One focus group member said Mr Corbyn’s appearance would make the UK a laughing-stock abroad. Does he look bad to you?
He is a man who has just won an election – overwhelmingly – with no tie and with his vest showing. Putting on a suit is the last thing Jeremy Corbyn needs to do.
But already, only two weeks into his leadership of the Labour Party, people are trying to change him. They voiced concern about his unwillingness to sing the National Anthem or bend the knee to the Queen, for example.
He’s a Republican and an Atheist, so these things are against his principles. We all knew this before he was elected, and he was elected anyway. It’s a little late to complain about them now!
His attitude to terrorist organisations has also been called into question, even though it is the same attitude that brought peace to Northern Ireland when Tony Blair tried it out.
And then there’s the question of his dress sense. The Graun had a go in an article today: “‘I find him exciting in some ways but then I have other thoughts on the national anthem and not dressing appropriately. There is a time and a place to fight those fights,’ said a woman, not the only one to link notions of being ‘scruffy’ with credibility (‘We’d be a laughing stock abroad,’ said another).”
Is Yanis Varoufakis a laughing stock around here? Of course not. But his dress sense is far from conventional.
Yanis Varoufakis (left) with George Osborne. The trustworthy one isn’t wearing a tie.
What we’re seeing is the typical hypocrisy of the Middle Class, which can be summed up as: “He can do the job but we don’t want him if he won’t keep up appearances.” These are the people who want Hyacinth Bucket (remember her?) running the country.
But what people in these focus groups say isn’t nearly as influential as what is said by those who organise them and interpret their comments – usually in line with the wishes of whoever is paying.
So Deborah Mattinson of Britain Thinks, the organiser of the focus groups quoted in the Graun, tells us: “They already know quite a bit about him and they are worried about what they regard as ‘extreme’ policies.
“They’re worried, for example, that he does not speak to their concerns about the economy and immigration, that he won’t unite the Labour party and that under his leadership it will become divided and weak.”
That is not what the people themselves said. You can feel the influence of the paymasters bleeding through – or so it seems to This Writer.
Mrs Mike feels the same way. A few days ago, she asked me to write an article supporting Mr Corbyn’s position on clothing, the economy (anti-austerity), foreign affairs (negotiation rather than aggression), and – very strongly – his own personal beliefs.
Her belief – and I agree with it – is that it is these unique qualities that lifted Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party.
The voters who put him there will be angry if he lets the spads and focus groups mould him into something they don’t support – and rightly so.
The message could not be clearer: Sack the spads, Jeremy. Put away the focus groups. They’re not focusing on anything you need to worry about.
Isn’t it desperately disappointing that, after the British people showed Ed Miliband in no uncertain terms that Labour is still going in the wrong direction, his first response was an appeal for us all to rally in support of his values, whatever they are.
No, Ed, no. It’s time the Labour Party gave up trying to force us to accept something we don’t want. It’s time you gave up being Tory Lite. It’s time – for crying out loud, this isn’t rocket science! – it’s time you gave us all a chance to believe you share our values!
Can you do that – you and your pseudo-socialist friends Ed Balls, and Yvette Cooper, and Tristram Hunt (and the rest)? If not, you need to make way for people who can – before it is too late.
The people’s response to Labour’s offer was written very clearly across ballot papers all over the country on Thursday: Too similar to the Conservatives! We won’t have either! In fact, we’ll support a party that is even more madly right-wing than either of you, just to show that we don’t want you.
And that’s just the response of those who voted. Those who didn’t were making an even plainer message: Why bother, when there isn’t a cigarette paper that can slide between any of you?
Look at this response from Terry Cook on the Vox Political Facebook page: “It [Labour] needs to prove it doesn’t share UKIP or Tory values; simple.”
Now look at the graph at the top of this article, showing that the public has lost faith in Labour every time it has supported reactionary, right-wing, Conservative, neoliberal policies – while announcements of policies that actually help people have restored support to the party.
The people don’t believe Labour should be having anything to do with anti-Socialist schemes. Here’s Alan Weir: “Labour lost my vote. They are no longer a socialist party and do not represent my views.”
