For those of you who have been avoiding the news, living in a box, or are reading this in the future, Jeremy Corbyn has caused a social media storm this week with what has been dubbed “Traingate”. Corbyn and his team got on a Virgin train and filmed the Labour leader sat in a corridor, complaining about the lack of seats. Virgin subsequently released CCTV footage of Corbyn on the very same train journey getting up and sitting down in a now miraculously free seat.
All this has caused some to speculate that this shows Corbyn can be fickle with the truth. I would respond by saying we knew that already. As a for instance, Corbyn telling Owen Smith that he was lying when claiming Corbyn suggested triggering Article 50 the day after the EU referendum when in fact Corbyn had said just that – on television for everyone to note for posterity.
Others have speculated that this controversy may cost Corbyn victory in the leadership contest. This is wishful thinking in the extreme. Forget about being caught on camera in a significant bending of the truth – if Corbyn took out an Uzi and began mowing down supporters at a rally, his supporters would find some way to blame the MSM, the PLP or both (“That was a a Corbyn imposter with the gun – members of Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle flanked by Wes Streeting had Jeremy abducted and imprisoned in a bunker in Trenton, New Jersey to facilitate the atrocity”).
No, what #traingate really tells us about Corbyn is just how out of touch with potential Labour voters he is and how deep his fantasist political world runs. So let’s imagine the Virgin train he’d been on had been overcrowded (what I’m sure they were hoping desperately for when they got on) – who cares? I’ve been on plenty of train journeys run by private companies that were deeply awful. I think I’m where most people in the country are on renationalising the railways – great, do it, if it can be done cheaply and effectively. But even people who are on the coal face of this problem, having to take some crappy train every day seatless while their season ticket rises mercilessly every year, won’t vote on this basis because most people think renationalisation probably won’t improve the service all that much anyhow. Call it British cynicism, if you will.
What I’m saying is that in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, when the way the country trades with the rest of the world is up for grabs; while the deficit crawls up again and a new recession looks more and more likely; is moaning about mostly middle class people on cross country trains not getting a seat really the very, very top priority right this second for Her Majesty’s Official Opposition?
This is what really makes Corbyn so unelectable – he’s obsessed with niche issues that are a huge deal to several thousand people but that everyone else would put way down the to do list. If he wants to understand where that leads to eventually, he should have a look at what happened to the Lib Dems.
Every word of this a lie! What is the matter with you nick? He got a train, no seats for 45 mins, commented on it as part of rail nationalisation campaign. Simple. Basic.
Then Branson and Smith and media start telling lies about it, using cctv wrongly and misleading us all. The labour right and right wing press go crazy for blood.
A simple correction by JC backed up by passages and staff show it is all lies and fluff. He was not obsessed. He did not start this. We, his voters, don’t care.
So what this article shows about you is you have no understanding of the political change happening in uk and how sick we are of spinning liars representing us in politics and media.
This rather over the top response rather illustrates Nicks point. The Corbyn fan club spins into action whenever the dear leaders saintliness is remotely questioned. To most people – to most labour voters such as myself and my family – Jeremy and the train incident doesn’t particularly look good – but it is the fan clubs behaviour that comes over as seriously weird and alienating.
nick stewart says
The only thing that was over the top in this whole affair was the ridiculous Branson/media response. Anybody who hasn’t got their head up their (political ) backside can see this. It’s not as if JC isn’t frequently tackling the bigger issues – he is. But this incident was totally legitimate way to highlight another of the issues he, and many others, feel is worthy of attention.
Nicky’s piece is willfully inaccurate. I’m actually surprised, and disappointed just how willfully it seems so.
@Northernpoorhouse: except that JC *did* call fro immediate Art 50 invocation and then lied about it, and has accepted that there were seats on the service – just not one for him and his wife (though oddly I didn’t see her sitting next to him in the video – a lack of comradely committment to the struggle, presumably?)
I think it says four things about Corbyn:
First, incompetence. It explicitly says “Me and my people are so disorganised that they can’t even get around to booking tickets, with, er, seat reservations, but let me run the country”.
