As I Please

Written By: Kevin Maguire
Published: March 15, 2017 Last modified: March 15, 2017

Labour resembles the relaunched Top Gear on the BBC, stuck in reverse with plunging ratings as viewers switch off despite the new presenters squealing the cars are shinier and faster than ever.

Jeremy Corbyn would be more at home in Call the Midwife, helping distressed women in London’s even more distressed communities give birth to the next generation of Labour voters. Unfortunately politics at the mo is more petrol head brash than midwife kind so he’s struggling to hold on to the support instead of converting sceptics.

A Brief History of Time for this leader is: election, mistakes, turbulence, revolt, Europe, coup, re-election, mistakes, turbulence…

Professor Stephen Hawking, a Leftie with a brain the size of a planet, taking against Jezza will have stung deeply a Corbyn who was thrilled to sit next to a physicist he admires greatly at last Autumn’s Daily Mirror Pride of Britain awards. A politely brought up and considerate man who always says “please” and “thank you”, Corbs afterwards wrote a letter of appreciation. Today it might be tear stained.

It’s difficult for Jezza to find consolation when Hawking was quoted in The Times of London as saying “I regard Corbyn as a disaster” and “I think he should step down for the sake of the party”. Clearly news of an 18-point deficit in the polls and the loss of traditional Labour territory in Cumbria has reached Cambridge where the Prof isn’t happy.

On the upside, Hawking is living proof of our ability to overcome enormous odds when the world’s most famous scientist just celebrated his 75th birthday more than half a century after he was given only a couple of years to live. And he’d still vote Labour at a General election. Which is some consolation.

Hawking’s political analysis is open to challenge but the Cyber Corbs who bravely rubbished online the brain in a wheelchair are part of the party’s problem, not an answer.

You’d expect an intellect as forensic as the author of a book many stick on a shelf to impress visitors, the smartest bending the spine of the paperback to appear to have actually read it, to get to a nub of the leader’s problem. “His heart,” Hawking was reported saying of Corbyn, “is in the right place and many of his policies are sound but he has allowed himself to be portrayed as a left-wing extremist.”

Bullseye. He’s right. Corbyn foolishly allowed himself to be painted as somebody he isn’t. We can blame the wicked Tory press and establishment broadcasters. I do sometimes.

Those Labour MPs constantly sniping, rebelling and resigning share responsibility for the party’s  perilous position though how a leader who never showed loyalty to previous leaders could demand loyalty as leader himself is a whirlpool destined to end in disaster.

Yet there are also serious issues of competence and credibility when Corbyn frequently dug his own grave with avoidable gaffes, fatal indecision and iffy performances. Take Prime Minister’s Questions. William Hague proved you can’t conquer a country with Wednesday witty one liners but the sessions put leaders in the shop window and it’s a golden opportunity to look a winner and raise your party’s morale.

Corbyn’s enemies declare him a flop every week and fans equally predictably declare him a winner. I sit in the press gallery most weeks, watching the gladiatorial conflict on the floor below. Jeremy is usually very good on his home turf of health and education. He does OK on living standards and the welfare state. Or put another way he should do better, notwithstanding a pointed comparison last month between a Tory £1bn inheritance tax cut for 26,000 wealthy families and a £3.7bn benefit theft from people with mental health issues.

But he rarely delivers killer blows – exposing true blue Surrey’s sweetheart social care deal was an exception and the fact I remember his better moments off the top of my head underlines how few they’ve been – and a Theresa May improving at the despatch box comes across as comfortable against a leaden opponent.

I don’t agree with Hawking that Corbyn should step down. Either he steps up or more Labour sympathisers and supporters will despair ahead of defeat in an election and all those who would benefit from higher pay, better housing, revived NHS, secure jobs and 1,001 socialist policies are left at the mercy of a Tory regime on a Right-wards march.

The Corbynistas can’t keep on blaming everybody else. Their man needs to get into first gear and start moving forward instead of slipping back.