The edifice upon which the Corbynite hysteria developed was the desire to see things done differently. A different kind of politics was what Jeremy Corbyn asked for; politics that revived socialism within the Labour Party and tackled the establishment network of big businesses, powerful media and elitist politicians.
So much for that. Jeremy Corbyn is crumbling, his support waning and the momentum he generated within the membership rapidly draining. Anger regarding his uncertainty regarding Brexit and the invisible resistance to the Tories carrying out Article 50 has forged fury amongst a membership that once blindly followed him like a cult.
Clive Lewis, the holy bridge between different factions within this broad warring church and a key ally of Corbyn for so long, resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over Brexit. This prompted yet another Cabinet reshuffle. The lack of clarity has been startling and fatal. A party this fractured can never hope to win, to claw back the huge deficits in the polls.
For John McDonnell to assume that, once the divisions were laid to rest, the party would climb in the polls, was delusional. The damage has been done, and Corbyn has been the author of his own miserable ending to this awful chapter in the Labour Party, not so much walking off the plank but running off it and taking the security and aspirations of working class families with him and the party.
It’s fair to say that Corbyn did not envision this when he first became the leader, thrashing his rivals and promising a change in how Labour tackled issues. The worst thing for Corbyn was that, from the very first day, there were signs of chronic problems. There was anger at John McDonnell being made Shadow Chancellor, and then frustration aimed at Corbyn for his avoidance of TV interviews. Failing to sing the national anthem, missing the opening ceremony the Rugby World Cup; more blunders than successes. PMQs were a series of own goals, David Cameron and then Theresa May taking him apart.
There are many who would point to how he was ruthlessly undermined by the right-wing faction within Labour, and was smeared by the media. All of this is true and yet it is naïve not to have foreseen this; indeed, Owen Jones warned about this frequently.
Corbyn lost because he came across as a man ashamed of being English, of hating the customs that defined the country, incoherent in communication and shockingly lax about the concerns related to national security. He turned Trident into a huge issue; he reinforced the idea of Labour not being patriotic enough, and in an age of transnational terrorism, he has not grasped how anxious people are, swapping freedoms for safety. These are issues which set Labour back years in the polls and meant we were fighting over things we did not need to be fighting over. He shunned the media and, in so doing, overlooked the fact that this was still the main source of information for the country.
This was a disaster and one that failed to even shift national discourses on anything. Ed Miliband raised awareness regarding tax avoidance and predatory capitalism, to the extent that Theresa May has had to adopt an intervention-based Keynesian approach to economics. Corbyn, in his year and a half as leader, has never launched a war upon the financial elite as some might have hoped. The party has always seemed reactive and unsure, highlighted particularly during Brexit, responding to issues rather than setting them.
Corbyn talked about policies and ideas which he would then abandon without ever elaborating upon. Brexit underlined all of this: no-one has had a clear understanding of Labour’s position on it. Soft or hard? Brexit or no Brexit? In the end, he has given Theresa May a free pass. He has failed to hold the Tories to account. The Conservatives can be as awful as they want because they face no opposition. The public sees this and now so do many of Corbyn’s original supporters.
He opted for the Trump approach and failed; agreeing to end free movement and then changing his mind the next day. Corbyn never realised that the public are angry at what they perceive as the liberal elite; that’s Londoners, students and anyone with progressive views upon immigration and refugees. It does not include banks and corporations. Corbyn, as far as they were all concerned, was a prestigious member of this liberal elite.
Those who can see all this and believe that Clive Lewis is an electable candidate are drawing dangerous conclusions from this. Lewis is a good man and his military past covers Labour well across defence and security, but he will still be judged as a liberal-left elitist, and his close ties to Corbyn will damage him. Labour needs someone who can unite London and the rest of the country. They need someone who offers sharp clarity over Brexit, agreeing to trigger Article 50 but with certain guarantees that preserve the country’s economic security.
There are plenty of names worth speculating abour: Yvette Cooper, Dan Jarvis, Alison McGovern and Lisa Nandy. Others such as Angela Rayner have also been discussed.
Forget 2020, that’s gone. Labour needs to rebuild with a clear vision for 2025. And if they cannot fix their problems for that then there we need to begin asking ourselves what exactly we are fighting for.