(written in response to: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/01/corbyn-staying-not-good-enough)
I’d seen the fuss about this but hadn’t read it before now — largely because I think Owen Jones has been saying the same thing over and over again for about six months.
Now I have, and it’s basically what he always says. Labour’s heading for calamitous defeat, Corbyn’s got to get his act together, otherwise he’s got to go.
I think he’s right that Labour will lose the election. Then again, I’ve thought that since 2015. Regardless of who was in charge.
In my view, Jones always massively underestimates the level of bias and hostility Corbyn or anyone radical faces in the media. The way he tells it, it’s a challenge for Corbyn to get his message out, but, if he and his team were clever enough, they’d have a fair shot. I think the slickest media operation in human history can’t help you when you’ve got an agenda that far outside the neoliberal consensus.
By modern, shallow, individual-obsessed telly politics standards, Corbyn is a rubbish leader. But by that same standard, a good ‘leader’ is a slick-talking non-ideological manager type in a nice suit who doesn’t really stand for anything — ie Blair.
I think that needs to be challenged, and that Corbyn’s doing that — trying to take the focus away from one person and bring it back to being about the labour movement as a whole.
What I think Jones and friends really want is a sort of left-wing Blair or a left-wing Obama. Someone who gives rousing speeches and looks good on the telly but has Corbyn’s policies. Personally, I can see absolutely no-one who fits the bill — and even if there was someone, I reckon the media would give him/her just as rough a ride.
Jones isn’t an establishment stooge or whatever else his more hysterical critics call him. He’s what he says he is — a left-winger trying to make arguments for radical change through the mainstream media.
But I also think it’s not a coincidence that the left-wing pundits who’ve been loudly and extremely pessimistic about Corbyn since the beginning, bear a fairly massive responsibility for demoralising and chipping away at his core support, and now sound like they’re edging on calling for him to go — Jones, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, people like that — work in the mainstream media.
Again — they’re not undercover Blairites. They’re not MI5 agents. But I think it’s as simple as this — that the longer you spend working in that bubble, the more you start to see the world in the same way as most other people in it. Or, perhaps — that if you think getting your radical message out through the mainstream is a viable enough option to try it as a career, you’ve probably got too much faith in the mainstream to begin with.
I don’t think Jones, say, is any less left-wing than when he first started out. But I think he’s got too much faith in the mainstream — the press, parliamentary politics, and the establishment in general.
That might sound strange — this is a man who wrote a book-length polemic against ‘The Establishment’ after all. But in it, just like in his columns and videos and other output, he focuses on easy, obvious, Murdoch-like villains — while skimming over how the ‘liberal’ media organs he works in and around (The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC, ITV and so on), are just as vital to propping up the majority-squashing status quo as the Sun and the Mail.
In short: he says Corbyn needs to go and be replaced with someone who can play the game better. I don’t think anyone worth winning would ever be allowed to win the game.
Is it — ie the attempt to kick-start a socialist revitalisation of society — going very well? Of course it’s not. That comes downs to deep-rooted problems that long predate Corbyn’s leadership, and left-wingers will probably be grappling with long after it’s over — and if a better world ever comes about, I reckon it’s going to result from a long, determined struggle outside the sort of structures Jones and pals (well-meaningly) want us to spend our time trying to crack.
I have no control over whether Corbyn goes or not. If he stays, I’ll support him. If he goes, I’ll support the left-wing candidate. If there isn’t one, I’ll go and live in a ditch in Cornwall and re-emerge in a few years to see what little remains of civilised society. Night night.