The Corbyn Problem

From all I read (via Facebook) in the British media, it’s Jeremy Corbyn who appears to be ‘the problem’; and behind that, his socialism. Which, truth to tell, is no more ‘extreme’ than was the policy of the Labour Party under Attlee and Wilson, the regime I was brought up under; or the fundamental beliefs of the country I am living in now.

Most of his domestic policies are favoured by a large majority of the British population, according to recent polls. His supposed toleration of ‘antisemitism’ in the Party is based on lies and propaganda, the latter probably Israeli-inspired, and encouraged by flawed and biased reporting in our own media – and not only the billionaire-owned right-wing nasties. (See–9dy_w.) His Brexit strategy has always been consistent, and is the only clear one on offer today with any chance of delivering anything close to what we Europhile Remainers want. He is also likely to be far better at delivering it than are May and her crew, as is indicated by this report of his recent unofficial negotiations with European leaders: The ‘deal’ he would come to with Brussels – abandoning May’s ‘red line’ on freedom of movement – would be significantly better for us all than either May’s plan or a ‘no deal’ exit. And if it fails, he’s opened the door to the second referendum that most Remainers want; which is the best hope we have of staying in (or returning to) the EU. Anyone who doubts Corbyn’s ability to represent his country in the world should mark this. Leadership and even ‘strength’ don’t require confrontation, which is what the Brexiteers in Parliament and the press are demanding, but which is counter-productive more often than not. Wisdom, honesty and judgment are far more essential. And Corbyn seems to have these in spades. (See I still think he’s ‘playing a blinder’ ( He could be our salvation – if that doesn’t make me sound too much like a naive devotee.

So: why all the animus against him? Is it simply because he doesn’t look the part? A ‘leader’ in the Thatcher or Churchill mould? Or because he is perceived not to come down clearly and firmly on one or the other ‘side’ of the Brexit debate? – Or is it rather because his ‘socialism’ turns people – especially comfortable people – off; although it’s really a very moderate form of socialism, and would be regarded as such here today in Sweden, as it would have been in Britain in the 1960s and ’70s.

One problem may be the dominant image of that latter period that has stuck to it ever since Thatcher got her claws on it, and distorted it out of all recognition. According to this, the ’60s were characterised by industrial decline, strikes, unburied bodies, rubbish littering the streets, high taxes, and loony leftism – which is what Corbyn is associated with particularly. Another reading however could be that this was an age of growing equality, functioning social services, a properly-funded NHS, free higher education, a lively culture (both ‘high’ and ‘popular’), hardly any ‘rough sleepers’, far less serious crime, ‘progress’, general optimism (especially on the Left), mainly clever men in charge, with the Etonians excluded from government, no Piers Morgan, and when Britain did have at least some heavy industry. Corbyn is charged with wanting to return us to that time. I won’t make the obvious retort: that the Tories seem to want to return us to a far more distant past. But if it’s the reputation of the ’60s that is putting people off Jeremy, they should think again. Perhaps we historians could have a role to play here, in rehabilitating his formative period of history (as well as mine).

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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9 Responses to The Corbyn Problem

  1. “After the resignations of nine Labour Party members last week, and amid the prospect of more, the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, dropped his longstanding resistance to a second vote on leaving the bloc. Getting an amendment for a new vote through Parliament any time soon is unlikely, but Mr. Corbyn’s support for one will cheer pro-European Britons, who have been fighting to reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum decision. Without the support of Labour, there is no chance of a second referendum ever being authorized by lawmakers.
    Though lacking in detail, Labour’s announcement suggested that, under pressure from many of his own lawmakers and party members, Mr. Corbyn, who is a lifelong critic of the European Union, will ultimately fall into line with those who support a so-called people’s vote.” [New York Times]

    Corbyn had to change his tune on the Second Referendum for the sake of his own survival as leader, and thus the survival of his social-democratic agenda. I am glad that he has woken from his dream before it is too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No. This was ail part of the cunning plan from the start. He couldn’t back Remain or a Referendum until his Northern working-class base had come to see the drawbacks of Brexit, which May (bless her) has now made abundantly clear. Now was always the time to ‘turn’. That’s what I predicted a couple of months ago:! He’s cleverer than we think, our Jeremy. Of course the British papers will present it in the same way the NY Times has done – it makes him seem weaker, and even unprincipled, in the face of pressure. But he had it all worked out. – Actually I’m quite bucked by the way my December analysis – against the trend of opinion – is being borne out by events !


