I live in Camberwell, in what could be described as Camberwell-Peckham borders (in other words, when I’m applying for a bank account in live in Camberwell; when I want to seem edgy, I live in Peckham). It is, as most of you will know already, an incredibly diverse area, both ethnically and socio-economically. It is also core Labour territory; in fact, post-losing Scotland completely and on the cusp of losing the north of England and Wales, my part of south London may be one of the few parts of the country than can claim to be core Labour territory any longer.
I have two kids, which brings me into contact with other children’s parents, teachers, librarians; people who would never think of voting for anyone but Labour. A year ago, most of these people were solid Jeremy Corbyn supporters, and even seemed to take any criticism of him personally; he was “their guy”, the one political leader who seemed to care about the problems that they faced. But as the general election campaigns have kicked off, I’ve seen a sudden change in this dynamic.
A local woman who had previously had nothing but praise for Corbyn spoke to me the other day, specifically about the performances of Corbyn and Abbott. I want to preface this by saying that I in no way pushed the conversation towards this area; I keep pretty schtum about my dislike of Corbyn around Camberwell and Peckham and try and avoid politics as a topic of conversation with teachers and other parents. She was absolutely scornful towards Abbott: “How could she go on the radio and not know what she was talking about? People are depending on her to win this election and it’s like she doesn’t give the slightest toss.” About Corbyn though, she was emotional, a lump in her throat audible. “That ‘Monsieur Zen’ stuff. The Tories want to tear everything down, close our schools and hospitals. And he’s totally relaxed about it all.” Then came the stinger: “It’s like he doesn’t care about winning the election at all.”
I was amazed, mostly because I didn’t think any of that stuff was filtering through to a non-Westminster bubble audience at all. Also, the woman had very perceptively picked up on something real: Corbyn is relaxed because he knows he isn’t going to win, and furthermore doesn’t really care about that fact. He’s about to see a whole load of PLP members whom he dislikes lose their seats, creating a Labour Party that will be a pure, socialist vehicle, and he’s overjoyed. As for those who are desperate for a Labour government – who feel they will feel the brunt of any Tory cuts and are terrified – well, they can get stuffed. The revolution is more important.
People ask me all the time why I’m so mean to Jeremy Corbyn; why I seem to feel such a personal, almost visceral dislike of the man. And this is it: he has gained the trust of millions of people who have bought into his routine and believe that he knows what he’s doing in honestly going about trying the best he can to become prime minister. But he has no intention of doing that – he knows he will never walk into Number 10 with a majority and furthermore, doesn’t want to. It’s like he’s leading a whole group of people towards a cliff, only they think it’s the border to a new Eden, all while he knows without doubt that it’s a cliff and furthermore, he’s the only one holding a parachute. I find that deeply morally reprehensible.
While people such as the woman in Camberwell who related her horror to me at the “Monsieur Zen” routine will almost certainly vote Labour in four weeks’ time, one has to wonder for how much longer they will continue doing so. Particularly after June 9th, when they will wake up in horror to find the Tories with a huge majority – and Corbyn on television wearing a broad smile, talking about how much more work he has to do as Labour leader.