IF you’ve wondered what Jeremy Corbyn should be doing, here is the opinion of a woman from Rochdale – “he should be sat on a barge somewhere floating up and down”.
This anonymous political adviser was quoted in last Sunday’s Observer by the former Labour pollster James Morris, who is now senior director at the public relations firm Edelman.
Morris has spent the past year running focus groups for various parts of the Labour movement, talking to warehouse packers, scaffolders, care workers and checkout assistants, reports the Sunday newspaper.
What he discovered will be of little comfort to the Labour leader – “The disdain they have for Corbyn is remarkable. There is no sense that he is on their side, or has any of the capabilities of a prime minister.”
You don’t have to be working class or belong to the Labour Party to echo that sentiment. I can’t tick either of those boxes, but I do usually put a cross next to the Labour candidate at election time.
Morris points to one of the big problems for Labour, which is that the party has suffered a catastrophic collapse among working-class voters, with only 16% saying they would now vote Labour.
This disaster goes deeper than the unreconstructed old leftie who now runs the party, but his presence doesn’t seem to be helping.
Perhaps he would be better off sitting and floating on a barge. He could choose a quiet canal away from all the political noise and his supporters could line the banks and cheer him on. There would be a speech, probably a good one, and Corbyn would nod wisely, communicating his stubborn certainty that his is the only path (or canal).
Except that, if you believe the Times this morning, there may not be as many cheerleaders lining the bank as there were. Leaked data suggests that Labour as shed 26,000 members since last summer – more than 75% of them new members who joined in a rush of Corbyn enthusiasm after the 2015 election
Some 7,000 members are thought to have resigned last month following Corbyn’s three-line whip commanding MPs to support the government over the triggering of Article 50.
It is strange the way that Brexit is mostly a Tory mess and muddle, and yet the political damage is being done to Labour. That’s what you get for being a functionless opposition that seems to have not a clue how to carry on, leaving Mrs Maybe to sail imperiously by, quite undisturbed by that beardy bloke shouting from a barge.
Last night there was a party-political broadcast by Labour. This was timed to reinforce shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s cry for the rich to pay more taxes.
The scenario went like this: fat man in a shower, dries himself off, slowly gets dressed in three-piece suit and tie. The back of the jacket has a fat-cat slogan embroidered in the material, after the fashion of American baseball jackets.
Alongside the raised taxes on fat cats in showers, there was mention of freeing both the NHS and the railways of privatisation. So, here’s the thing. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, and yet watching the latest Labour advert filled me with despair. Jeremy Corbyn has been saying such things for ever and it just reinforces the picture of him and McDonnell as being from the past rather than the future.
There is no sense of what George W Bush once referred to as “the vision thing” – hardly the snappiest of manifestos, but there is something to it. What is Corbyn’s achievable vision? Who knows, as he seems to prefer his own game of fantasy politics.
I do have one argument with the Observer (where long ago I once worked): an accompanying feature on how Labour could be in deep trouble in Halifax referred to the South Yorkshire town. Dear me, there’ll be rumblings in the West Riding.