Robert Tyler looks over Jeremy Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader.
“A week is a long time in politics.”, Harold Wilson once quipped. Jeremy Corbyn would do well to listen and learn from one of his predecessors as Labour Leader if he hopes to have a career even half as successful as the former Prime Minister.
A week ago today, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party with a quarter of a million vote, not bad for a man who struggled to get on the ballot at the last minute. The tide of support for him, known as Corbynmania, has been a political force to be reckoned with. His ability to galvanise the Grassroots, stands testament to what he achieved in the political wilderness for the last couple of decades.
The largest bulk of his grassroots support seems to come from groups such as CND, UK Uncut, Occupy and the Unions. A coalition of the loony left, cobbled together under one man. It is perhaps little surprise that he celebrated at a pub in his Islington constituency by hugging the leader of the UKs largest Union and joining in a chorus of people singing ‘The Red Flag’, before heading off to a rally for migrants.
What was perhaps surprising though, was his choice of Shadow Cabinet. Many had assumed he would create a broad coalition of Socialists, Moderates and Blairites. Instead he opted for a Cabinet of deeper shades of red. He has appointed an IRA Sympathiser to be Shadow Chancellor, a Vegan to deal with farming and fishing, and his ex to Overseas Development. It almost looks a bit like someone was playing fantasy cabinet and trying to create the most left wing one possible.
Corbyn watchers went from surprise to shock on Monday when Jeremy Corbyn arrived for the memorial service at Westminster Abbey. The shock wasn’t just at the fact that he was actually wearing a tie, but rather at the fact that he didn’t sing the national anthem. Outrage quickly spread at the fact that the lifelong republican, and Leader of her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition refused to show proper respect at the service. Needless to say it adorned the front pages the next day and lead many media savvy Blairites to wave good bye to decades of detoxifying work.
After snubbing HRH, he quickly drove down to Brighton to address a rabble rousing TUC Conference, at which Red Len threatened to create “Civil Unrest”. This is perhaps to be expected from one of the more moderate friends of Jeremy Corbyn, whose other close allies include George Galloway, Red Ken and members of Hamas. Corbyn’s speech demonstrated yet another of his shortcomings, the fact that he isn’t a very motivational, or good, public speaker. However he did come across as being more at home at the TUC than in Westminster Abbey, perhaps not the best sign for someone who hopes to be Head of Government one day.
Tuesday rolled round and it was clear that Corbyn’s actions at the memorial service where unpopular to say the least. Perhaps more damningly and underreported was the passage of the government’s proposal to limit tax credits. I don’t wish to get into a debate about the issue, or discuss the merits of such a proposal. But perhaps what was most important about the passage of the proposal was the majority with which it did so. Despite some backbench opposition, the bill still passed. This leads me to the important matter of the Government’s Majority, which has arguably now increased from 16 (with SF abstentions) to 36 with both DUP and UUP supporting the Government against Corbyn’s IRA sympathisers.
Perhaps things would be better on Wednesday? Yet Corbyn didn’t help himself any more by allowing one of his heavies to knock over a cameraman. Perhaps even less advisable when Michael Crick finds out about it. Then on to PMQs, a chance for Corbyn to demonstrate that he can hold the government to account. At least that’s what people thought until he turned PMQs into an LBC Chat Show by asking other people’s questions, without follow up. What was perhaps more noticeable was the lack of charisma he had when asking these questions. What used to be a quick fire event, with tough questions and scrutiny, has been devalued and now seems to last an eternity. Where six questions perhaps didn’t seem enough, they now feel like too many. Perhaps the real hero of PMQs this week was Nigel Dodds, who questioned Corbyn’s support for the IRA and his friend Gerry Adams.
At the end of PMQs, no one could really tell if there was a winner or not. Either way, it wasn’t Corbyn. The rest of the week has been nothing but the Leader of the Opposition defending himself against his actions. Perhaps Corbyn is not ready for front bench politics, and something tells me he may never be. With daggers already being sharpened by the Blairties, who are no stranger to coups, Corbyns time as leader may be limited. However if he does fight off a revolt, it may not help him either, with talks that some elements of the party may split to join either the Liberal Democrats, or even an Osborne lead Conservative Party.
Only time will tell what will happen to Mr Corbyn, all we know is that he simply has to keep living week by week, day by day, because the Backbenches could get him at any moment.