Second, the whole ‘man of the people’ routine is fine, and part of Corbyn’s shtick, but to be unable to pull off a stunt like this takes particular cluelessness; job one, if you’re going to do a stunt like this, make sure that it can’t be refuted.
Third, (and this is the bit that I think harms him most at a subliminal level with any swing voters who haven’t already written him off – a tiny group, I accept), there’s no way that the full story doesn’t make him look weird. Consider:
(a) the ostensible reason he didn’t sit down was that there weren’t two seats together so he couldn’t sit with his wife (though I didn’t see her sitting on the floor, so it clearly wasn’t a show stopper), but he didn’t ask anyone to shuffle around – why not?!?;
(b) he didn’t do the wholly normal thing and sit in a seat with a reservation that wasn’t being used (or was reserved from a later station) which just makes him look weird(er), or that he’s trying to create an incident;
(c) he made a real point in his whole “St Jezza of Momentum” nonsense that he was sitting on the floor, but failed to mention that Virgin went out of their way to find him a seat of the sort he wanted (by upgrading a family to 1st class); leading inexorably to the conclusion that
(d) that the whole thing was a ham-fisted, back of the envelope publicity stunt – probably decided on on the fly by his people – which has unravelled and looks (to the extent that they’re paying any attention) to the average voter like a ham-fisted, back of the envelope publicity stunt… thus violating the prime directive that successful media manipulation never shows the manipulation!
The sum total of this IMHO is that this probably plays well with you and the sections of the Labour Selectorate, and probably increases the margin by which he was going to beat Owen Smith anyway. But it hasn’t gained him a single vote in Nuneaton. Oops.
A single vote in Nuneaton? A single vote anywhere! But I dont think they are particularly interested in winning votes or elections (beyond internal Labour Party ones) – indeed some true believers have actually stated that. Which begs the question, if purity of political thought is all that matters – not winning power to actually change for better the lives of people they purport to stand for – then what is the point of all this?
Graeme, you’re probably right. I was just picking on Nuneaton because it is the archetypal swing seat that Labour needs to win to stand a chance of getting back in (though I’m sure you knew that.)
I’m not a member of Labour – I’ve been a LibDem for many years – but the challenge for us all is that without electoral reform (another Blair/Brown missed opportunity) there needs to be some sort of functioning Labour party if we’re not going to have a continuous Tory government. It is slightly ironic that it is precisely electoral reform that has gotten Labour into this mess, rather than some form of PR that would lock the Tories out of power for a generation until their policies adapted.
Lisa Gooch-Knowles says
Office politics, soon we’ll all be debating how Jeremy has jumped the queue for the office microwave at lunch time.
It’s all just a bit ridiculous. Politicians lie!! Shock! Horror!!
The clever ones don’t get caught out
Oops, sorry Jeremy,
Steve Peers says
There is video footage of him walking past empty seats, but his fans insist he was telling the truth. Literally delusional.
“As a for instance, Corbyn telling Owen Smith that he was lying when claiming Corbyn suggested triggering Article 50 the day after the EU referendum when in fact Corbyn had said just that – on television for everyone to note for posterity.”
This kind of commentary reduces political discourse to the level of caricature.
First, I don’t think Corbyn said anything about Smith lying. He simply said he (Corbyn) hadn’t said “Let’s trigger Article 50” after the referendum. Of course, that’s quite different from an accusation of lying, given the possibility that Smith had misunderstood or misremembered. But I understand political bloggers like to phrase these things for maximum effect.
And of course, strictly speaking, Corbyn was perfectly right that he hadn’t used those words. So it becomes a question of what Smith meant by that phrase, and whether Corbyn had implied what Smith meant.
Apparently, Smith meant Corbyn said Article 50 should be invoked immediately. Corbyn’s actual words, the morning after the referendum, were “The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union.” Of course, in that sentence, “now” can be understood in two quite different ways – either “now that the people have voted to leave, Article 50 must be invoked at some time”, which is uncontroversial among politicians who think that the referendum decision must be carried through, or”Article 50 must be invoked immediately”.
Corbyn says he meant the former. The words could be read either way. So, I think, could his inflexion on the recording.
But probably I’m telling you something you already know, assuming you read the news coverage at the time.