I knew Corbyn’s first week as leader of the opposition would be tricky, but at times I’m not sure Jeremy himself saw it all coming. To go from having to shout to be heard even a little bit on anything to suddenly having your every single word and facial gesture endlessly poured over must be an incredibly difficult adjustment to have to make. I know I wouldn’t want the gig myself.
But the thing I worry most for Corbyn is the concept of “compromise” and how a lot of his supporters see it. When I wrote this week about the whole “God Save the Queen” saga (apologies for continuing to mention this by the way – it only encapsulates everything so perfectly because it doesn’t really matter at all), I got a lot of replies on social media around the idea of compromise. “You’re asking JC to compromise on his pinciples for political advantage,” one tweeter said. “If he does that he’s like all the rest.” The problem with this line is that we’re only a week into the Corbyn era and already there have been compromises galore.
Take Jeremy’s position on the EU. Do you really understand it? I know he’s sort of put this to rest now by saying that Labour will campaign to stay in regardless, but he’s really bounced around on this a lot these past seven days. I’m not going to go over every position explored by Jeremy and his front bench this week, mostly because it would bore everyone to tears. Then let’s take NATO and Trident. Now, Corbyn has said that Labour will not change its policy on either as it’s “not a priority”. But if this is a man who doesn’t compromise because he isn’t “like all the rest”, and he thinks that Britain having nuclear weapons and being in a military alliance is wrong yet wouldn’t change these things even if he was prime minister – isn’t that a compromise?
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Labour have come to the position they have on Europe (finally), and I actually admire Corbyn’s willingness to compromise myself. You can’t run a major political party with 200+ MPs with the idea that you will never bend on anything. It will end in disaster, and relatively quickly at that. Compromise is a major part of politics as it turns out, which like I say, I don’t think is a bad thing.
If you try and change everything you don’t like about the world in one go, you are guaranteed to fail. If you try and change things one or two items at a time, at least you stand a chance. I’m glad Jeremy has realised this, at least on some minor level. The question is whether or not his supporters will see it the same way. Or if the right-wing press will use his attempts at pragmatism as evidence that his convictions are not as iron-clad as he has led us to believe.
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