Last week I wrote a short piece about our two main party leaders. I touched upon trust, decision-making and our long-held view of what a ‘leader’ should be. After some post hoc editing (as usual)*, I came to the few half-conclusions. Yes, both May and Corbyn are flawed, but I stand by my opinion that with regards to parliamentary votes, Corbyn has a stronger record. Something that I believe is a valuable measure of leadership, and on that front he leads by example.
As easy as it is to look across the aisle and place a damning verdict upon your adversary and their performance, sometimes a bit of self-reflection and self-criticism are required, so that’s what I’ll do here.
Truth be told, it’s difficult to judge who would be a ‘better’ Prime Minister overall at this stage. May has less than a year on the job, and Corbyn has led a fractured and disorganised Labour Party for under two. I don’t think its unreasonable that many view May as a surer hand, especially at such a pivotal time in British politics.
It might come as a surprise to you that I am not as much as a ‘Corbynista’ as it might at first appear. Whilst I subscribe to Corbyn’s values, and agree with him on a great number of things, I have my reservations about the direction of the party. Yes, I’m a fan of his voting record, I much prefer his brand of politics to Theresa May’s, and I view him as more trustworthy and less sly, but there are without doubt underlying issues with his Labour Party, perhaps decisively so.
Corbyn cuts a polarising figure, and Labour are a calamitously divided party, which makes us a less well-organised opposition for it. We don’t play the game as well as the Conservatives, and it shows. Not to mention that Labour dropped the ball in a big way during the referendum, something that Corbyn has to take responsibility for.
There was the opportunity to seize the initiative by presenting Labour as an attractive and sustainable alternative to the Conservatives, and they didn’t take it. Instead, the party turned to the Government and said “Hey, if you think your in-fighting is bad, watch this.” Nobody likes a ‘one-upper’, and more crucially, at the time when the Conservatives were most vulnerable, Labour failed to capitalise.
Candid as that indictment may be, I would rather Corbyn than May, but I don’t think that’s saying much considering my political beliefs. Objections to Corbyn are so widely held that they’re difficult to ignore, and I wouldn’t disagree that there is substance to the dissatisfaction with the current Labour Party. Regardless of whether or not it’s just, the tag of ‘unelectable’ is difficult to shake. Politics is perception, and perceptions endure.
Six weeks out, it’s not looking like who, but by how much. This campaign is about damage limitation for Labour and we have to be realistic in our expectations. Post-election, although most likely smaller, we need to be a better organised and more efficient opposition. We need to unite behind a new and more effective leader and we need to ultimately focus on 2022 and holding the next government to account. Now may be the time to cut our losses, lick our wounds and get on with it.
* The great thing about technology is the constant ability to edit and alter post hoc. Some might consider this cheating, but it allows for the author to both clarify and qualify, which I think is advantageous.