      • “This was ail part of the cunning plan from the start.” You are a true believer, Bernard (though I am not sure if you are being entirely serious in thinking he did not bow to pressure – and reason); however, whatever his motives, the situation is now looking much brighter following his change of heart. Hooray for this:

        “Only 21 per cent of those in the north and the midlands who voted Labour at the last election said they opposed the dramatic policy shift – a figure dwarfed by the 66 per cent in favour. In a further boost for Mr Corbyn, 35 per cent said it made them feel more favourable towards Labour, compared with just 14 per cent who said it made them feel less positive.” [The Independent]

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Judge says:

    I agree Bernard, but public perceptions are important and many, I wouldn’t say most, people apparently do not regard Corbyn as ‘prime ministerial’ as (Good Lord) most people seem to regard Teresa May. He came late to the leadership after a long obscure backbench career, has never had to burnish his image etc., so what you see is what you get. And public perceptions are influenced for most people by the media, and it has been been almost universally hostile, ranging from the mildly so BBC and Guardian (all of its political columnists except for Owen Jones have welcomed the arrival of TIG) to the outright malicious (Mail on Sunday)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. NEIL SHADDICK says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more on this post, Bernard, particularly your point about the image of the 60s and 70s : history is written by the victors and the Tories have been the winning side since 1979 (I include Blair in their team): a lively culture (both ‘high’ and ‘popular’), yes – look at the difference between Peter Hall’s NT & Hytner’s; and free higher education, yes – it is s source of utter astonishment to my kids that all my uni fees in the seventies were paid for by the state.
    But the fix is in I’m afraid. The Right & friends are doing everything they can to discredit Corbyn, & at this time any doubt (see post above) within Labour’s ranks will gift them government yet again.
    I can’t see how I’ll ever return to the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with everything you say here, Bernard. I might add that the anti-Corbyn movement is up there with the vilification of Scargill and the NUM in the 1980s and early 1990s as one of the two most unpleasant, vicious, dishonest and malicious political campaigns I can remember (with both being orchestrated by the media). I’d just like to add that there now are one or two texts around which attempt a rehabilitation of the 1960s and 1970s (my own formative period of political experience, too) – for example Andy Beckett’s When the Lights Went Out (London: Faber, 2009); David Edgerton’s recent The Rise and Fall of the British Nation (London: Allen Lane, 2018) and my own The Reinvention of Britain 1960-2016. A Political and Economic History (London: Routledge, 2017).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My problems with Jeremy Corbyn are these:
    1) what we most need is electoral reform, and a Representation of the People Act which is fit for purpose. Until we have that, nothing will make things better. JC has never, as far as I know, supported electoral reform.
    2) I cannot tolerate the thought of a ‘repbulican’ prime minister. Our constitutional monarchy is the envy of the world, and looks set to remain so for many years (decades) to come.
    3) Someone with no respect for leadership cannot command respect as a leader. If he were PM, then at critical times his own members would draw attention to his record of rebellion and follow his example.
    4) I hold the Labour party responsible, in almost equal measure, for all the bad stuff which has come out of Westminster throughout my adult lifetime (say, the last fifty years). I could never vote conservative or Labour. (Under the present system, a mockery of democracy, I usually spoil my paper, thus fulfilling both my duty to go to the polling station and my right to abstain.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair enough. I’m with you on 1 and 2 (though I don’t think he’ll abolish the monarchy), and partly on 4. But we can’t have everything, and insisting on it will only get us nothing. When it comes to the polling booth, I generally vote for the candidate (not the party) I can marginally trust. Next time, however, I think I’ll vote Labour whatever. The times are too critical for abstentions.


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