Before all the Corbynistas jump in here and say I’m just nitpicking for things to attack Jeremy over, hear me out. Back before Corbyn became leader but such an outcome was increasingly obvious I stated that I thought he would enjoy a honeymoon period. A time when his straight talking take on numerous issues would have significant cut through. Why this hasn’t happened is a legitimate question.
Even Ed Miliband had a honeymoon with the public of sorts – back in 2010/2011 when his anti-cuts stuff found an audience and Labour polled in the mid-40s. And whatever I think of Jeremy’s politics he has two massive advantages over Miliband the Younger in that we’ve had five further years of Tories in No 10 and 11, plus the fact that Corbyn looks and speaks like a perfectly normal bloke instead of like a malfunctioning marionette.
So how has it gone so wrong? Part of it is clearly Jeremy himself not understanding that having to interact with the press on pretty much a daily basis was just a basic part of the job description, thus setting up an adversarial relationship right from the word go, but there’s more to it than that.
Take the latest example, the “savage reshuffle, will he won’t he” debacle. Corbyn’s people have gone around briefing everyone with press credentials that a night of long knives for those who aren’t exactly down with Project Jeremy like Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle is on its way. But they’ve been doing this for like, two weeks. Why? They’ve put Corbyn in an impossible position now. If he goes through with it, he seems like an ideological savage looking to split the Labour Party; if he doesn’t do it, he looks indecisive and weak.
The obvious thing to do would have been to only start briefing the press over this past weekend for the story to break today. That way, whatever the fallout, it’s done and anyone moaning about it in the media is contradicting something the leader has already done as opposed to something he may or may not do. Far more Labour people would have just gone along with it as a result.
Some of the logic goes that Corbyn’s comms people briefed the whole idea of a reshuffle in order to scare the Syria rebels into staying in line in future. But this makes absolutely no sense – if this comes to pass, it will have the precise opposite effect. Having been told the party would be whipped on Syria and then having this reshuffle dangled over their heads all Christmas season, they will have been given an effective pass to rebel at will as it seems like all threats from Corbyn’s office are hot air.
What’s so strange about all this is that Corbyn is surrounded by some very slick operators like Simon Fletcher and Seamus Milne who really must know better. I’m genuinely baffled as to why it’s all such a shower so far.