22 Dec 2015

Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn

Hello readers!

Previously, I promised you more of my polemics in the realm of politics—especially those concerning Jeremy Corbyn, the most contentious political figure in recent British politics. Well, I can now say: here it is.

But before we get onto some juicy analysis (Little Red Book, anyone?) allow me to draw your attention to a few changes here in the Magical Realm. You will, no doubt, have noticed that there are now two sidebars; this is because of two reasons, aptly enough. The first is that the Featured Post gadget (left), while useful—I think—does nevertheless take up a fair bit of space. Because of this, I’ve widened the blog (you’ll now need at least a 1280x720 resolution) and cleaned things up a little.

The second reason? I’m testing Google’s AdSense programme. I do place emphasis on the testing element—I’ve not decided whether the potential generated revenue (i.e. cash) is worth the ads. If you feel strongly about it, send me an email (see the Contact Me page).

With that out of the way, let’s look at Jeremy Corbyn’s performance thus far as Leader of the Opposition…

The Little Red Book

Technically, since it was Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who was responsible for this little incident—I may be unfair in judging Corbyn. On the other hand: he did select him to be his right-hand man (much to the protest of most of the PLP) and thus may be attributed a degree of responsibility.

Anyhow—McDonnell withdrew a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book, and quoted a passage:

We must learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously, but we must not pretend to know what we do not know.

If you’re wondering why the passage is significant (and it is) it’s because McDonnell is making a point: Osbourne’s plans to have the Chinese build the Hinkley nuclear power station is not only an act of remarkable hypocrisy (since the Chinese regime is still quite fond of Mao; Osbourne’s ideological nemesis) but also shows that Osbourne thinks like Mao. Who cares if the Chinese have a record of gross human rights abuses? Who cares if they, for example, force women to have abortions? They can teach us something; we must esteem them as teachers.

Unfortunately, McDonnell’s little episode provoked laughter among the Tory benches, along with the ire of the media. Numerous journalists called him a Communist, or a supporter of Mao’s brutal regime; others called him merely incompetent.

Thankfully, according to my (admiteddly anecdotal) experience, this incident has not progressed beyond the media bubble.

Now: was Corbyn or McDonnell wrong to engage in this theatrical exercise? I should think so. Both of them ought have known how the media were likely to react; further, there were numerous more important policy points on which to excoriate Osbourne (like his U-turn on tax credits). Ultimately, I think this shows a certain degree of political miscalculation at the least.

But does this McDonnell a communist? Nah.

(Video below.)

To Bow or not to Bow

Another error the media (particularly the Telegraph et al.) were keen to pick up on was, unsurprisingly, whether or not Corbyn had bowed at the Remembrance Cenotaph along with the Queen. This is of course pertinent to our dear Comrade for two reasons: firstly, he doesn’t much like the Queen; secondly, he doesn’t much like war or—by extension—people who support and fight in wars.

When it turned out that Corbyn did bow (albeit with less flourish than the commentariat would have liked) after a number of pieces claimed he didn’t, well—I’m just glad Corbyn knew to leave this particular battle alone.

‘Corbyn Snubs Queen’

Another popular meme for the rightwing press was whether or not Corbyn would kiss the Queen’s hand, or bow, or do any of the other associated Royal pleasantries.

This issue is somewhat problematic for Corbyn—or indeed anyone who would like to see the monarchy abolished. On the one hand, actually kissing the Queen’s hand might be seen as an act of hypocrisy; on the other, it may be viewed as impolite. (Stuck between a media rock and a principled hard place, in other words.)

Ultimately, I think the best any anti-Monarchist should do here is indeed to kiss her hand, and bow, but also to be frank—in a polite way—about one’s thoughts on the monarch.

(Whether or not Britain should keep its monarch is a different debate. I’m for—we need the tourist money—but let’s not derail the train here.)

Seumas Milne et al.

Corbyn has also recently hired an (ex) Guardian journalist—and apologist for Islamic terrorism—as his chief of media communications. Is this a very good idea? On the one hand: Milne does know the media. And he’s very good at apologising. On the other... Milne may tar Corbyn’s image on the subject even more than it already is tarred.

If Corbyn picks sensible arguments for his views on the Middle East—like the possibility of civilian casulaties, the cost of military intervention, the successes of intervention—he might be able to convince people, or at least skeptics would not be overly antagonised.

If, however, he claims that ISIS and other similar dirtbags were innocent Islamic lambs turned into psycopaths by the evils of Western imperialism, he will find the electorate very unforgiving. No one, after all, wants a man who hates his own country being the Prime Minister!

