I really can’t understand what’s not to like about Corbyn. But that’s possibly because I see a lot of me in him. And I wouldn’t make a good PM either. Some recent criticisms of him seem simply ludicrous: wonky glasses, pronouncing ‘Epstein’ in an antisemitic way… (really?!). (It was the German pronunciation of ‘stein’.) Yet people, judging by the ‘Vox pops’ on TV, seem to lap them up.
His (or rather, Labour’s: it’s a collective effort) new Election Manifesto, launched yesterday, ought to be a winner, promising all the things that social democrats like me have been yearning for for years. The Daily Mail, of course, calls it ‘Marxist’. (Do they have any idea what ‘marxism’ really entails?) If successful, it could stop our long Thatcher-generated decline in its tracks, returning Britain to the progressive path it was on before she – or, rather, the neoliberal tide of the time – took over. And Corbyn clearly means it all; unlike Boris’s unconvincing promises – unconvincing because they go right against all the principles he’s been holding to, or pretending to, hitherto.
Boris anyway should have ruled himself out of contention already because of his obvious and notorious lying over the years. How anybody could possibly trust the empty, clownish idiot (knowing Greek doesn’t make you intelligent) who was revealed during his TV ‘debate’ with Corbyn, I can’t credit. (Apparently he’s ducking out of future one-on-one debates.) It must be that – as in the USA – voters simply don’t care about ‘honesty’ any more. Otherwise why did the Conservative Central Office dare to put out that propaganda on the internet disguised as a ‘fact check’ site – and then not turn a hair when it was very quickly revealed as such? (See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-debate-tory-fact-check-uk-twitter-boris-johnson-corbyn-a9209816.html.) I imagine they’re relying on the common popular reaction to this kind of thing: that ‘oh well, politicians are all the same; they all do it’. In this way Labour and Corbyn become tarred with the shit (apologies for the language, and for the mixed metaphor) that really should only attach to the Tories.
Then they go on about Corbyn’s reluctance to say whether he’ll back Brexit or Remain in his promised referendum. For pity’s sake; the ‘Brexit’ choice in that referendum will be a new deal with the EU that he hasn’t negotiated yet. How can he decide at this stage whether that will be worth voting for? I won’t know, until I’ve seen it. If it retains the single market and freedom of movement I might even vote for it. I imagine that Corbyn might too. But at present that’s just a pig in a poke. And the crucial issue is, surely, that he’s proposing a nationwide, and this time better-informed, democratic vote on it; which ought to be valued much more highly than his personal and premature word as ‘leader’. Politics is not always black or white, this or that, chalk or cheese. The ‘ishues’, as Tony Benn used to call them, are always more subtle and complicated. But politicians like Johnson, and much of the ‘commentariat’, don’t seem to be able to rise to that intellectually. ‘Which side is he on?’ sounds a bit like ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’
Lastly, on this whole Brexit thing: one thing that strikes me about Labour’s new programme is how European it is. Commentators have already pointed out that, however expensive it appears measured when against Britain’s spending under Austerity, it doesn’t look at all excessive by the side of several other European countries’ national expenditures, especially those – like Germany and the Scandinavian countries – which are generally reckoned to be far more stable, prosperous and efficient economically than we are. That’s because they are – if only marginally – more Social Democratic, compared with a Britain whose distinguishing feature in Europe since Thatcher’s time has been her abandonment of even mild socialism and her closer adherence to neoliberalism. Hence the support that Brexit and other forms of Europhobia have recently attracted from the political Right (in the ’70s it was more from the Left); and of course from the Americans. That ought to make Corbyn a pro-European. But, again, that will depend on whatever ‘deal’ he manages to negotiate in the meantime.