Ayesha Hazarika: Corbyn has got wasted on the Kool-Aid

Written by Ayesha Hazarika on 29 June 2016 in Opinion

Brexit may well be a walk in the park compared to Jexit.

It’s hard to process what has happened in British politics over the last 14 days. An MP was killed doing her job. We have voted to leave the EU. There is no government. There is no opposition. The economy teeters on the brink of recession again. The country is divided, full to the brim with hate and old school street racism is making a comeback.

This country is in political, financial and moral crisis. This referendum was horrible, but it wasn’t solely responsible for all these things. It held up a mirror to just how unhappy and fragile this country really is underneath all the Tory spin about a “long term economic plan.” Broken Britain’s more like it.

While I wasn’t delighted with the result, I’ve had a difficult time dealing with my distraught middle class London Remain friends crying into their smashed avocado on gluten free toast, sobbing about how their Farrow and Ball lives are RUINED, about the INJUSTICE of little Jacasta being denied her human right to do Erasmus and about how their Italian summer plans hang in the balance. “My heart is Umbrian” one of them wailed. I thought she said Cumbrian and was confused for a wee while.

But the overwhelming reaction was an anger and deep sense of frustration that our educated, progressive and morally superior voice hadn’t been heard and we had not won: ‘HOW CAN THIS BE OCCURING?’

The answer is not London MPs trying overturn the result or having a second referendum. And nor is the answer to yell at people who voted for Leave or patronise them and call them thick, provincial or racist.

It’s all too easy to reach for a leftie Twitter meme but we have got to try and do the harder thing which is do better politics.

Step up. Talk about the things people care about or fear. Make arguments which show you have solutions and values. Persuade people. Don’t ignore them, fight or fear them. Try and find a way to heal this angry country. Get out of the London bubble. Share some of the goodies. Break free of established political groupthink.

The political landscape has changed forever. There has never been a more important time for the Labour party to exist and to be firing on all cylinders.  Instead we have morphed into a global laughing stock.

It looks like we will fully leave the EU before Jeremy leaves Norman Shaw South. Brexit may well be a walk in the park compared to Jexit.

It’s clear that he is going nowhere. This dude has got wasted on the Kool-Aid. Ironically as an insurgent, he’s succumbed the worst trait of those establishment leaders he railed against – narcissism. He loves the love. And who wouldn’t. Travelling around the country in a bubble of adoration and hero worship. But it can cloud your judgement. Things may turn and he may not be able to tell.

I’m reminded from a scene from Blackadder where the deluded Prince exclaims “Listen – they love me. We hail you. We hail you – they’re saying.” “No Sir – we hate you…. They’re saying they hate you.”

He won a big majority in the leadership contest. We all know that. But being the boss is about leading a team which includes members, voters, councillors and MPs. Yes, members (and people, cats, Tories etc who paid three quid) are important but they aren’t higher up the political food chain than MPs who are elected by thousands of voters and nor should they be.

Of course having loads of members is a good thing, but if we don’t have MPs, we’re impotent. Just look at Scotland.

We are a democratic party which seeks to win power in Parliament. We’re not a charity or a pressure group. We exist to win elections; to win seats. We don’t exist to just hold rallies and run hashtag based campaigns on Twitter. We are not a cult.

MPs are important. Let’s just remind ourselves of the good they do for their constituents and the change they can effect in Parliament.  They matter. And if you lose the support of so many of them, something’s not right. And if every wing of the party is telling you to go, there’s got to be something in that. And they can’t all be Red Tory Blairites.

I suspect that in his heart of hearts Jeremy is exhausted and deeply upset by all this. It can’t be pleasant and he’s a gentle soul. I imagine he has come close to just walking away but his key advisers – the power behind the throne – are shoring him up to cling onto their own positions of power and the dreams they harbour of smashing the party.

Winning the battle for control of the party is clearly more important that winning the next general election.

We’ve seen how formidable the Tories are and how ruthless they are in their pursuit of power. We know that UKIP is a threat in large numbers of working class Labour seats. We know we are losing support in those areas. We know Jeremy is not the answer.

Jeremy has reshaped the party in many positive ways. He has helped the party rediscover its heart, compassion and humanity. His arguments on inequality and social justice are welcome and are of their time. If he were to step aside, he could still have significant influence – he could be a touchstone for the new leadership team.

He could save the party – and himself - from a bruising leadership contest which no one really wants. Being honest, I think he would have a decent shot at winning – although many who voted for him are expressing buyers’ remorse. But at what cost?

If she does stand, Angela Eagle will put up a damn good fight. She is a popular with the members, has impeccable trade union credentials, is an energetic, brave, political street fighter and a lot of people will jump at the chance to vote for a woman. In her own words – beware the blond bombshell.

And even if he does win, it would be a pyrrhic victory which would cost him a lot personally, cost the party a disastrous general election defeat and cost the country a bigger Tory majority and the arrival of UKIP in our Parliament. Is that what he really wants? Is that what he really set out to do when he stood to be leader?

Many people who were involved with his campaign and who were early adopters have confessed that it wasn’t really meant to turn out this way. It’s a bit like when a prank goes a bit too far. A bit like that film “Wargames” where that kid hacks into the government’s computer system and almost starts World War Three.  A bit like when our Prime Minister took a gamble on having a referendum and then the country voted to leave the EU.

We’ve had enough of political pranks. We’ve had enough of egos. We need Jeremy to do the right thing for the party, for the country and for people who most need a Labour government. He should let his decency prevail and step aside.


About the author

Ayesha Hazarika  was a senior Labour adviser to Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband and is now a commentator and stand-up comedian.

Ayesha will be performing her one woman show about her time in the Labour Party 'tales from the pink bus' on the 6 & 19th July in London and at the Edinburgh festival on 15,16 & 17th August. More details at www.funnywomen.com / www.gildedballoon.co.uk

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