Okay, fine, the bloke isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. Corbyn, by instinct, is way too left-leaning for my liking, way too left-leaning for most. I fear Corbyn’s ideal world would be too far back into the ’70s. Sadly I fear he’s as landed with the this-or-that attitude traditional to the nation when it comes to industrial relations, while what I’m after is a bit of the other, the German or Nordic models where conflict in industry isn’t somehow inevitable.
However, crucially, what we have to consider is this. Corbyn fills an ecological niche in the political environment no one else in the mainstream is touching. He could have evolved with three legs, three eyes, and a tendency to walk into trees, but he’s still going to thrive in that niche given there’s no competition.
That niche is, in essence, the good old days of investment in industry, entrepreneurship, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), individual initiative and opportunity given an environment in which to thrive, a meritocracy, the maximisation of individual opportunity in society, social justice, an end to poverty and all the rest of it. Sure, if he managed to establish it, his desire would be to mess it up with industrial action, but at least his niche is those things instead of what the other major players, including the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is seeking to further entrench, namely a nation based upon financial industries and other essentially parasitic and non-productive practices. That way lies stagnation, and we’ve already stagnated without wanting more of the same.
So, this strange mutation is offering that right now, no one else is. It’s a niche, I would suggest, in which he can thrive given its attraction not only for those who have objected to the Conservative line since Thatcher given we could see it coming, but also for those who’ve woken up to where it is we’ve got to in her wake. That will include many Conservatives. It could even include Thatcher herself given that yes, she made mistakes, but she was a pragmatic woman with positive intentions who, I am sure, would not like the result of the mistakes she made and would reverse them confronted by the mess we have today.
Only it gets better. Corbyn seems to be growing that extra leg, losing that surplus eye, and finding out where the trees are. He is becoming more pragmatic and less ideologically driven. It was one thing for him to speak with his ‘friends in Hamas’ when he was a backbencher given no one else was talking with them, but if he wants control of the whole nation he’s starting to realise he has to talk with his friends in Hamas alongside his friends in the Israeli government. It’s one thing as a private individual to talk up his republicanism, but he knows he can’t put forward the republic as an actual policy in the public arena, that has to remain as a private belief as, say, Cameron may believe in God, but he doesn’t legislate for everyone going to church.
He knows that the first step is to bring about the world most people want to get back to before all the mess, at least systemically. That his instinct will be to mess it up if he gets it by giving trade unions too much power again is by the by. For the moment, his focus is upon getting that system together. His speech to the party conference demonstrates how legislation would go in its general direction, and I truly can’t see many reading that who wouldn’t find it not only pragmatic, but also far preferable to what Cameron is offering. The only hold-outs will be the PLP, (stuck in their belief that the only route to power is by following the Conservatives), some – I stress some – of the wealthy who are entirely addicted to the financial sector for an increase to its wealth, and those for whom a blue rosette over a red rosette is religiosity rather than pragmatism.
Finally, Realpolitik has raised its head and bitten him on the backside. For years, Corbyn could cosy-up to the unions, meeting them down the bar to talk about the good old days of workers’ rights and all the rest of it. However, that’s a little like student friends who love each other to bits and decide to share a house together, upon which they discover that their bestest friend is prone to nicking other householders’ bacon from the fridge and playing his Black Sabbath records very loudly at 3.00am. The first time he is truly thwarted, it’s when one of his drinking pals tells him he can’t have his unilateral disarmament debate in conference given that it’s troubling to union members, a rationale I’m sure he finds paltry in the extreme given his beliefs, (I know I do). That’s his bacon now gone from the fridge, and Mr. C is now, no doubt, experiencing his own Autumn of Discontent in miniature. That is likely to lead him into a rethink which will see some of the excesses of his ideology tempered.
So… the best thing since sliced bread? Well no, at least not yet, but he’s becoming increasingly palatable. However, even if there were to be no improvement, we have nothing else for our sandwiches if we want them to be at least edible, and I suspect you’ll find that more and more people will settle for him as the only option, and all the more willingly if he tempers his excesses.