A New Kind of Politics?
While in the audience for Question Time, I happened to be sitting next a youngish looking man. At the end of the programme he spoke to a woman in the row behind. He was stating bitterly how unfair the question about Jeremy Corbyn was (“Is Jeremy Corbyn a threat to national security?” was asked by a member of the audience). She replied that people just didn’t understand him and that the media was out to get him. As she offered him a lift in the direction he was going to, it occurred to me that they were not mother and son as I had presumed. Instead, I thought to myself that there is a good chance that they are Corbynistas who’ve met on some sort of rally. Maybe, maybe not. Who knows, I didn’t ask.
It did hit me though that Corbyn didn’t really remind me of any of the previous Labour leaders, not even the more left-wing ones such as Kier Hardie. Then it hit me, he does remind of a leader, just not one from the mainstream political parties. Despite their completely different political ideologies and ideas, Corbyn’s style of leadership reminded me of Oswald Mosley. The similarities that occurred to me were as follows:
- Offering utopian ideals instead of incremental change;
- Preference for fluid party/movement;
- Disdain for the establishment while being part of it;
- Belief in the possibility of shifting the Overton window;
- Dodgy international connections;
- Cult of personality;
- Preference for rallies and run ins with the opposition at ground level;
- Associating with and encouraging more thuggish and abusive elements of their movement while publicly distancing themselves;
- A lack of commitment to democracy as a system.
The last of these is the most striking to me. I still can’t quite fathom why a leader of the opposition would encourage a protest outside a party conference. Why link himself to it at all? It wasn’t organised by the Labour Party, he didn’t attend it and more to the point, he knew it was to disrupt a legitimate party conference, no different to the one his party had held.
Yes, the Conservatives are the government but it is one thing to demonstrate against them in London, quite another outside their conference. Would it be ok in reverse? Should Conservative leaders wish protesters outside the Labour Party Conference well? I can already the hear the cries of they are doing it via legislation instead but this is where the Labour Party has to decide if it is just the political arm of the union movement or is it a political party in its own right regardless of whether unions back it or not. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn then rocked up to the post workers rally just came across as triumphalist. I know he’d booked it in advance, but he is the leader now and I am sure he had lots of events booked in which he has had to change.
It doesn’t matter what I think of the Conservatives, democracy is about allowing a range of political parties to gain power, otherwise I am advocating dictatorship of the party of my choice. Which I think is what some Corbynistas want deep down and I am not convinced that Jeremy himself does not see attaining power as a means of pushing his own personal view of how Britain should be. It is a case of subscribe to his vision or don’t bother.
One of the comments that Corbyn made on the Andrew Marr programme recently that struck me the most was his answer to the question: “what if the party members vote to keep Trident?” His answer was that he would hope to persuade them round to his way of thinking. So really, the democratic process within the party is acceptable so long as they vote for the policies that he wants? Otherwise what? He does what he thinks is right regardless? His announcement that he would never press the button of the nuclear deterrent effectively determines the current position of the party before they even debated one. Is this really respect for democracy?
This post was originally published on the Labour Teachers website.