Corbyn’s prospects in the British elections
Sir, – Although his analysis of Labour’s likely chances in the British general election is probably accurate (Fintan O’Toole, Weekend Review, December 7th), the election of a leader who is not interested in power for power’s sake would nonetheless make a refreshing change in the era of Trump, Putin, Erdogan et al. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The weekend before arguably the most important British general election in modern times Fintan O’Toole focuses his column entirely on Jeremy Corbyn. It is a country where child poverty and food banks have rocketed in the nine years of Tory rule and where nearly a third of children are living in poverty.
Priorities and personal reflections are completely skewed – disproportionately so.
For the few not the many? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As an avid reader of Fintan O’Toole’s Brexit analysis, I was disappointed by his article, “Labour’s failure in this election will be due to Jeremy Corbyn” (Weekend Review, December 7th).
Labour will lose, O’Toole argues, because Corbyn is a radical who lacks the ambition to be a “serious” leader of the Labour Party. Labour will also lose, he argues, because Corbyn hasn’t embraced Remain. O’Toole’s arguments ignore Corbyn’s record, the extraordinary obstacles he’s faced and what opinion polls are telling us.
Corbyn inherited a party that lost badly in two successive elections in 2010 and 2015. Despite that, he led the Labour Party in 2017 to win the largest percentage of the vote since 2001 and the first time the party had gained seats since 1997. Hardly evidence of a lack of seriousness and ambition. Corbyn’s Labour Party membership is now the largest in Europe – while traditional socialist parties in other countries have been decimated by their support for conventional, centrist policies.
O’Toole rebukes Corbyn’s ambiguity on Brexit as an electoral liability. But Corbyn’s priority is ending austerity and transforming British society regardless of whether the UK opts for Remain or a soft Brexit. Labour is losing support in heavily Leave constituencies because most of the Labour leadership – unlike Corbyn – are fervent Remainers. If they lose those seats it will be because they’ve been insufficiently ambiguous about Brexit.
O’Toole also dismisses Corbyn for his dismal personal approval ratings. Who could be surprised? Corbyn is a radical who wants to undo the appalling consequences of 40 years of Conservative and Labour austerity. That’s why Labour’s grassroots and the trade unions support him. That’s also why the UK press daily slander him as a crazed communist, a terrorist sympathiser and a rabid anti-Semite. Not good for anyone’s approval numbers.
Corbyn has survived extraordinary challenges – as well as two coups against him. Most Labour MPs barely tolerate him or his leftist politics. These same “moderate” MPs consistently supported Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s austerity policies that devastated working class communities and drove them into the arms of the Brexiteers. Corbyn opposed those policies but convincing these voters to again trust Labour to look after their interests won’t be easy. But in the long run it’s the only strategy that makes any sense.
Sir, – I want to take issue with Fintan O’Toole’s shallow analysis of the failure of Labour in the upcoming UK election due in large part to Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of hunger for power.
In my opinion what is sadly only too clear is that politics in the UK as elsewhere reveres the alpha male power-hungry politician who will fight tooth and nail to keep unfettered capitalism in play – reassuring the wealthy that monies will keep flowing upward and reassuring people at the lower end that people at the bottom, the homelessness and vulnerable are not going to be given something for free.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the real tragedy is that constant consumerism and greed just leads to a weak rudderless form of government that unless regulated continues needless suffering of our fellow man and ultimately extinction of the planet.
The people might want another power-hungry alpha politician but what the UK and the world need at this moment in time is a very different political leadership and a new story of politics and the public space.
The important questions then become is Jeremy Corbyn possibly ahead of his time and who benefits from a power-hungry grab? – Yours, etc,
Senior Lecturer School of
University of Limerick.
Sir, – There appears to be an alarming fundamental premise to Fintan O’Toole’s article on Jeremy Corbyn (Weekend Review, December 7th) that politicians should employ power to get their own way; that somehow, one is elected, not to fulfil the wishes of the people but to impose one’s own desires on the populace.
Now it could be argued that this is what realpolitik is all about; that one has to be pragmatic and acknowledge that no one in their right senses would be attracted to politics if they had to continually be sensitive to public opinion.
Indeed, but that is avoiding what democracy is about – the rule of the demos, the electorate, and if we openly acknowledge that our politicians can blithely ignore this are we not complicit in the ills that appear to be flourishing worldwide at the moment?
Of the many questions about our political structures is the very pertinent one about our systems attracting the wrong kind of people into the world of governance – in other words, is democracy fit for purpose? If we tacitly ignore the basic principles and support these wannabe potentates, we are headed for perdition.
Fintan O’Toole uses the word tragic to describe the moment, well Shakespeare’s tragedies from Richard III onwards are replete with dubious characters purporting to be honourably reluctant to assume power; Corbyn, according to your columnist, “has no great interest in power”, in other words, he is one of the rarest of the rare – the real deal.
I think the real tragedy is, for once, not about the man, but about the chorus; the chorus of disapproval from very fine commentators like Fintan O’Toole. – Yours, etc,