What those of us with a long-standing interest in Labour politics knew before he was elected – that Corbyn is a man with positions, not policies – becomes more obvious by the day.I remember the damage a previous generation of hard-left politicians inflicted on the Labour Party, creating divisions that took years to heal.
None of that affects his core support, which is grounded in hostility to professional politicians (although that, ironically, is what Corbyn is) and unaffected by rational argument.Imagine a pub band that’s been slogging round the country since the 1970s, playing the same old songs in back rooms.No one expects them to make the big time, not even members of the band, but then something extraordinary happens.By some fluke – mainly because everyone has got fed up with manufactured boy bands – they have a hit single. This is roughly where the Labour Party stands under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.Nostalgia can only take you so far, and his back catalogue has already moved from unfamiliar and charming, if a bit rough round the edges, to bizarre and alarming.Some of his supporters are sentimental and self-righteous by turns, demanding all kinds of things – free speech and the right to attack opponents – they don’t want to share with anyone else.
If you disagree with “Jeremy” you must be a Blairite or a Tory, insults designed to marginalise the soft left who are his most dangerous opponents.
As so often, I can’t help wondering what Robin Cook would make of all this.
Cook was neither a pacifist nor a “war-monger”, constantly interrogating his own politics in the light of events.
Like many of us on the left, he took the idea of universal human rights as his starting-point, supporting British intervention in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone but not the invasion of Iraq.
Cook was thoughtful and consistent in a good way, which isn’t something you can say about Corbyn.
He is critical of Saudi Arabia, a view many of us share, but he doesn’t employ the same strictures towards Iran.