But is he Sexist?

Another furore that occurred in the media was on Corbyn’s appointments to the Shadow Cabinet. In particular, it was said that dear Jeremy did not appoint very many women—even though his is the first Shadow Cabinet in Labour history with an equal ratio of men to women.

The media then decided to seize on something else—the so-called High Offices of State. The Chancellor, Home Secretary and First Secretary are considered roles of crucial importance; McDonnell and Burnham have been appointed to the former two. Oddly, it seems that for Corbyn to appease the feministas, he must actually appoint more women than men!

But frankly, the whole thing is ridiculous. Most of the PLP is composed of men. Likewise, 60% of the membership is made up of men (very close to the PLP). The feminists, it seems, would rather Corbyn wilfully discriminate against men in order to fulfill pointless symbolism—never mind consider things like, oh I don’t know, competence.

Speaking of competence: McDonnell’s appointment was under particular fire, as he became S. Chancellor instead of our dear Angela Eagle. The feministas were quite displeased about this. Never mind that Eagle does not—as any sensible economist can see—possess a particularly strong appreciation of the economy. Just read this:

The Liberal Democrat motion has been much commented on, possibly because it reads like the storyboard for “Apocalypse Now”, or perhaps even “Bleak House”. According to the motion, we are facing an “extreme bubble in the housing market” and the “risk of recession”, and we must “act to prevent mass home repossessions.”

This, mind you, was in 2008—literally months before the financial crisis!

This is not necessarily to say that McDonnell is himself especially competent. But if the feministas do want us to appoint a woman to the S. Chancellorship, could they at least direct to us to a) someone who is competent and b) someone who wants to serve in Corbyn’s Cabinet?

The Media Dealings in a Nutshell

Let’s boil down all this media furore to a few things. Corbyn threatens the establishment; the establisment does its best to discredit him. Inevitably, the likes of the Torygraph Telegraph and the Mail will excoriate him, sling mud—or attack him under covert pretences, like the above.

Corbyn, for his part, can’t really do much. He certainly can’t appease the media—it’ll be as successful as appeasing the terrorists. What he can do? He can avoid giving them ammunition. If this means being polite to the Queen, or not appointing dubious characters to his staff (Milne anyone?) or committees (cough Livingstone cough)—so be it.

Still: if there’s one thing that’s clear from all this, it’s that our press is pretty corrupt.

What About... Policy?

Strangely, I’ve heard little from Team Corbyn on policy. The only noteworthy issue that’s sprung up is, of course, Syria. Corbyn’s views on that have been pretty clear. Just as clear was Hilary Benn’s speech—more on that in a second.

I’ve decided not to go into the Syrian issue too much right now; the matter is so complicated that no succinct prose can really be made for it.

I’ll say a few words though. Hilary’s speech silenced the Tories and gave him praise in the media (even in the Telegraph!); this is in part because of the message, but also for different causes entirely. On the issue of Syria, there are plenty of dissenting voices right of the political spectrum—Peter Oborne being one such.

This means that there’s no reason why a speech against the bombings should not be well viewed upon by the media as a whole. So why did Benn’s speech garner applause, while Corbyn received no kind words?

Well, it boils down to a few things:

  1. Delivery. Sorry Corbyn, but as I’ve said previously—you’ve got some good ideas, but you’re not the right man to sell them. Benn’s speech was was eloquent, convincing and aesthetic; you sound clumsy by comparison.
  2. Rhetoric and emotion. Benn’s speech is emotive; it strikes at the heart of why we want to bomb IS. And that’s because IS are wholly and utterly despicable. Hard logic and argument is admirable and necessary in government, but then—so too is rhetoric.
  3. Image. Benn is viewed as moderate, pragmatic and agreeable; Corbyn is seen as away with the fairies by many, and a terrorist sympathiser by quite a few.

(Video below.)

Wrapping Up

At the end of the day, being Leader of the Opposition is tough work. Being a Leader that has most of the press against him (purely because they feel threatened), much of the party in revolt (because some of them never should’ve become Labour MPs—Danczuk?), and no easy task in winning is... well—tougher.

Corbyn has made some blunders. Livingstone should never have been appointed; and there are more pleasant folks than Milne to act as your media man. And some things were miscalculated—like McDonnell’s Little Red Book.

Still: all is not bad. Corbyn has proven calm and well spoken on the Andrew Marr show, for example; his PMQs go well, even if he doesn’t always beat Cameron at the rhetoric game. Things could be worse.

Well—that’s all for now, folks. Stay with me for more. The stars do burn bright, here in the Magical Realm

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