His speech at last night's rally was staggeringly ineptby Sameer Rahim / June 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Jeremy Corbyn—the politician who never grew up
After work last night, I wandered down to Parliament Square to see the pro-Jeremy Corbyn rally. I went along curious and with an open mind, I hope. I joined Labour as a student in 1999—recruited, as it happens, by prominent Corbyn supporter Richard Burgon MP—but left after the Iraq War. Since then no leader—not Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband—had impressed me much. When Corbyn was elected leader last year, my interest in Labour was reignited. I live in the constituency next to him and knew he was an excellent local MP; he seemed principled, unafraid to back unpopular but noble causes like the plight of refugees; and I understood the members’ urge to sweep away the half-baked careerists standing against him for the leadership. Part of me hoped that, like the unfancied Emperor Claudius, he would be dragged unwillingly to power and then grow into the role. Perhaps he wouldn’t conquer Britain, as Claudius did, but he might nudge the centre of gravity further leftwards.
That hasn’t happened—and last night’s rally showed part of the reason why. In his speech, the Leader of the Opposition displayed a staggering ineptitude. Through its own hubris, the Tory government has led the country over the top into Brexitland. There is a constitutional crisis. There will be more austerity. The markets are tumbling. There might be a recession. The world is looking at us with bemusement and frustration. The country is rudderless. Yet Corbyn did not talk about any of these issues at all. The words European and Union did not pass his lips. He simply repeated the same stump speech he gave when running for leader: welcome refugees, worry about inequality, oppose the Tories. Fine sentiments that have never felt more hollow and unachievable.
Corbyn’s problem, it seems to me, is his barnacle-like passivity. He sees himself as a vehicle of other people’s hopes—a prophet of the ignored. To compromise or box clever, to set traps for his opponents or make unexpected alliances—in other words to do politics—means betraying his people’s dreams. Emotionally, as much as intellectually, he cannot countenance this. His colleagues seem to realise this—hence the countless resignations, by no means all from the…