Corbyn stands out among Blairite cardboard cutouts

Posted By: August 06, 2015

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Befast). Thursday, August 6, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn is speaking at the west Belfast Féile tonight. It’s a safe bet that his presence will attract a lot more attention than expected when he was first booked to participate in the ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ session.

Then he was billed as, ‘veteran old Labour socialist and trade unionist’. Now he’s ‘Labour leadership candidate’ or, more accurately, the Labour leadership favourite. Good publicity for both the Féile and for Corbyn.

Corbyn has been packing venues all over England ever since he was nominated as a last-minute candidate because he couldn’t muster enough MPs’ votes to get on the slate. He only made it after some MPs decided it would be better to have a wider contest than just competing Blairite clones. How they must be kicking themselves.

Corbyn is a supremely decent guy. He’s only coming to Belfast because he promised he would before he realised how much in demand he is. There are no votes for him here.

Last night he was in Croydon. Tomorrow he’s back in London, then Norwich. The only question is whether the venues his supporters have booked are big enough to hold the crowds. Corbyn’s popularity has provoked blind terror in the Labour party. The other candidates are running around like headless chickens.

How has it happened? There are at least two reasons. The first and most obvious is that after an election defeat the Labour party always divides into those who believe they lost because they were too left wing and those who believe it was because they weren’t left wing enough. The big trade unions fall into that category, which explains why they have all endorsed Corbyn.

The second reason is much more complicated. There’s a mighty backlash among party members against Blairism. Not only because of the social and economic policies Blair and his acolytes pursued in government and still do but because the Blairites have abused the Labour party as their personal possession.

They used to say that in some constituencies they didn’t count Labour votes, they weighed them: places such as south Wales, Glasgow, Tyne Tees, Liverpool. For the past 20 years or so the Blairite leadership took advantage of those places’ unthinking tribal support for Labour and parachuted in ‘professional’ politicians and policy wonks, people who had no connection with the districts they represented.

Ed Miliband himself is a good example. A north London intellectual and politics geek he is MP for Doncaster. What was Peter Mandelson doing being MP for Hartlepool?

Most of this political class never had a job outside politics moving seamlessly from Oxbridge to party policy work, to special adviser then MP. The latest development has been for the children of Blairites – the ‘red princes’ – to win nomination for ‘safe seats’ which this time turned out to be not so safe. Neil Kinnock’s son won Aberavon but the sons of Jack Straw and John Prescott and daughter of Hilary Benn all failed to get elected in May.

Peter Hain, who conducted a review of the party’s strategy, concluded Labour was disconnected from its electorate. He said what was happening with people like the ‘red princes’ winning selection was that the “political class was now reproducing itself”.

Support for Corbyn is a rebellion against this political class that dominates Labour. The party’s MPs are not like the people who vote in the constituencies they represent. They don’t look like them or speak like them and they need local guides to find their way round the constituency.

Furthermore they are robotic, formulaic, colourless. None of the three Blairite candidates displays a personality let alone any charisma. They act like Stepford Wives. Andy Burnham, described on Mumsnet as ‘an underwhelming career politician’, had to deny that he uses mascara and dyes his hair. No-one can remember a word he says or knows what his policies are but they know what he looks like.

In contrast Jeremy Corbyn looks like a normal human being. ‘Authentic’ is the word supporters use to describe him. ‘Plastic’ is the best word for his opponents.

One conclusion is certain. If the Labour party is afraid Jeremy Corbyn will make them unelectable, choosing cardboard 

cut-outs like Burnham or Yvette Cooper will guarantee a decade in the wilderness.