Apparently she wants to tell us that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership isn’t as different from his forerunners as he wants people to think, and that this comes out most prominently in the way he has passed over women when appointing the top jobs in his shadow cabinet.
I don’t believe for a moment that this is Corbyn being trashed from a feminist perspective; it is as a Blairite that Catherine Bennett seems to be writing.
She certainly takes up the Blairite case that Corbyn’s attitude in Prime Minister’s Questions is inappropriate:
Corbyn will have no truck with the ridiculous convention among party leaders of trying to win elections. He concentrates, instead, on enhancing his power base. “I am not a traditional kind of party leader, I do things in a rather different way.”
Again, at prime minister’s questions, Mr Corbyn repeatedly rejects tradition, such that the opposition seizes this chance to flay the enemy.
Not “trying to win elections” is a typical Blairite criticism. Yet Corbyn did remarkably well in May, considering the fact that a huge percentage of mass media coverage worked very hard to bring him down.
We were told he would lose hundreds of seats and be forced to resign. In the end, he lost 11. How many of those were due to adverse newspaper coverage? Did Ms Bennett have anything to do with it?
I don’t know if “femsplaining” is a real word. It should be; we’ve been told all about “mansplaining”, after all. Ms Bennett seems keen to femsplain Corbyn’s attitude to women in the Labour Party:
In many respects, the Vice film demonstrates, Corbyn the outsider’s is a supremely traditional operation.
Like Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown before him, he shows a firm preference for a male-dominated team, its mission to sustain the fantasy that the chosen oddball can prevail: a skilled operation that would evidently be jeopardised if any woman were allowed a speaking role. Women’s freedom to sit silently, even to clap, is, however, one of the key respects in which life inside Corbyn’s office can be seen to differ from arrangements on all-male Mount Athos.
It was mansplained, to disappointed observers, that only the silliest woman would think that chancellor, or foreign secretary, is a more prestigious role than, say, international development, the job given to Diane Abbott.
But Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is evenly spread between men and women and Ms Bennett avoids a crucial point: He has to appoint the right person for each job. Perhaps he offered top jobs to women and was turned down (many ShadCab posts were turned down by disgruntled right-wingers, as Ms Bennett should know perfectly well), so it is not beyond the realms of reason for him to appoint on the basis of the skills base that remained.
But Ms Bennett neglects to mention the mass Blairite flounce, and this is what gives her away.
She’s trying to put women off Jeremy Corbyn, for sure. But not from a feminist perspective.
She’s trying to put women off Jeremy Corbyn to strengthen the Blairite, right-wing, neoliberal side of the Labour Party.
Bear in mind that elections to the National Executive Committee (NEC) will take place soon. The Blairite right is working hard to take control, in order to make it as hard as possible for Mr Corbyn to run an effective opposition to the Conservative Government.
Hence Jim Murphy’s sabotage of left-winger Rhea Wolfson’s candidacy in her home constituency party.
Hence this article by Catherine Bennett.
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