Jeremy Corbyn needs saving from his “friends”

Jeremy Corbyn needs saving from his “friends”


This week’s column from Don Brind

Jeremy Corbyn has done remarkably well in attracting MPs into the big tent, which his closest ally John McDonnell says he wants to inhabit.

Although the leadership failed to recruit some of the front benchers they wanted to keep there has been none of the flouncing out that Polly Toynbee warned against.

There has been a search for common ground rather than the highlighting differences – an approach I urged in a previous post.

But some Corbyn supporters don’t seem to get the big tent idea

A local activist denounced Croydon North MP Steve Reed as a “hypocrite” for accepting the number two job in the Community and Local Government team. His crime was to have supported Liz Kendall in the election and allegedly “slagged off” Jeremy Corbyn.. In a twitter exchange with the self-styled “senior volunteer” I suggested that if Reed was a hypocrite for taking a job so too was Corbyn for offering it.

I should admit to a bias. I was Labour’s media officer in the Croydon North by election in 2012 where Reed was elected. I thought he was a great candidate. And his new boss is one of my favourite senior Labour politicians, Jon Trickett. A plumber by trade and a keen cyclist he’s a blunt speaker with a sharp political brain. He was PPS to Gordon Brown and confidant to both Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

Both men can draw on an impressive track record as innovators in local government — Reed in Lambeth and Trickett in Leeds. Local government will be one of the key battlegrounds with the Tory government and I have high hopes of their partnership. And it’s vital that such partnerships between Corbyn pros and antis are made to work – both for Corbyn and for the party. But they won’t work unless the leader himself creates the right atmosphere.

My old boss, the BBC political editor John Cole said “one of the duties of a political leader is to chip away at the prejudices of his followers.” Next Tuesday, in his conference speech, would be a good time for Jeremy to start doing a bit of chipping.

Many Corbyn supporters – including, no doubt the Croydon activist, have a simple view of what happened on September 12th. Jeremy won with a landslide and he has a mandate for his policies. The 90 per cent of Labour MPs who didn’t vote for him should knuckle down and apply those policies. Any backsliding and they will face re-selection.

If Corbyn encourages that view his big tent will quickly be in shreds.

The new leader will get lots of advice about what should go into his speech. Whether he gets time to read it is another matter. But two are definitely worth heeding. One is from Marcus Roberts, who managed Sadiq Khan’s successful campaign for the London Mayoral nomination. He says the Corbyn conference should talk to the country and not just to itself.

The other is from former MP Chris Mullin.

“My advice: address the nation rather than the party and learn to use an autocue”

The two things go together. It’s hard to make a mark with the millions of television viewers if you are peering down at your notes over the top of your glasses.

Don Brind

Comments are closed.