As I See It

Can Jeremy Corbyn survive as Labour leader?

Terry smiling headAs the EU vote plunges Britain into constitutional crisis, the country yearns for leadership. Unfortunately, we are a bit short in that department.

This is a rare moment in British politics when we have two lame duck leaders of the two main parties at Westminster.

Prime Minister David Cameron is already on his way out and, make no mistake, in spite of his defiance Jeremy Corbyn will be following him.

It is inconceivable that after ten of his front bench team resigned that the Labour leader believes he can continue in office. Without the confidence of his top team he cannot expect to command the respect of the nation.

He is increasingly speaking to no one except his loyal shadow chancellor John McDonnell and a few die-hard Labour frontbenchers such as Andy Burnham, whom he beat in the party leadership campaign, and fellow Islington MP Emily Thornberry, who speaks for defence.

Mr Corbyn’s lacklustre support for the EU Remain campaign is being blamed for the rebellion, but this is an opportunistic excuse. The real cause of the discontent is his general failure to connect with the public. Even those who flocked to packed meeting halls during his election campaign, encouraged by his Real Labour message, appear to have lost faith in the left wing rhetoric.

A vote of no confidence will be lodged on Tuesday. If there are insufficient signatories, or he survives the vote, it will be merely a stay of execution.

If, in the event of seeing off the rebels, he chooses to stay on, or fight for the leadership a second time, it would require the mother of all comebacks for him to even think of measuring up the curtains for 10 Downing Street.

His ability to lead Labour into government has been an increasingly unlikely scenario ever since Mr Corbyn assumed the party leadership following Ed Miliband’s disastrous general election campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn Commons It is easy to see the initial appeal. Mr Miliband conducted an energetic campaign, but ultimately struggled to be taken seriously as Prime Minister material. Mr Corbyn had the air of a typical Labour veteran; the look of the ordinary man who wears ordinary clothes and a beard. There was nothing fancy or pretentious about him; he cared little for the image makers.

After he was sacked as shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said Mr Corbyn is a “good and decent man”, and few would disagree. He has also brought a common touch to the Commons, introducing comments from constituents during Prime Minister’s Questions. He is a true democrat and a believer in protecting the vulnerable and disadvantaged. On paper he is the perfect Labour leader.

It is difficult not to conclude that he might have been more successful in a less visual age, a model minister in the party of Attlee, Bevan and Gaitskell.

His inevitable departure will be a loss for the intellectual as well as the ideological wing of Labour which, like all parties, suffers from too many journeymen and careerists. But by remaining in office he may witness the disintegration of a party that is losing its place in British politics: no longer in touch with the working classes, nor sophisticated or brave enough to stand up for wealth creation.

Unfortunately, he has proved not to be the right man at the right time which seemed to be the case a year ago.




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