Monday, 18 January 2016

It wasn't that Marr was unfair, it's that Corbyn wasn't up to the job

Yesterday Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn went on the Andrew Marr show to give an in depth interview presumably about his suggestions for promoting fairness in the workplace, ideas he had outlined to the Fabian’s annual conference the day before on stopping companies paying dividends to shareholders where they did not pay the living wage and the possibility of introducing legislation to enforce pay differentials.

It’s fair to say the Marr Show didn’t go well for Jeremy.

In the absence of anything substantial to talk  about  Marr took Mr Corbyn down a path of hypothetical questions on issues as varied as sympathy strikes (apparently they should be legal), Trident (we’ll get rid of the weapons but keep the boats) and the Falkland Islands (on the face of it the views of islanders don’t count for much).

Twitter went mad not least with former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, loudly espousing ‘Marr’s Corbyn interview was a disgrace’, that the interview was not so much ‘Deutschland ‘83’ but ‘Marr ‘82’ and that ‘journalist should recognise that the public wants to here (sic) what Labour’s policies are for today’.

The problem for Mr Prescott, and even more so for Mr Corbyn, is that Andrew Marr was doing his job – nothing more, nothing less.

There was no way that any journalist worth his salt, let alone one as highly regarded as Andrew Marr,  was going to let a politician appear on their show for a twelve minute interview and only discuss a set of policy suggestions which appear to have been drawn up on the back of the proverbial fag packet (when pressed Mr Corbyn had no idea of what his preferred pay differentials, for example, would be)

There was no way that any journalist having given due credence to a set of flaky suggestions would then give a politician a free platform to highlight the weaknesses of their opponent.

That isn’t a journalists job, scrutinising the politician in front of them is.

When armed with quotes from the Shadow Chancellor that in future Labour would ‘automatically’ support all strikes of course pressing the Labour Leader on his position is a valid road to go down.

When Labour politicians, including the Leadership, are speaking openly about a defence review with the possibility of unilateral nuclear disarmament at it’s heart Mr Corbyn’s views are a logical line of questioning, although in his wildest dreams Mr Marr couldn’t have expected the Labour leader suggesting having nuclear submarines without the warheads.

As the old saying goes there is no point in shooting the messenger. If the message isn’t strong enough the sort of interview that Mr Corbyn was subject to yesterday will become the norm.

I’ve always been told that any politician should know the answers they are prepared to give before the question has been asked.

Either Mr Corbyn had prepared answers for questions he was likely to face before the interview or he was ill prepared.

The Labour leader and, just as importantly, his team should be savvy enough to know that whatever the reason was for his answers performances like he gave yesterday were simply not good enough..

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 - the year of 'but'?

Did you have a good New Years Eve?

I did. My family and I were invited to a rather decent party by friends who hold an event to see the year out every 31st December. Our friends party is always excellent, the food and drink is always free flowing, the conversations always diverse and interesting.

Last night, as middle aged parents usually do, we spoke about schools and holidays, interesting books and latest kitchen gadgets. As always as the night progressed the discussions became deeper and as they often do, particularly when new acquaintances become aware of my role as a Councillor, the subject comes round to politics.

A number of times last night I was asked the same question: 'So, what do you think of Jeremy Corbyn?'

Each time I was faced with trying to give a balanced answer I decided to try something a little different with my response: 'Well, what do you think of him'?

There was as an odd symmetry in the views I received back.

'Well, he seems a nice guy but I'm not sure about his views on defence.'

'He seems really principled but I can't see him going into a room with the US President or German Chancellor.'

'I like him but he's a bit incompetent isn't he?'

Its fair to say that these responses came from people who my experience on the doorstep wouldn't have me pegging them as regular Labour voters but each person in turn told me that they had voted for us in the past, perhaps more importantly each one had a general antipathy towards the Tories.

It seems to me at least that I hear that word 'BUT' far more often than I should.

How many people like Mr Corbyn, very much me included, BUT there is always a reason they wouldn't consider voting for him?

I don't usually do political predictions but I am going to make one for 2016. This year for Labour will be the year of 'BUT'.

In Jeremy Corbyn Labour has a leader that is genuinely likeable.

If the party can eradicate enough of those 'BUT's there is a real chance that Jeremy will become Prime Minister, if they can't there is a real chance that Labour's days as an electoral force are over.