I have friends who are socialists – the Corbyn leadership challenge

*eyes down*

I have friends who are… socialists.

*indrawn breaths and mutterings all round*

I have an unresolved tension in my political soul – I am not much of a socialist, yet I yearn for them to exist. I will speak up for their existence at any turn. Call it the ultimate pluralism. Or maybe a nagging lack of conviction around whether I am really right about absolutely everything. Anyway, I have these friends in and around the Labour party. And I got impatient with the whole attitude of the Blairite wing during their leadership election last year, the one which toppled The Wrong Brother Ed Miliband and elevated Jeremy Corbyn to leadership (which they despaired about), and it’s only now I really understand why.

To be clear (in case it isn’t), I am not particularly a Jeremy Corbyn fan. I would likely find his politics inadequate for the kind of society I envisage as ideal, even if he could express them adequately, which he can’t. He seems, by one report, to be paranoid and strange.

But is his existence a step forward nonetheless?

What I must have seen in him, and what the Momentum movement presumably sees (in a different way), was the possibility that we could stop playing by the old rules, that maybe the “normal” behaviour of politics no longer applied. And this isn’t necessarily because it takes someone particularly brave or mould-breaking to do it, whatever Momentum would like to think.

It might just be that it takes someone a bit dense about that stuff, someone a bit cloth-eared and rigid and without the quick thinking to, say, break up a nasty altercation happening in front of their eyes involving a self-styled supporter. Someone who – and this takes a bit of sinking in – lacks the nous to know when the game is up.

Here we are two weeks on from Brexit, the crisis-to-end-all-crises which should have toppled a doubtful Remainer in days, what with all the other shit hitting the fan, and Jeremy Corbyn is not only still here – he is possibly facing down the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Now, Brown didn’t do this (he stood down before it became ridiculous). Even Blair didn’t do this (he stood down before it even threatened to become ridiculous). The thing is, neither of them were idiots. And maybe it takes an idiot to break a pattern.

Look at what’s happened here. The Parliamentary Labour Party have played their trump card. They have clearly invoked a leadership challenge. They have carried a vote of No Confidence. And Jeremy Corbyn remains, albeit seemingly filming propaganda in his bunker, but he abides. And really, what can you say to that?

Normal people stand down when there is a leadership challenge, normal people know when they’re beaten. Normal people (let’s not be coy about the real mechanism here) know when the press has turned against them, and they curl themselves up into a ball before the lion that is the collective press barons, knowing (because they are clever) that they can either be killed cleanly, or messily. Maybe it takes an idiot to break that cycle.

Jeremy Corbyn probably isn’t a visionary. Nonetheless he has shown us something useful, something that may yet come to fruition in a new and better leader (from any party, not necessarily his): that if you don’t play by The Rules of when you should resign and when you should admit defeat, nothing really that terrible happens to you. As far as the country (usefully distracted in this instance by a bloody Tory leadership election) is concerned, you just carry on.


  1. It’s not really a rule, it is a consequence. If you go into a general election with three quarters of your own MPs having said that you would not be a good PM, you lose that election badly. You have written your opponents leaflets for them.

    The only answer is but whatabout the members? Well what about them. A leader needs the confidence of MPs and members both, and if no such person exists then the Labour Party is stuffed. (And not before time?)

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