Having shared a platform with Jeremy Corbyn several times, I have to admit I had doubts about his leadership capacity. I had none about his heart, his motives, or his intellectual capacity. My doubts were about his interpersonal skills and charisma. I had him marked down as not very sociable and even shy.
I have just watched his interview on Marr where Corbyn performed much better than I would have imagined possible. He was calm, reasonable and even wise. He came over as an attractive personality. He was, in short, excellent.
Marr did the job his masters paid him to. He started, instantly, going for the jugular on the tabloids’ favourite attack line on Jeremy Corbyn. Having stated he was going to kick off with foreign policy, did Marr then ask whether Corbyn would continue to support the Tory policy of selling weapons to the Saudis to kill children in Yemen? Would continue uncritical support of Israel and diplomatic protection of its illegal occupation?
No he went for the tabloid favourite. Would Corbyn push the button and fire nuclear missiles? It says a very great deal about our politics that it is taken by the media establishment as axiomatic that anybody who will not participate in the probable destruction of the entire human race, is the crazy person in the room. It says still more about our media, and who controls it, that this is the very first thing Marr wanted to discuss with Corbyn. Corbyn picked his way through the minefield with a tact and patience which I suspect came over well.
I look forward to Marr seeking to move his interview with Theresa May away from her preferred areas and ask her repeated questions about child poverty, social care, arms sales to terrible regimes, benefit cuts for the disabled and Tory electoral fraud. I much fear extreme disappointment awaits me.
It is extraordinary that this is the first time in nearly 40 years that the UK electorate has been offered the chance to vote for a leader not prepared to sound enthusiastic about global destruction.
It is also the first time in 40 years that a real choice in other areas has been offered the electorate in England. In just this interview things Corbyn outlined – a renationalisation of privatised areas of NHS provision, an end to selective education – are the polar opposite of the Tory Lite offer of Blairite Labour.
That is of course why Marr was so keen to skate over, interrupt and divert those areas and spend far more time and detail on highlighting Corbyn’s lack of support for aggressive militarism, with repeated questions such as “would you kill the leader of ISIS”.
I have been reading “The Candidate“, a fascinating book by Alex Nunn, detailing Corbyn’s rise to the leadership of the Labour Party and the extraordinary (if inept) efforts of the Blairite establishment to stop him. As I do not come from a Labour Party background, the Byzantine structures of the party and its relationship with organised labour are peculiar to me. But one thing comes over very clearly. The Blairites had firm control of the major areas of party machinery and in truth they still do.
The large majority of Corbyn’s MPs would love to drone kill people and have lots of nuclear buttons to push, and would happily privatise anything to any company which sponsors them. The Party also dictates Labour’s aggressive Unionist stance which is why everybody in Scotland should oppose it.
It is not just the MPs. The Boilermakers’ union are not only extreme enthusiasts for nuclear missiles, they would support mass sarin production if it employed their members. I wish Jeremy every success, but I find it impossible to say that I therefore recommend anybody to vote for John Mann or Simon Danczuk. I am not sure that success for Jeremy would be to find himself in No.10 as the hostage of Mann, Danczuk, Watson, Cooper et al.
That is the Corbyn Conundrum.
A number of puzzled Corbyn supporters have asked me who I am advocating they should vote for. A number of people who generally agree with me are upset I am not urging everyone to vote Labour. Well, it is your vote and you should vote for the candidate you like best. But this is my advice.
IN SCOTLAND everybody of progressive mind should vote SNP. It is the most successful anti-neoliberal option. Scotland has a very different political culture to the UK. The break-up of the UK is essential to our well-being and to shaking England out of the peculiar continuing imperialist delusions which grip it.
Westminster elections are the only First Past the Post elections in Scotland. In these elections alone, I do not think it is tactically wise of other pro-Independence parties to stand candidates against the SNP. Let’s first achieve independence, then myriad flowers will bloom.
IN WALES Plaid Cymru because it is high time you found your courage, and they have a decent radical platform. Labour or Lib Dem when its needed to stop a Tory.
IN ENGLAND Whoever has the best chance of beating the Tory. So generally Labour, very often Lib Dem, occasionally Green. With the caveat that you should not vote for Labour (or Lib Dem) candidates who are very obviously just another brand of Tory. If you are Simon Danczuk’s constituent, for example, I would vote Lib Dem there. But if people find they have to vote for a New Labour candidate as the only conceivable way of keeping out a Tory, I could understand that too. You are better placed than me to weigh individual judgements.
I hope that helps.