I’m a marxist, but the Groucho kind. I didn’t say it: a Parisian revolutionary did, in 1968. It’s very apt. I have found it very difficult to understand what I think about politics at the moment. Laughing about the Labour party seems to be the only thing to do.
It seems to me that there are three issues. First, the robust opposition of the government position on any policy. Second, what will happen to the Labour party? Third, social media and national media’s role in it all. My problems seem to lie with the third issue.
Everyone – and that is EVERYONE seems to have an opinion – on everything. This is a good thing, I’m sure it is. But having an opinion is not necessarily the same as having an informed opinion. So often when I’m talking to people on the street or at a party, I am struck by the rehashing of an opinion from one editorial or another, as if offering up an opinion because it has been published is good enough. Someone’s opinion formed by experience and real thought, I value. Hearing the editorial of the Telegraph or the Observer from two days ago is boring and doesn’t inform my view. When people spout it onto their Facebook status, as they often did during the Remain/Brexit vote and its aftermath, it becomes tiresome.
Ascertainable information, that’s where we need to start. This leads me to my first issue. I love Jeremy Corbyn. I love what he is trying to do. I love that he is setting out to change the way that politics works, and that he is for everything I want – nuclear disarmament, renationalisation of the railways, anti-austerity among other things. I think that this is a movement that used to be idealistic and is now hope that could become reality. But – and this is a big but. It is a movement. And a movement is different from government. When you are the major party of the opposition, you are part of the government, as far as our constitution is concerned. Every shadow cabinet member is appointed to forensically examine what the government is doing and to question their policies. That is what the opposition is for.
When Jeremy Corbyn stood up for his first PMQs and decided to do things differently by asking questions that were tweeted to him, he was simply undermining the very people he has said he is representing – you and I. Our constitution is a beautiful ecosystem where the government and its opposition interweaves like ivy growing on an old tree. If the ivy becomes too strong, the tree dies. If the ivy is cut back too much, the tree buckles. Each has a role to play. The word ‘robust’ is the legalistic term used for law made well – a robust constitution is one where the government has put forward good law which is challenged well by the opposition. I go on like this because…well, under Corbyn…you see where I’m going? This has failed to happen so far. He has his own opinions and his own agenda. If he fails to challenge and if he fails to lead his party because they don’t want him, well how do we hold an increasingly powerful Tory government to account?
And what will happen to the Labour party? Whichever way its going, it needs to get stronger soon. Corbyn is a Jesus Christ figure – yes, I know it’s someone else’s opinion, but I tend to agree with it. He has begun a movement similar to a religion. His most vociferous supporters love his humility, his persecution – they love that photo of him being hauled off from outside the South African embassy, and conveniently forget that while he was protesting, people like Peter Hain were also protesting and doing more within government. Corbyn never agreed with the party whip if he didn’t want to, and voted against the Labour party more times than David Cameron. Calling people ‘Blairite scum’ is madness – people who were the first to sit down with the IRA and get the Good Friday agreement passed are not scum. Are you saying Mo Mowlam was ‘scum’??! It’s madness. Yes, the Iraq war. Yes, Blair and his millions and his Murdoch godfather years and his weird Steve Bell-style rictus grin. But ‘scum’? Corbyn has actively encouraged this dissension and vitriol simply by being someone who does politics by disagreement and protest, rather than by the normal channels. Let’s look at it another way – if he sweeps to power and every policy he has is enacted, what will opposition to Corbyn look like? How will he get through his policies if he does not use the constitution and the laws and the regulatory methods of our parliamentary system? Because the point is – how do you change things within your laws if you aren’t willing to use the proper channels? To win the argument, you’ve got to be at the table, just as Mo Mowlam was, just as Peter Hain was.
I don’t want to vote for Owen Smith, because I don’t think he is experienced or even that clever. I don’t want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I would like to see Yvette Cooper or someone like her, forensically interrogating every decision Theresa May makes. What are the chances?
Eventually, there’s always a bigger dinosaur. The ending of ‘Jurassic Park’ is what I’m talking about. The little dinosaurs chase the children and you’re squirming in your seat and the kids run out into the foyer, and just as they’re about to be eaten and everything is going down the toilet – the T-Rex eats the little dinosaurs. It happened to the Tories: the little dinosaurs, Cameron and Osborne chased the children, and when they were killed off, for a moment or two, Boris and Gove tried their hand at teasing us all. But the big dinosaur that is – the people – got rid of them. Corbyn thinks he’s the big dinosaur. What he forgets is – this is Britain. We don’t like people who think they’re saviours. We like to laugh at people like that. Corbyn and Smith are just the little dinosaurs. Something else will happen. Remarkable things always happen. If that means the Labour party re-configures, so be it. We need an opposition. Something will give. Until then, let’s all enjoy laughing at them all. It’s all we can do.