It is a touch ironic that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are calling for loyalty from the Parliamentary Labour Party on the issue of whether to support the Government’s proposals for airstrikes against Isis in Syria.
This is a man that rebelled so often during the Blair and Brown premierships it would’ve been fair to ask him during this period if he considered himself a member of the Labour Party.
Perhaps in recognition of this, Corbyn did not decide to whip the PLP ahead of the Syria vote – free votes are the new party line. Corbyn doesn’t want to give a Labour view so instead we hear 232.
He, and his supporters, vehemently and regularly throw his ‘mandate’ in the rest of the Party’s face. So why not impose it? Perhaps he realises, unlike his supporters, that his mandate and popularity in the wider membership doesn’t translate to general public support.
If there’s any silver lining for the Labour membership that doesn’t support him it might be that Corbyn recognises he’s an accidental leader and ultimately living on borrowed time. His focus may be on securing a strong left bloc in the Labour party for a new
In his book on Churchill Boris tells of how he was incredibly unpopular among the Tories when he became Prime Minister in 1940. And Churchill had also been incredibly disloyal to both the Conservatives, whom he regularly attacked while a young backbencher, and the Liberals, whom he abandoned when he saw the writing on the wall.
But when an opportunity presented itself he seized it. He stepped up. He was guided by what he felt was right. He didn’t follow prevailing thought, he changed it.
Needless to say Corbyn isn’t Churchill. No is and no one ever will be.
But leaders do what they think is right. In a political sense this means moulding a party in your image. Corbyn isn’t doing this and showing no desire to try it. He talks about a mandate but doesn’t want to use it. This isn’t leading.
In short, Corbyn can’t be a leader because he’s never wanted to be one. And, he can’t command loyalty from Labour because he’s never given it.