It’s always a problem. In a primary system, only the most engaged of any party’s supporters – the ‘base’ – picks a candidate. As a result, extremists are often, but not always, elected to lead. They then spend the rest of their time as leader frantically rowing back from whatever they said to win over the base, in order to win the general election.
While I had huge respect for Conservative party members and activists as a candidate – I was one before and am still one now – I bore in mind it wasn’t 500 local members who would elect me or not, but roughly 70-80 000 voters in our large constituency. As Conservatives we had to appeal to the middle, the disengaged, the swing voter.
This problem is writ large in 2015, in opposite directions on two sides of the pond. Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left MP, is leading in Labour’s race in the UK while Donald Trump is leading in the GOP primary field, for now. Trump made cracks about Mexican immigrants raping and Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly’s period. Now I am not politically correct, but if racism and sexism is the answer, my support goes to Hillary.
Jeremy Corbyn was revealed yesterday to have donated to the anti-semitic hate group Deir Yassin Remembered and gone to ‘every one’ of their celebrations since the year 2000 (that’s over a span of 15 years for those counting). Yesterday his office issued a non-denial denial, saying the ‘office’ had no connection with the brutal anti-semite and racist Paul Eisen, its leader; but they would not answer if Corbyn had donated, was a member, or had personal connections with Eisen. (photo is of Corbyn at a DYR rally in 2005)
On both ends of the political spectrum, it’s simply not good enough, and it’s a problem for the Republicans and for Labour that their supporters like these people. The GOP should stop giving Trump airtime. Erick Erickson of Red State led the way on that yesterday.
But there is one big difference between the Republican primary and the Labour leadership. The Republican voters can make Trump the nominee, and voters can make him the President; he is directly elected to executive office.
Nobody wants to tell Labour party members the unhappy truth which is that they cannot make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister. A Prime Minister is simply a man or woman who can command a majority in the House of Commons. Right now, Labour MPs are saying as loudly as they dare that they will not sign up to Corbyn’s Cabinet; but it also means they won’t follow his whip or his leadership. Corbyn himself rebelled so often he cannot expect his colleagues to follow his lunatic policies now.
Whatever the votes cast, it’s really simple; if Jeremy Corbyn cannot get Labour MPs to support his policies, he can’t lead the party, and certainly can never become Prime Minister. He could never sit in front of the Queen and tell her he can command a majority in the House of Commons if Labour MPs won’t support him.
One end game is second preferences making Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham leader. Another is that Corbyn wins, Labour MPs immediately rebel (two months perhaps – but they would be better declaring the leadership election infiltrated and ripping off the plaster right away than waiting) and a second election is scheduled. Tom Watson will be elected Deputy Leader in the forthcoming election, and would therefore be Acting Leader at the time. I can see Tom running, and he would win any second contest easily. I know and like Tom and he is a pragmatist. Compared to Corbyn he will look like Margaret Thatcher. Compared to Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper he will look like Jeremy Corbyn, however. Tom’s support in the Union movement is total. He would be an effective leader of the Opposition if (and my advice here is as his friend) he worked hard on understanding the shift he’d just made, and above all other things, controlled his temper and moderated his speech.
At any rate, Corbyn refusing to speak on membership of and financial donation to Deir Yassin Remembered is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in terms of the group and it’s also unacceptable in terms of cowardice.
If he wins, Labour MPs should take the damage on the chin and make their move immediately to oust him. The problem will not get better the longer they procrastinate.