In tonight’s BBC Question Time special, devoted to the Labour leadership election, the foundational myth of Corbynism was repeated again and again. It is that old favourite – the stab in the back.
Audience members who support Corbyn claimed that Labour were ahead in the polls until the resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. Owen Smith gently corrected them – in 89 polls Labour were behind in 85 and level pegging in 4. Rather than concede the point, Corbyn played to his support and repeated their lie, adding that hostile media coverage was also to blame for poor polls.
This was the pattern throughout the debate: Smith answering questions clearly and punchily, talking through the camera to the country; Corbyn basking in adulation and talking in generalities.
Owen Smith was clear in his attacks and came back to them again and again – Jeremy is comfortable being in opposition, and doesn’t even believe he can be Prime Minister. The message discipline was exemplary. When necessary he was sharp. When, for example, Corbyn claimed that he had led the defeat of the Tories over tax credits, Smith snapped back that Jeremy had never raised the issue at Shadow Cabinet and had been unavailable for one to one meetings with Smith as Labour’s Shadow DWP Secretary.
Smith’s positives were terse and effective too. Asked his policy differences with Jeremy, he said he was for staying in the EU, unlike Jeremy; against triggering Article 50, unlike Jeremy; for remaining a member of the single market, unlike Jeremy. These lines were loudly applauded and Jeremy was weak in response – accepting Owen’s charges.
So it went on, with muscular policy from Smith and a Kumbaya approach from Corbyn. Islamist radicalisation can, according to Jeremy, be dealt with by anti-racism and community cohesion. Nuclear blackmail likewise can be faced down by talking about peace. As for abuse – online or in person – there should never be abuse. This was straight from the school of Chauncey Gardiner, the simpleminded man in the film Being There – platitudes, though in this case deliberately put forward as wisdom rather than gullibly being taken as such. And Corbynistas lapped it up. Just as they buy Jeremy’s untruths about polling, so they love his banalities.
Did we learn anything from the debate? Not really. Corbyn has mastered a line in geography teacher making serious point – he leans on the podium and speaks more slowly and ever so slightly louder. Smith can take an audience head on and say things they don’t want to hear including the need for Labour to win over Tory voters, unflustered by the uncomradely booing (which is how Corbyn supporters interpret their man’s no abuse line).
We also saw that Corbyn supportsers share their candidate’s unshakable certainty and complete lack of reflection. One Corbynista told Owen Smith You’re in the wrong party!. When Smith pulled him up on that, condemning it as abuse, the man was genuinely aggrieved – How is that abuse? That, in the end, was the most telling moment – the man meant it, he really didn’t think that calling Owen Smith a Tory was in any way wrong. That is what the Labour Party has come to under Corbyn’s leadership. It is why he must go, and why he almost certainly won’t.
News Source TelegraphNews