Jeremy Corbyn was my first choice for leader of the Labour Party twice. I’ve always voted Labour, and I’m currently 42. I don’t consider myself a Euro-fanatic, but I voted ‘remain’ in Brexit. But I must admit when Corbyn said ‘Now the real fight begins’, I got genuinely scared – it had for me, as Emma Burnell opined, all the overtones of someone who doesn’t really believe in parliamentary democracy.
There are some people who believe that Jeremy Corbyn can do ‘no good’. I am not one of them. I have previously supported Corbyn to the hilt, and I think most of his principles in domestic policy are reasonably sound. We are both socialists. For example, I agree with Corbyn on cracking down on aggressive corporate tax a aoidance, and wishing to tackle head-on the crisis in social care and social housing. I agree that fundamentally the situation Labour finds itself is not as such Labour’s fault. I am not a ‘Blairite’ – there were some successes in the Tony Blair governments, and some failures. The history for me personally is that, in the last leadership election shortly after the referendum of June 23rd 2016, I found myself disagreeing with the views of Owen Smith MP and his supporters. I felt that that particular time was not the best time to having yet another leadership election when Corbyn had only just been democratically elected leader – and I felt that the behaviour of much of the Labour Party was pretty unconscionable. In fact, I blocked several Labour MPs on Twitter.
There was an unsaid deal that the parliamentary Labour Party would try to be more professional in experience, such as not briefing the media about offices which they should have vacated after publicly resigning, if the leadership machine communicated better with the PLP. There was an unsaid agreement that there would be at some stage much more useful detail about policies. Whilst not violently anti-Blairite, the spectacle of Anna Soubry MP and Alastair Campbell ganging up on John McDonnell (like Clive Lewis, a follower of mine on Twitter) beyond the pale.
Let’s be clear. Reversing corporation tax to fund the NHS and social care is not a policy in itself – nor is renegotiating the private finance initiative, important though that is. There is, however, an honest conversation to be had about how GPs feel themselves totally overwhelmed by the demand (and so do Accident and Emergency Departments), and, on the whole, people are living for longer with complex co-morbidities such as dementia. GPs will be the first to tell you that ‘ten minute appointments’ do not do their patients justice, and certainly insufficient for a frank discussion about psychological therapies for dementia compared to reaching for the prescription pad. The whole debate about integration has become engulfed in criticism about the sustainability and transformation plans; that there is insufficient money in both the NHS and social care is not in any dispute. On the other hand, for many long term conditions, the decision between ‘health’ and ‘social care’ is totally arbitrary and yet this has a profound impact for individuals in terms of their funding arrangements. The reality of ‘care at home’ is far from the rhetoric and yet the Department of Health is fighting its own battles such as with the junior doctors over their contract – whilst Jeremy Hunt is touring the world boasting about patient safety (neglecting to mention 20 hour trolley waits in England), and seeing if he can aggressively pimp NHS services to a New Trump US. We are all left exasperated wondering what it is that the UK is so desperate to sell to any country, dictatorship or otherwise, far flung or not.
Jeremy Corbyn’s stance is indeed ‘principled’ in that one half of the party faces one way (constituencies wishing to remain in European Union, such as Islington), and one half facing the polar opposite (constituencies wishing to leave the European Union, which as Hayes). But back to Nye Bevan’s old adage, ‘if you stand in the middle of the road, you are bound to get run over’. Corbyn’s political stance means inevitably he will end up annoying many on both sides, especially some in the 48% who oppose a ‘hard Brexit’. Whilst Keir Starmer and pals do not want to soil their lips with the words “hard” and “Brexit”, there is no other term for not being included in the single market, or giving up on the free movement of people. The ‘taking back control’ meme has become rampant, and it seems that every MP is entitled to justify voting like a robot even more on grounds of the fact that ‘this referendum result was delivered by the people’. The case against leaving the EU won’t go away, however, including the 40-60 Euro divorce fee, or the hit the economy will take when the City is not allowed to do EU passporting. But it is said that many Brexiters are prepared to take this hit. Indeed, many Corbyn voters who voted Brexit seem intensely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s performance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Britain has a bright future, despite the import inflation and problems in finding workers for certain sectors of the economy. For now, Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU largely, has been muzzled, but it will not be long before they ‘take back control’ again and ‘roar again’ as Alex Salmond put it. The Brexit vote has given fuel to Nigel Farage’s rantings on his radio show, having extra rocket fuel from the election of a bigot, sexist, and racist elsewhere. The LBC phone lines are choc-a-bloc with racist and xenophobic rantings about how the ills of the world can be placed at the feet of immigrants. But such criticisms would be to shoot the messenger of this xenophobic racist rubbish rather than the message itself. A major ‘miss’ was there not being implemented a Migration Impact Fund, or Posted Workers Directive, to give areas of high migrant population additional financial support, or legislation to stop the undercutting of workers. But the solution to all this is not Amber Rudd MP, in the same way the immigration levels sky rocketed under Theresa May MP. Without any attempt to limit proportionately migrant numbers, and without funding public services, leaving the European Union is simply a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, and you can bet Nigel Farage will have long gone by then.
I do agree very much that it’s not all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. There are many head winds in the opposite direction to Jeremy Corbyn. For example, Corbyn daily has to deal with a vicious media and there are rarely any positive noises coming out of the Guardian or Laura Kuenssberg about him. And also, there has been a relentless focus on the ‘Labour rebels’, and the three-line-whip from Corbyn (presumably because Corbyn does not want to be blamed for obstructing Brexit), but one really has to wonder what on earth has happened to those Tory MPs who reperesnt ‘remain’ consittuencies. It is entirely possible, of course, that the Liberal Democrats will take these seats, and then the critical question for 2020 will be who is the largest party. I have a hunch this will be the Conservatives, wishing to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, rather than Labour and the SNP forming a coalition (assuming that there is no sign of a turnaround in Scotland’s fortunes from Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale).
Quite frankly, these are desperately stressful times for some people who want to vote Labour. There are some people who think that Jeremy Corbyn is utterly brilliant – and all power to their elbow. But there are also different people who believe Corbyn is overseeing the suicide of the UK Labour Party. Irrespective of your views on EURATOM or the ERASMUS scheme, what are we tell close friends of ours who are EU nationals and remain as ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiation about to happen? The reality is that we do not know what the attitude of the European Union will be – but guaranteed the hyperbolic importance of England by Nigel Farage over Brexit is not matched by the column inches devoted to Brexit in the continental newspapers. I have a declining faith in Jeremy Corbyn, but my ‘faith’ is being put to the test. I don’t see any other saviour on the horizon, and a third leadership election might make him bullet-proof as far as the membership is concerned. I would feel a lot more reassured if we had more detail on domestic policy, but I understand the problems in predicting the state of the macroeconomy particularly with Brexit and Donald Trump looming on the horizon.
And of course the 2020 general election might be a very good one to lose, if you take away the possibility of Jeremy Hunt negotiating a UK-US trade deal which would kill off the NHS entirely.