Jeremy’s Successor

I voted – twice – for Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party, and am still loyal to his ideals and policies. I also think he’s done a good job in many ways, bearing in mind the hostility of the press to him, his lack of support – even ‘treachery’ – from his own side, and his own deficiencies in what are taken to be the necessary qualities of ‘leadership’ (the Führerprinzip) in this post-democratic age. By that is generally taken to be meant his lack of ‘charisma’, and his association with what is now regarded as an ‘old-fashioned’ type of socialism, going back to the 1960s. So far as ‘charisma’ is concerned, Attlee was pretty lacking in that too, and yet he was arguably the best and most successful British peacetime prime minister of the last century. We appreciated quality and ability then, over and above ‘show’. And secondly: ideas that were successful at one time shouldn’t be dismissed today simply because that time was fifty years ago. I’m thinking, of course, of social democracy. Good ideas are timeless. Thatcher was never dismissed as ‘old-fashioned’ simply because her policies were a hundred years old. But then she had plenty of the Führerin thing.

My preference for Corbyn as Leader was always predicated on the idea that, after he had shaken the Labour Party out of its grey Blairite suits, he might hand over to someone who had more of what the media recognizes as ‘leadership’ qualities in her or him (https://bernardjporter.com/2016/07/06/2710/). I couldn’t see any of those qualities, or many of the ones I would want to see in a Leader, in any of the candidates who led the contests against him over the past couple of years. Boring grey suits (or pleated skirts), every one of them. I remember thinking – though this may just be the old man in me – where are the great men and women of yesteryear: Bevan, Wilson, Crossman, Healey, Castle, Benn Mk 1…? Until someone of their quality emerged, I thought, best stick with the good Jeremy.

Recently I think I’ve spotted signs of this quality emerging in one or two Labour MPs (Clive Lewis? Yvette Cooper? Benn Mk 2?) – though I’d like to see more of all of them before I place any bets. It’s this that makes me not at all disturbed by the new rumour making the rounds – which may only be that – that Corbyn himself is thinking of voluntarily handing over quite soon (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-to-quit-rumour-untrue-says-ian-lavery-gossip_uk_589aec47e4b0a1dcbd03f9ba?gkhp62ymvaomwmte29). If it could be done like that – a friendly succession rather than a coup, and to a higher-profile figure whom Jeremy and we on the Left trusted – it could be an ideal preparation for the next General Election campaign; once we’ve got through this Brexit mess. Blame the Right-wing press; but I’m afraid Labour needs someone who comes up (or down) to its notion of ‘leadership’.

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