He’s one of millions of potential Labour supporters, Ed! Why are you slinging them out wholesale in order to gain a handful of Daily Mail readers (a forlorn hope anyway)?
The evidence suggests increasing numbers of people are rebelling against Conservative control – but the lack of any credible alternative from Labour has left them with nowhere to go. In that sense, Labour may be said to be driving people away from democracy and into slavery in a complete U-turn – away from the principles on which the party was created.
Martin Williams: “He is totally ignoring the electorate because these people only do democracy when it suits them!”
Ros Jesson: “Some Labour people… on BBC’s coverage… their frustration with the leadership was almost palpable.”
Ed’s message highlighted his values of “hard work, fairness and opportunity”. What did people think of that?
“I am sick to death of ‘hard work’ being touted as a value, as if those desperate to find a job were of no value,” commented Pauline Vernon. “The Labour Party is still so determined to occupy the middle ground they are becoming indistinguishable from the Conservatives.”
Paula Wilcock: “Half hearted promises, no believable policies. I want to hear a realistic plan of what they are going to do to get voters like me… to go back to the Labour Party.”
Baz Poulton (who supplied the image), had this to say: “Why not actually stand up for Labour values and ideals instead of just subscribing to the same as the Tories? Labour’s support has been dwindling as they have become more and more right wing… Standing more in line with Labour’s original values sees an obvious climb in support, while their desperation to be more Tory than the Tories is seeing their support suffer.
“It’s obvious why that happens, and what they need to do to get the support of their traditional voters who are turning elsewhere now. Labour’s manifesto reads like the Tory one.”
The worst of it is that, looking at the historical context, this is what Labour wanted– from the New Labour days onward. Look at Owen Jones’ recent Guardian article: “For years the political elite has pursued policies that have left large swaths of Britain gripped by insecurity: five million people trapped on social housing waiting lists; middle-income skilled jobs stripped from the economy; the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era, in a country where most people in poverty are also in work.”
That was exactly what Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley planned back in the 1970s, as revealed in The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain: “Their view was that defeat of the movement that had forced Heath’s U-turn would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base. The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities.
“Very large-scale unemployment would end the ‘cycle of rising expectations,’ [and] permit the historic defeat of the trade union movement.”
This is exactly what Owen Jones wrote about on Monday. Nicholas Ridley put these ideas forward in (for example) the Final Report of the Policy Group on the Nationalised Industries in – prepare to be shocked – 1977.
And Labour – in office – did nothing about it. This is part of the reason people don’t trust Labour now.
Let’s go back to Mr Jones: “For years Labour has pursued a strategy of professionalising its politicians: its upper ranks are dominated by privileged technocrats who have spent most of their lives in the Westminster bubble.
“The weakening of trade unions and local government has purged working-class voices from a party founded as the political wing of organised labour: just four per cent of all MPs come from a manual background.
“Special advisers are parachuted into constituencies they have never heard of.
“Policies are decided by focus groups; a language is spoken that is alien to the average punter, full of buzzwords and jargon such as ‘predistribution’ and ‘hard-working people better off’.”
All of these things are wrong. There’s no point in even going into the reasons; any right-thinking person will agree that an MP who has never had a proper job (working as a researcher for another MP doesn’t count) is infinitely less use than one who has had to work for a living.
What is Labour’s reaction to UKIP’s Euro win? “The likes of Ed Balls want to respond to the high tide of Farageism with a firmer immigration-bashing message.” In other words, following UKIP’s right-wing lead.
Owen is correct to say: “This is political suicide”. In fact, for Ed Balls, it should be a sacking offence. He’s got no business coming out with it and has embarrassed Labour and its supporters by doing so.
He is also right to say that Labour must be more strident about its policies. Not only that, these policies must address the problems that have been created by neoliberal Conservatism and reverse the trends. That doesn’t mean using the same tools, as New Labour tried – because when the electorate gets tired of Labour again, the Tories would be able to change everything back and hammer the poor like never before.
No – it means removing those tools altogether. A fresh approach to clean out the rot – and the vigilance required to ensure it does not return.
If Ed Miliband really wants to win next year’s election – and this is by no means certain at the moment – then Labour needs to rediscover the values of the British people.
And that means paying attention when we say what those values are.
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