I joined the Labour Party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, now I want him gone.
by Ben D-T
I joined the Labour Party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I paid £3 just over a year ago to join what I thought was going to be a positive moment in British politics. I thought that Jeremy Corbyn was the leader Labour needed and, as an idealistic young socialist, I was excited.
Despite all of that, I voted for Andy Burnham. Yeah, I know. Despite all of my idealism and hope, at the last moment I opted for someone who I saw as more electable. I put Burnham as my first choice, Corbyn second, Yvette Cooper third and Liz Kendall fourth. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now about Jeremy Corbyn, I’d back Yvette Cooper.
At the time, despite not backing the winner, I was excited about Jeremy Corbyn and about the Labour Party. I knew Corbyn faced huge challenges. I knew it would be an uphill battle. But I honestly, naively, believed Jeremy could do it.
Now, I want Corbyn gone. The past six months have seen a gradual decline in my confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. It started as a trickle of irritation and concern in January and now it’s now a flood of anger and disappointment.
There were 7 key events that led me this moment. Here they are, in all their horror.
1. The Shadow Cabinet reshuffle – January
Corbyn began his reshuffle on 11 January and remarkably managed to drag it out for four days. From Monday to Thursday we all watched Corbyn make non-decision after non-decision about whether to sack Hilary Benn from the post of Shadow Foreign Secretary or whether to announce anything new before the end of the day.
Journalists in Westminster sat on staircases outside Corbyn’s office waiting for news for hours only to be told nothing new would be announced that day. Reshuffles are planned in advanced and are carried out swiftly. This reshuffle seemed to be neither of those things. It was a mess and ended only really led to Emily Thornberry, open minded about Trident renewal, replacing Maria Eagle, very much for Trident renewal, as Shadow Defence Secretary.
The January reshuffle should have taken a day and it yet it took four. It was the first real sign of the chaos that has come to define Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
2. Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation – March
When Iain Duncan Smith resigned following George Osborne’s budget in March, remarkably citing cuts to disability benefits as being at the heart of his decision, it felt like all of Labour’s Christmases had come at once. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions resigning in protest against his own Chancellor’s budget, that was huge.
That happened on Friday 18 March. The following week the Prime Minister was called to Parliament to make a statement on the refugee crisis in Europe. That happened on Monday 21 March. Corbyn’s reply to the PM’s statement was Labour’s best oppertunity to exploit the divisions in the government during his leadership. He could have lambasted the Tories for IDS’s resignation. He should have done that. He needed to do that. He didn’t do that.
At the time I thought it was just a misjudgment, maybe he got some bad advice from his team. I was annoyed, but not all that angry at Corbyn. A couple of months later it was revealed in a Vice News documentary that Corbyn made the decision, but I’ll come onto that later.
3. PMQs – Almost every week
Corbyn’s Commons performance after IDS’s resignation leads me well onto his weekly performances at PMQs. They’ve been, quite frankly, rubbish. At first I liked the idea of using questions sourced from the public. That felt fresh and new and part of the change I thought would come with Corbyn’s victory. However it soon appeared obvious that this approach gave Cameron an easy ride, and it was soon abandoned.
Corbyn’s approach at PMQs is too often a bizarre scatter-gun approach of firing off random topics which the Prime Minister bats away with ease. When he does stick to one issue Corbyn’s questions are a rambling, incoherent mess where you often lose track of what on earth he’s talking about. A memorable example comes in this piece by the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman from 11 May. Corbyn asks:
‘Mr Speaker, I support a wage rise, obviously, the point I am making is that it is not a living wage! It is not a living wage, as is generally understood. Um, Mr Speaker, ummm, saying yes seems to be one of the hardest words for the Prime Minister. For a third time, could he just say whether he does or does not support the posting of workers’ directive? He might be aware that Patrick Minford, a former economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said that the European Union has had a negative effect on the City of London, and he would want the shackles of European regulation removed. Does the Prime Minister believe that membership hurts the City of London, or does he believe that European Union regulation of the finance sector in Britain and British administered tax havens would help the sort of bad practice exposed by the Panama Papers, or underlined by my friend in his earlier question today?’
What the hell does that even mean? There’s about three different questions in that. Once you ask a question just stop and wait for an answer, don’t babble on and ask more questions.
Corbyn’s only ever had a couple of genuinely good performances ad PMQs. More often than not his questions are rambling nonsense like the example above. Go back an watch any PMQs from Corbyn’s time as leader. After Corbyn’s six questions Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons, is allowed two. Just look at how much more impact Robertson can make in two questions than Corbyn can in six.
4. Response to Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism – April
In late April it became clear Labour have a problem with anti-Semitism among some of its members and senior figures. It began when Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, was suspended for comments she made on Facebook about Israel in 2014. The same day Ken Livingstone went onto the radio station LBC to defend Naz Shah and began a grim crusade to seemingly mention Hitler at every possible oppertunity.
Livingstone made comments suggesting Hitler supported Zionism. The former Mayor of London was suspended, rightly, from the party. Corbyn obviously did the right thing to suspend Livingstone, what was needed following that decision was swift and decisive action tackling of the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. We didn’t get that.
For days on end whenever he was asked about the issue Jeremy Corbyn seemed almost physically incapable of commenting on anti-Semitism in isolation. He kept saying that Labour was totally opposed to anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms. It was that bit, the add on, that drove me mad.
