Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Has Corbyn put his Foot in it?

This has been an astonishing year in British politics and it keeps getting more so. The Labour party has elected the most unlikely of candidates - Jeremy Corbyn - as its leader in scenes reminiscent of the election of Michael Foot, following James Callaghan's departure in 1979. Foot, a respected conscience for the Left and a man of considerable intellectual achievement, was also a non-establishment figure who believed he could change politics by doing it his way. He failed: up against the resurgent Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher, as passionate about her politics as he was about his, he did not appear as a credible Prime Minister.

Cameron is not Thatcher but he has led his party to what we all thought would never happen - a majority in the Commons and the routing of the leaders of the other parties (SNP excepted, of course). Labour has gone for the passionate man of conscience once again, a leader whose own loyalty to the leadership when he was on the backbenches was zero and who believes he can reach out directly to the electorate without the need of a media image. Sadly, we (as an electorate) can only form our opinion of the man through the media image and if he takes no positive steps to project one then it will projected for him, and given the hostility of most of the media to Labour, he will working under a huge disadvantage.

Even so, one might have thought he would have some sort of honeymoon period. Yet just three days after his election he was pictured at the Battle of Britain memorial service not singing (or mouthing, anyway) the National Anthem. Just as Michael Foot's image never recovered from his appearance at the Cenotaph wearing what was described as a "donkey jacket", the label of being disloyal will now be stuck on Corbyn and his disdain for managing the media will mean that no counter-image is put up against it. 

Does he really want to be Prime Minister? He won't last very long if he continues to give that impression, no matter how enthusiastic the crowds at rallies. It only took the Tories a couple of years to silence the "quiet man" [Ian Duncan Smith: Ed]. If Corbyn is still there in two years he will have done well.

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