An opposition leader’s primary objective should be Number 10
I was rather excited by the recent launch of BBC Store which opens up, for sale and download, a treasure trove programmes dating back to the fifties.Â My first foray was, however, unsuccessful. I got the messageÂ â€œUnfortunately, your search didn’t return any results. The title may not be on BBC Store yet. However, we are adding more programmes every day, so please check back soon.â€ I certainly will.
What I was looking for was The Boys from the Blackstuff, Alan Bleasdaleâ€™s brilliant account of the hunt for work on Merseyside in the Thatcher era. I wanted to recommend to Jeremy Corbyn the line from Yosser Hughes, played by Bernard Hill: â€œGo on, I can do that. Gissa job?â€.
When he looks across the despatch box in the Commons Corbyn would be justified in thinking that, for all his bluster, David Cameron isnâ€™t very good at his day job.Â The sheer ignorance of the effects of his own governmentâ€™s policies revealed by his row with the Ian Hudspeth Tory leader of Oxfordshire County Council was breathtaking. The county which includes Cameronâ€™s Witney constituency has lost half its grant funding over the past five years. Many Labour councils have suffered far worse. Cuts are â€œcounter productiveâ€ says the Prime Minister. You bet they are.
But when he looks in the mirror in the morning does Corbyn see a future Prime Minister? Does he actually want the job? Could he get it?
Yes, he could, says James Meadway, the Corbyn supporting chief economist at the New Economics Foundation.Â Heâ€™s convinced there is another crash coming although heâ€™s not sure when. Austerity, he says, is dragging down demand and â€œitâ€™s private sector borrowing that is increasingly keeping the show on the road…. Throw in the productivity slump, a yawning current account deficit, and rumblings from Greece to China and youâ€™re looking at crash in waiting. If the opposition is organised when it happens, it can win.â€
For many of Corbynâ€™s detractors thatâ€™s a big â€œifâ€. And Meadway himself adds â€œCould win is a very long way from will win. The uncertainties are enormous.â€But does Jeremy Corbyn believe Meadway? I stand to be corrected but I have never heard or read him laying claim to No 10. I have yet to hear him say anything like â€œIâ€™m Jeremy Corbyn and I want to be Prime Minister — so I can make Britain a better place and help create a more peaceful worldâ€.
It would, of course, horrify the majority of his front and back bench colleagues at Westminster if he did say it. They soldier on in the hope they will go into the 2020 election under a different leader.
But if he does want to be Prime Minister it would involve Corbyn changing his approach to leadership.
For instance, he would recognise that appointments to his private office are not a personal affair. They have an impact on the wider party. Take Andrew Fisher. I actually have a rather charitable view of the youthful political adviser, who has been suspended for allegedly supporting another candidate against Emily Benn in South Croydon in May.
Phrases like â€œwe were all young onceâ€ and â€œthere but for the grace of godâ€ come to mind. In the late 60s we had a rather embarrassing Labour MP in my hometown Northampton. Sir Reginald Paget was best known for his support of the white settlers in what was then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Who knows what trouble I might have got into if Iâ€™d had the temptations of a Twitter?
I donâ€™t know if Fisher has ever stood for election but what he doesnâ€™t seem to understand is that being a parliamentary candidate involves a huge commitment of time, emotion, energy and cash. I bumped into Emily Benn a few times during the General Election. She was taking time out from her own campaign in the safe Tory seat and doing what loyal party members do — helping out in the adjoining ultra marginal. And she would have shared in the disappointment of the narrow defeat in Croydon Central. There were plenty of other great abour candidates who suffered a similar fate in key marginals. Defeat was a bruising experience for them and their campaign teams.
The young Mr Fisher might not get that. His boss should.