to manipulate a national emergency in order to right the anomaly of his election as leader. The unofficial rules of modern politics decree that Corbyn is not meant to be in charge of a large political party. He was nominated for the leadership contest as a bit of light entertainment, an Islington aberration that nobody thought would be taken seriously by party membership, and despite his massive victory far fewer believe can win the country.
Many of us talk up the need for more political choice, with voting reform normally singled out as the sure fire way of making politics more representative. That said, we often fail to acknowledge that no matter how good the political system is, the parties will normally self select candidates based on them fitting a very narrow criteria. Through focus groups and fear of the reaction from a controlling media they know there is only a very small array of policy options they can get away with if they want to win or hold onto power.
A scruffy, badly dressed, socialist dinosaur with a penchant for sitting down with terrorists and a lifetime not conforming with anything is not normally allowed to slip through the net.
And it’s not just Labour, it’s all of them. After the Scottish referendum the SNP selected new candidates from a bunch of their most sycophantic referendum lieutenants. At the same time they spurned more capable but dangerous supporters such as Craig Murray. Although proportional systems allow more political groups to get a foot in the door those groups quickly learn they have to be pretty similar to all of the others in order to get elected. Take RISE for instance, I was probably not alone at laughing out loud at some of the proposals in their manifesto. Not because they were necessarily bad ideas but because I thought it was hilarious that they thought they could get elected with a remit that was so out of kilter with the narrow confines of normal political discourse.
If RISE fight another election you can bet your mortgage that they will tone down their ideas.
The Labour party are not completely stupid. They know that Corbyn will struggle to win. All their research as well as the knowledge they garnered during their Blairite success period indicates that Corbyn spells disaster. What they need is a sharply dressed, smart talking charismatic automaton who religiously strays no more than a bawhair from the political centre.
How sad that this thinking dooms us to a staid beige normality. It is a self fulfilling prophecy, failing to take into account the ability of political parties to lead and inspire us. Corbyn’s Labour is doomed because not enough of his colleagues have the imagination to believe anything different can work. They just seem content to box-tick the dour list of policies the public have been taught to expect.
It’s quite tragic really as it means that either the public really are that closed minded or that few politicians have any ambition other than for the accumulation of power just for power’s sake. And if either of those things are universally or insurmountably true then we might as well all just give up.
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