I was standing with my LibDem colleagues in the ‘Wales says #RefugeesWelcome’ rally in Cardiff. At about 11:45 am a loud cheer was raised as word of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership election victory worked its way across the gathering crowd. The details were shocking:
- he won 60% of the total vote,
- 88% of the 105K new Labour members voted for Corbyn,
- front benchers in the Shadow Cabinet resigned in an instant fit of pique, and
- the Blairites were handed a resounding defeat.
What was missing from almost every commentary that day was how the ‘will of the people’ trumped the ‘will of the Parliamentary class’ and how tone deaf MPs were to it. While 9 of 10 Labour Parliamentarians are opposed Corbyn becoming leader, he crushed the other three candidates in a first ballot victory. The 500-1 longshot, added on the last day of nominations to show balance in the party, would have won an outright majority of 51.36% even without the benefit of the 105,000 new members who each paid £3 to join and had a vote.
If you take out the controversial £3 registered Lab supporters, Corbyn would still have won with 51.39 % of the total vote in first round.
— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) September 12, 2015
Several front bench Shadow Cabinet ministers immediately, publicly and some could say, classless-ly tendered VERY public Cabinet resignations via social media. The Tories produced a classless attack advert unworthy of comment four and three quarter years away from any election fight. The rest offered tempered statements of congratulations. And a very few others explained, on the merits, why this would not solve Labour or the nation’s problems.
The only thing missing was a sense of perspective. Most sides retreated to talking points. It was either a ‘new dawn’ or the ‘red menace’ with little in between. Moderation, thought and/or temperance need not apply this day. That… is politics today. And that… is the environment and dialogue that needs changing
I am very angry with my colleagues in the media who suffer from a kind of instigation ‘Tourette’s syndrome.’ They have zero control over reflex reaction, so no statement is ‘out-of-bounds.’ They are unable to stop, even for a second, to provide any decent, balanced analysis. Instead they utter point scoring, pandering soundbites.
The reality is Mr. Corbyn is the dog who after years of chasing, just caught the car and one could wager even he is shocked and wondering, ‘now what?”
Yet in just 24 hours the media, pundit and political classes have demonstrated everything that is wrong with politics today. Mr. Corbyn’s party members should be ashamed of themselves. ‘Their’ man or woman did not win so the answer is to express instant ‘poutrage’ on Twitter? Politicians have healthy egos. And what about the will of their supporters and voters?
If Labour cannot demonstrate internal comity and have the decency to gather behind closed doors and find a middle ground for the good of their Party (and… those who spoke quite loudly said a new path was required), then what chance do they have to ever again govern?
If the Tories can do nothing but just say ‘no,’ use cheap, sarcastic and sophomoric throwaway lines and then rudely attack at every turn ‘the will of the people,’ what chance do they have to govern with any sort of mandate?
Back to the Future
As a young man, I worked with politicians who connected with and listened to their constituents throughout the entire year, not just when stumping for votes every four years. Those politicians respected the dignity of their office, knew their duty to constituents and worked tirelessly on their behalf. They fought to find middle ground and get things done. They focused on bringing jobs and businesses to their community and avoided unseemly finger pointing and perpetual excuse-making exercise.
Politicians today need to take a page from that playbook:
- Stop blaming the past.
- Take responsibility for the present.
- Build together towards the future!
It is time to stop always attacking each other and build something to addresses economic unfairness and rebuild the economy. Whether or not you like Jeremy Corbyn’s world view matters not. His selection was ‘the will of the people’ in his party. While the media loves deceit and dissonance because it sells newspapers and broadcasts, the voters, the great silent majority, are VERY tired of politicians constantly bickering to score points.
We’re in an age where even in the USA opinion polls show a stark flight from tradition. Early voters in both main parties flock to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump because they seem genuinely authentic. Last week Joe Biden gave the most openly raw speech on Stephen Colbert’s programme.
The electorate wants their politicians to be real and work for them. Any politicians who fails to listen and ignores an increasingly angry and frustrated electorate… does so at their peril.
And in the end, that is good news for everybody.