It's easy to forget how potent a force disappointment can be in politics. If Corbyn loses the membership over Brexit, it could jeopardise his whole political projectby Emma Burnell / January 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
Corbyn’s strength has always been in his relationship with the Labour Party membership. The reason the 2016 “coup” attempt was always bound for failure was that he knew when asked the members would choose him over any other MP.
That campaign—even more than 2015—focused on Jeremy the man, making him indivisible from his political programme. This gave him the strength to put Labour on a path towards socialism it hadn’t been on in decades. And those like myself who worried about the electability of such a strategy were proved wrong. The 2017 manifesto offered policies that would transform our economy “for the many not the few” and added ten points to Labour’s performance as a result.
But the internal political gains the left has made within Labour come attached, at the moment, solely to the figure of Jeremy Corbyn. No one else gets a look in when it comes to the members. The programme and the man have become so indistinguishable that even those who have shown great loyalty are considered suspect (by some) if they show a glimmer of future leadership ambition.
Supportive, left wing MPs like Angela Rayner and Clive Lewis regularly come in for criticism for not being loyal enough to Corbyn. Even his right-hand man Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is sometimes seen as not sufficiently Corbynite.
This loyalty—and conflation of Corbyn the man and Corbynism the politics—has proven to the be the man’s greatest asset. But it could be the project’s greatest weakness.
Disappointment is one of the most pernicious forces in politics. Once it sets in little can dislodge it. It doesn’t just change people’s minds, it changes their memories; they don’t simply lose faith in the project they once showed such enthusiasm for, they forget they ever supported it in the first place. And once lost, that enthusiasm is almost impossible to regain.
Just ask Tony Blair. It’s hard to remember now, but he was once known as “Teflon Tony” because nothing stuck to him. Then came Iraq. Few now can remember the adulation with which he was once greeted; the cheering crowds, the chanting and the endless standing ovations.