Politics in this country can be medieval – and after Labour’s failure to win the last general election it seems to be open season on Jeremy Corbyn. Every passing commentator, newspaper reviewer or even Labour MP can throw a cabbage at the Labour leader while he is trapped in the political stocks.
This continues the hostility Corbyn has faced since becoming leader. This constant campaign of vilification was a huge factor in our defeat. If voters hear from the press that Labour’s leader is unacceptable for wanting to nationalise key industries, or raise the minimum wage, or even, ludicrously, that he is Czech spy, and then a chorus of Labour MPs reinforce that message, it is bound to have a negative impact. Voters mistrust divided parties.
Labour could learn a few lessons from the Tories in this respect. Boris Johnson was clearly the darling of the Tory membership, but he was disliked and even distrusted by many of his fellow Tory MPs. Yet, when he became Tory leader only a tiny number of hold-outs opposed Boris Johnson. He dealt with some of them ruthlessly, even expelling former ministers “to encourage the others”.
Labour does not have to go that far. By our nature we are a more democratic party than the Tories. But it should be clear that the demonization of Jeremy Corbyn was ultimately a rejection of the democratic choice of the Labour membership. It was not just Jeremy the man who was being attacked, but also the preferred choice as leader of the overwhelming majority of the Labour membership.
This article was first published on the Politics Home website on the 10th January 2020.