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Sunday 16 August 2015


Sexpot Trot gets Left all hot and bothered

Jeremy Corbyn may be irresponsible, but he's in tune with the mood of the times, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Jeremy Corbyn

I had a conversation on Friday morning with my brother. We both want the world to be nicer and kinder, but he's an idealist and I'm a pragmatist.

Because we love each other and wish to stay friends, we avoid talking about politics, which we both care about intensely. To give you the picture, after the British general election he broke the silence in an email pointing out that what with him having voted for the Scots Nats and me for the Tories, we had both won.

On Friday however, he said in passing that Jeremy Corbyn was finding the soul Labour had lost since Michael Foot - the last leader he admired. Although Gordon Brown had been a student of his of whom he was very fond, he had lost faith in him when he backed the Iraq war.

What we both could agree about was that the likes of Tony Blair attacking Corbyn was only stoking up the left-wing fires.

I would wager that 98pc of the Labour Party hadn't heard of Corbyn until he was nominated to run for leadership of the party after it was thrown into confusion in May by an electoral disaster it hadn't expected. On election night, as the exit poll was about to hit the airwaves, David Cameron was putting the finishing touches to a no doubt magnanimous loser's speech as Ed Miliband was polishing up a winner's clarion call to five years of government intervention in everything. (I, on the other hand - for this is something I brag about at every opportunity - was still hoping that despite all the prognostications, the English voters, whom I think ARE always sensible, might yet win for me my bet on a Tory majority.)

Anyway, Labour lost and the pollsters and pundits who had followed the herd and got it all wrong

merged to explain that Labour had been out of touch with the people and must have a serious debate on what the party stands for. Unfortunately, Ed Miliband had made that impossible by resigning immediately and thus precipitating a leadership struggle.

The smart, interesting and handsome candidates, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt, bottled it, and what remained were candidates so boring they reminded everyone why Labour lost. Which is why a few free-thinking Labourites who wanted a proper debate gave the socialist nominators of unreconstructed socialist Jeremy Corbyn the extra votes required for him to qualify for the four-person race, certain he couldn't win the argument, let alone the election.

Andy Burnham, a career politician busily trying to trim his sails to new radical breezes, seemed to be the shoo-in; Liz Kendall was brave but a guaranteed loser for standing up for toxic Blairism and Yvette Cooper was so cautious she made even me regret that her bruiser of a husband, Ed Balls, had lost his seat, leaving the sane tendency without its Mike Tyson.

So, for lack of anyone else, attention was focused on an amiable 66-year-old, with an allotment and a posh name who's never had a proper job, has been an MP since 1982 and was divorced by his first wife for thinking only of politics, and by his second by refusing to send his child to a grammar school.

Consistently against British involvement in any wars, and always apparently on the side of her enemies, he is friendly towards the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah and in favour of printing enough money ("the people's quantitative easing") to reverse all welfare reforms and give everyone whatever they want, except the rich who will be expected to stay in the country and pay 70pc tax. As a financial analyst, he makes Greece look like Germany.

As a final terrible legacy to his party, Ed Miliband left a new electoral system that lets anyone - for three quid - register as a supporter and have a vote in the leadership elections, so there is a vast new influx that includes Greens, the far-left and even a few malign Tories. Blair, who still can't grasp the extent of loathing for him in a party that never thought he was one of them, wrote an article headlined: "Even if you hate me, please don't take Labour over the cliff edge." It probably prompted another few tens of thousands to join up and intensify Corbyn mania by wearing buttons saying "Jez we can" in honour of a 1960s Marxist now being called the "Sexpot Trot".

Slick, on-message politicians are out of favour and all kinds of people are deliriously excited at the idea of having a leader with principles - however bonkers they may be. It's the zeitgeist. Greece chose Syriza and America's flirting with Donald Trump.

The responsible side of me believes there should be a strong opposition to keep the government from getting smug and so is in favour of anyone but Corbyn; the frivolous side thinks his victory would usher in a hilarious period of political slapstick, and the historian in me says "Calm down, everyone. It's no big deal". Corbyn's a bit of an eejit, but he's not Hitler.

The Tories imploded after they lost in 1997 and had three leaders (William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard) before in 2005 deciding they wanted someone electable and choosing David Cameron. If Corbyn wins, Labour will have a few years of ideological chaos after which it will come to its senses, implode or split. One way or another, another leftish party will arise from the ashes. In the meantime, both my brother and I will be happy.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards