Professor Stephen Hawking has this week put his neck out, to the extent that he can, to call for the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader on the basis that he “has allowed himself to be portrayed as a left wing extremist”.
The problem with Corbyn is not so much that he has allowed himself to be portrayed as an extremist – though that would be a problem – but instead that he has allowed himself to be portrayed as an ineffectual crackpot. He is seen to have all the unrealistic and potentially damaging ideological positions of an extremist, while simultaneously lacking the decisiveness, rhetoric and drive for power so often carried by other extremist leaders, often on the hard left.
Corbyn is anything but hard. Nor is he sharp. For Theresa May PMQs now resembles an easy mode fight against the lowest level boss in Mortal Commons. Corbyn misses any opportunity to attack, to ad-lib, to make hay. He ploughs on with his script, a symptom of a lack of confidence in a man out of his comfort zone.
This masks Theresa May’s own lack of charisma, who through a voice riddled with crippling tension shrieks out crowbarred lacklustre puns and dull, middle of the road platitudes. It is only in comparison to the ambling, conflict avoidant Corbyn that she can be greeted as a larger than life strongwoman and proficient put down merchant.
I mean not to attack Corbyn as a human being. The man is nice. Politics is not. His inability to thrive in the rough and tumble makes him and labour look both weak and incompetent. The most common criticism of Corbyn amongst the general public is not that he is mad or bad, but rather sad. That he isn’t up to the job, that he is a bit crap.
The sad fact of the matter is that the campaign to deprive Corbyn of any shred of credibility has succeeded. The best thing that Labour can do is to replace him, to bring in a new leader who can don the mantle of rescuer and restorer, not of New Labour, but of Labour as a credible opposition, which is clearly led, and to the largest possible extent unified.