Take this Corbyn quote from a LabourList article:
“And so we stand absolutely against anti-Semitism in any form. We stand absolutely against racism in any form.”
It was this moment that I really began to question Corbyn. I really began to doubt whether I could support a man who just refused to condemn anti-Semitism in isolation. It was all downhill from here.
5. Local Elections – May
The local elections in May were awful for Labour and you’re living on another planet if you think otherwise. The mayoral election victories in London for Sadiq Khan and Bristol for Marvin Rees were undeniably good for Labour, but they happened in Labour cities. It would frankly have been more of a surprise if they hadn’t won.
But the local elections, they were bad. Net results for Labour were 18 lost councilors and no change in councils controlled. Yes the results were not the disasters predicted by some pollsters, but they were by no means good. Labour didn’t make a gain, they just lost less than everyone thought they would. That’s not what opposition parties do. The opposition are meant to make gains at local elections, it’s just meant to happen.
So what was Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction to all this? He said “we hung on”. That is what defines success in Corbyn’s Labour, hanging on. This was when I finally came to terms with the cold hard truth: there is just no path for a Labour victory at the next general election under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
6. Vice News documentary – June
Vice News released a documentary called “The Outsider” on 31 May. It followed Corbyn and his team behind the scenes for several months. It was incredible.
There were three things in particular about this documentary that shocked, angered and disappointed me.
Firstly, Corbyn revealed his honest opinions of the media and how he believes they’re all out to get him. He described an article on Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism by Jonathan Freedland as “utterly disgusting subliminal nastiness”. He also seemed to believe the BBC were intentionally spinning stories as problems for him. This kind of paranoid delusion was always present among some of the members, but to see it at the top of the party was just depressing.
Secondly, it became obvious that it was Jeremy and not any of his staff who decided not to exploit the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith back in March. Seamas Milne, Corbyn’s director of strategy, wrote a speech for Corbyn’s reply to Cameron in the Commons. And then, astoundingly, Jeremy removed references to the government’s disastrous last few days. He said, and this is something I’ll never forget, “It’s not up to me to throw in other than a couple of lines about the government’s in a mess.” Just think about that. Leader of Her Majesty Most Loyal Opposition Jeremy Corbyn thinks it isn’t his job to exploit the government’s weaknesses. This told me that he wasn’t just bad at his job, he had a totally incorrect view of what it actually was.
Finally, there was the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Towards the end of the documentary Corbyn gave an uncomfortable and reluctant interview about Ken Livingstone and his anti-Semitic remarks in the days prior. He spoke of them as “inappropriate remarks” and seemed to see the issue as just an inconvenient nuisance. It further showed Corbyn’s worrying attitude towards anti-Semitism in the party.
Before the Vice documentary came out I’d lost faith in Corbyn being able to deliver a general election victory. After watching it I’d given up believing he was even a competent politician.
7. The EU referendum
I don’t blame Jeremy Corbyn for the UK voting to leave the EU. Mainly I blame David Cameron for calling a national referendum to deal with an internal party issue. But there is no denying that Jeremy Corbyn’s effort during the referendum campaign was rubbish. His speeches were vague, bizarre and talked about issues like TTIP which most people just simply don’t care about. He seemed wholly uninterested in the issue. And then came a Huffington Post article which contained accusations that Corbyn and the Labour leadership intentionally sabotaged the Remain campaign.
Here’s a brief outline of the things you can learn from that article about how Corbyn and his team went about the campaign:
- Pro-EU campaign events were removed from Jeremy Corbyn’s schedule by his staff.
- Alan Johnson, head of the Labour In campaign, asked for a meeting with Corbyn in April and was told he’d only get one in July.
- Seamas Milne repeatedly removed pro-EU references from speeches Corbyn was due to give.
- Corbyn chose to focus on matters like TTIP despite being told voters simply didn’t care about that issue.
- The leader’s office refused to focus on the referendum campaign until after the May local elections.
- The phrase “That’s why I’m campaigning to remain in the EU” was removed from numerous speeches.
- Corbyn nearly went on a visit to Turkey to talk about open borders before it was stopped by other parts of the party.
- Corbyn refused to work with Labour figures like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair .
- Corbyn’s staff refused to allow the Labour In campaign to address concerns about immigration.
There’s two possible interpretations of Labour’s campaign. Either Jeremy Corbyn and his team are incompetent and downright terrible at politics, or they intentionally sabotaged the Remain campaign. One of those has to be true. I desperately hope it’s the first one.
There you go. There’s your seven step guide to going from an inspired, excited Jeremy Corbyn supporter who thought the country was about to change for the better, to a bitter, disappointed, angry and disillusioned Labour member who sees getting rid of Corbyn as the only possible way forward.
As I began writing this, Shadow Cabinet members began resigning en-masse. As of this moment, following the sacking of Hilary Benn at around 1am this morning, Heidi Alexander, Lilian Greenwood, Gloria De Piero, Seema Malhotra, Lucy Powell, Ian Murray, Kerry McCarthy, Vernon Coaker, Lord Falconer, nine in total, have resigned. More resignations are expected. Jeremy will almost certainly lose the confidence vote in him next week.
I used to love Corbyn, now I don’t even like him. Labour’s time under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has to come to an end, and it has to do so now.