What undid Cameron’s premiership wasn’t the Brexit referendum; that was merely a symptom of the approach that he took that killed his political career. Which was that he was always too concerned with the whims of parliamentary party and bent over backwards to try and keep them onside. This was why he promised the In/Out referendum in the first place; he wanted something to stop his backbenchers defecting to UKIP.
I suppose it’s easy for me to say that he should have just let them leave the party, if they dared, or bring down his leadership, if they could. I don’t think either would have happened, but again, easy for me to say as I wasn’t the prime minister. What is intriguing is while Theresa May’s premiership was not destroyed by this impulse but rather an act of personal hubris, nonetheless, her whole strategy towards Brexit has been shaped by pleasing her parliamentary party. A lot of what she has said around Brexit has often seemed nonsensical in light of what she must have always known was coming her way eventually – yet it all makes perfect sense when you consider the audience it was really aimed at.
Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude towards his parliamentary party is the precise opposite of Cameron and May’s – he doesn’t care about what they think nearly enough. Cameron and May have both gone too far in valuing a united party, while Corbyn has never gone far enough. It seems most of the time as if would actively prefer a divided party, as to have them all relatively happy with the direction of travel would probably make him think he was doing something wrong.
After the general election result was so much better for Labour than pretty much anyone had expected, I wondered for a week or so if I had got Corbyn very wrong. Maybe he was actually some sort of political genius. Perhaps he’d devised a strategy that would get him a much better result than anyone thought, something that would buy him both time and proof that a more left-wing agenda could do electorally better than the Labour right claimed, and then use the whole thing to unite the party behind his agenda. Had he stood on a platform that week behind Yvette Cooper and Chuka, both of them now with high ranking shadow cabinet positions, telling us that the Labour Party was once again united only this time with Blairism dead and buried, even by its once adherents, I would have admitted that I had got the guy wrong on several key counts. I still would disagree with him and dread him becoming prime minister, but I would have to admit my slurs on his competence were off target.
Instead, Corbyn went right back to being who he has always been, which is something short of political genius to be sure. He had benefitted from the Tories’ missteps and inherited seats and a huge vote share pretty much by default. For while it can hurt you to care too much about what your MPs think, in a Westminster system you will be hurt if you care too little. It just hasn’t hurt Corbyn quite yet. But it will come, unless he changes.
Phil Beesley says
Nick Tyrone: “What undid Cameron’s premiership wasn’t the Brexit referendum; that was merely a symptom of the approach that he took that killed his political career. Which was that he was always too concerned with the whims of parliamentary party and bent over backwards to try and keep them onside.”
I can’t make up my mind whether individuals or movements create historical change. Was the Brexit referendum a Cameron choice? The result was close enough that a cannier campaign could have won. A smarter man or woman leading the campaign — somebody with more common sensibilities — had a chance. A single individual could have won the referendum. But the debate would never go away. The Brexit movement would continue and there would have been another referendum.
Relevance to Corbyn? He has created a movement about his person.
I was reading an essay about Tony Benn last night which suggested that he had formed his political opinions in the 1970s and continued to apply them beyond a changing world. Benn’s alternative economics of the 1970s could not work in the 1990s because the world had changed.
Corbyn hasn’t moved since the 1980s. He has said the same thing for 30 odd years. His fan club will unravel when people determine that there isn’t much there which is relevant. There’ll still be a lot of ex-fan club members looking for a new solution.
The obvious difference is that of being PM and being an opposition leader. What Corbyn would be like as PM trying to manage a minority government while facing an economic slump and depleted government revenues is for the moment a matter of conjecture.. For disinterested observers, living outside the UK, it might be quite interesting and rather ironic.
Difference was that Tory members weren’t behind Cameron, so he couldn’t easily lose support of his MPs. Corbyn has the reverse situation.