If Corbyn had lost the support of a third of Labour voters in an election then he would be forced out. This is worse than thatby John McTernan / June 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: The age of uncertainty
“It’s not up to me to throw in, other than a couple of lines about ‘the government’s in a mess.’” That is what Jeremy Corbyn said in Vice’s recent fly-on-the-wall documentary, talking about why he wasn’t going to embarrass David Cameron over the shock resignation of Iain Duncan Smith. Instead, he embarrassed himself. Rather brilliantly.
The documentary gave many insights into how Corbyn’s office functions—and it allows us to reconstruct how Labour’s campaign strategy for the European Union referendum was probably devised.
Corbyn effectively decided: “It’s not up to me to throw in, other than a couple of lines about “it would bad to leave the EU.” Remember, his support for Britain’s membership of the European Union was a meagre “seven out of ten,” in his words.
And thus Labour’s campaign strategy was set. There were three key elements:
– devoting most of the time to attacking the Tory government, as if this was a general election. And petulantly refusing to share platforms with senior Tories
– spending most of the rest of the time telling voters they were wrong on immigration and free movement of labour. Even though this was the single most important issue for them and could—and should—have been directly addressed
– selling the benefits of the EU in the tone and style of Socialist Worker in the mid-1970s. Trying to tell working class people who had already experimented with voting Tory or even UKIP that historic rights granted by the UK parliament were delivered and guaranteed by the EU
All of these elements were delivered in the bemused tones of a geography supply teacher having to give a Founder’s Day speech. Lacklustre doesn’t begin to describe the tone in which Corbyn delivered his message.
The consequence was all too predictable. A third of Labour voters, people who had stuck with the party through Ed Miliband and even Corbyn, voted for a campaign led by right wing politicians who want to reset the entire social settlement of the UK—from workers’ rights to the NHS.
The Russians say that “a fish rots from the…