History will judge Jeremy Corbyn as the worst leader ever
Corbyn seems woefully oblivious to the damage he has done, writes Neil Coyle MP. | PA Images
Corbyn failed by not ensuring the Party was run properly, preferring factionalism to functionalism. Had he bothered to listen to concerns about racism, bullying, antisemitism and intimidation, his disgrace might not be so deep.
Overly focusing on Corbyn’s failures at this juncture is unnecessary for two reasons. First, he’ll be gone on Saturday four months after he was so overwhelmingly rejected by voters. Secondly, history will judge him as the worst leader ever. This will upset his brocialist social media outriders, but their sanctimony and patronising attempts at excuses cannot override the facts.
They claim he ‘nearly won’ in 2017. The Tories won 318 seats with May at the helm. Labour got just 262. It was desperate hubris to claim that as a win, especially with continued homelessness, people forced into sex work by government policies like Universal Credit, or facing the hostile environment destroying their lives.
2019 can only go down as Labour’s worst defeat in modern history. The lack of responsibility for such a catastrophic result and using the coronavirus global pandemic to claim he was right about public spending has led to narcissistic accusations. From my weekly dealings with him, Corbyn always seemed to be dancing to someone else’s tune. Never leading, but following. Going where told. Saying what told. Unable to ad lib or act independently of a tiny cabal who shut out friends who helped him win originally.
Corbyn seems woefully oblivious to the damage he has done
Corbyn’s most spectacular failure was not capitalising on the rise in membership when first elected. Instead of building supporters into Labour, his backers maintained disruptive external operations, like Momentum, which clashed with local organisations. Uniting the two could have embedded support and built on the energy and positivity. A massively missed opportunity.
Corbyn also failed to deliver his central pledges of 2015. ‘Straight talking, honest politics’ was replaced by ‘respect the mandate’ when members confronted him with their own straight talking, honest views. Being member-led disappeared fast when it was clear his ambivalence on Europe was out of sync with the overwhelming majority of Labour members. Not once in five years were members consulted on policy in any meaningful sense, contributing to tens of thousands leaving.
Corbyn failed as ‘CEO’ by not ensuring the Party was run properly, preferring factionalism to functionalism. Had he bothered to listen to concerns about racism, bullying, antisemitism and intimidation, his disgrace might not be so deep. He ignored the split in the Party, pretending Change UK did not exist rather than address the causes which led to its creation. The general public could not ignore Corbyn’s tolerance of such unpleasant conditions.
He also failed in self-awareness. He could have handed over the leadership to his chosen successor in 2017 with a larger membership and bolder agenda but he would not listen and has failed to meaningfully succession-plan ever since. Corbyn did not need to back the December election, but into the elephant trap he jumped. His legacy? Whatever Johnson chooses. After five years, all Corbyn has achieved is handing the Tories an 80 seat majority and a further potential decade of misrule.
Whilst Corbyn seems woefully oblivious to the damage he has done, our new leader will have to rapidly face up to the Party’s challenges: a massively weakened Opposition, the need to root out bullying and racism, and to rapidly build a credible alternative government during a national emergency. Sir Keir is more than capable of the role and needs to ensure the areas the coronavirus has most exposed are our first battlegrounds: NHS preparedness and resources; social security ineptness, especially Universal Credit; rogue employers and weaknesses in workers’ rights; and ending rough sleeping not just temporarily for this crisis, but permanently. He must hit the ground running.
Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
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