Things are not all well in my home, Islington. In cafes and bistros across the borough, over soy lattes and quinoa salads, serious questions are being asked in hushed, conspiratorial tones. Can he ever change? Can he attract the right kind of people? Is he too stuck in his ways? Why does he keep losing his best talent? Is he simply a dinosaur too principled for success in the 21st century?
On top of these conversations about Arsene Wenger, Jeremy Corbyn is also under a serious pressure to start performing in a manner that resembles a leader of the opposition, let alone a Prime Minister in waiting. A clear victory in the coming by-elections and boost in the national polls are needed or Corbyn could beat the other onetime Islington favourite to early retirement.
The problems facing Jeremy Corbyn and his senior team are broad enough to challenge even the slickest of political machines, let alone the mess that Corbyn captains. Brexit has stunned the party, senior figures continue to stand down on a regular basis and Theresa May continues to soar in the polls in spite of problems in the NHS and embarrassing photo opportunities with Donald Trump. Even when Jeremy Corbyn lands a convincing blow in PMQs or his Shadow Team put in impressive performances when highlighting Government mistakes, the party and its leader simply cannot make any ground.
At almost every turn in recent months Corbyn has achieved the seemingly impossible feat of appearing as a stubborn ideologue that flip-flops on positions on an hourly basis. The 2017 relaunch of Corbyn, dubbed ‘Let Corbyn be Corbyn’, was a horror show of false starts, mistakes and back tracks that made the Trump campaign look like a well-reasoned, well-oiled machine. Message discipline, always a problem for Corbyn and his advisors, has all but gone out the window while attempts to keep up with changing events, such as High Court’s decision on Brexit, fall flat.
This catalogue of errors has been the norm under Corbyn’s leadership and has left the party in a perilous position. Both Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland have only ever returned a Labour MP but the party is in severe danger of collapsing in both the upcoming by-elections, with national polls seeing Labour fall to a previously unthinkable 24% of the national vote. High profile middle ground MPs look set to continue to resign in protest to Corbyn’s leadership and there have been an increasing number of stories linking Clive Lewis and Rebecca Long-Bailey to leadership bids in the future.
Despite issues around Brexit and the presentational nightmares Corbyn inflicts upon the party there is a feeling that perhaps it is his home borough that is more at fault than the man himself. Islington, once the home of Tony Blair and still a New Labour intellectual home, is held by Labour’s critics as everything that is wrong with both the country and the party. The borough, not completely unfairly, is characterised as the home of the liberal elite, where the country is ruled from dinner parties and the poor are scorned as uncultured and unwelcome. One only has to listen two minutes of Nigel Farage’s dozen daily media appearances to hear him blame Islington and its residents for the ills of modern England, with their champagne and soft football team.
It is certainly true that the Labour party has been run by the residents of Islington and their liberal politics for the last twenty years and that there has been a remarkable gap growing between the party’s leadership and core vote. Flat lining wages, immigration and the constant feeling of being left behind have seen traditional core Labour voters feel betrayed by a party they see as London centric and disinterested in their problems.
The most worrying polls for the Labour party should not be the shocking national polls but the Conservatives lead of 16% among working class voters. If the party is to remain even a semi-relevant force in UK politics it has to begin to win back support outside of London and shed the image of being a party run by and run for the metropolitan elite. This is not a task Jeremy Corbyn can perform but, as I read my Guardian and sip my ginseng tea on Upper Street, I am struggling to think of anyone in the current party who can?
William O'Brien, Account Manager
Email Will: William@mailpbconsulting.com