Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Responding to Corbyn part 1; the need for courtesy and respect for democracy

Whatever we think of him, Jeremy Corbyn is now, as the result of a democratic election, the leader of Britain's main opposition party.

That does not put him above criticism. It does not mean people cannot make jokes at his expense. But it would be wise for members of both his own party and others to treat him, and more importantly those who voted for him, with a certain level of courtesy and respect.

I'm not saying that will be easy.

Nevertheless, those who officially represent the Conservative party and are required to comment on his election should congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his victory, and try to do so with a straight face.

However strongly we may disagree with his and their views, those who elected him Labour leader were exercising their democratic rights, and beyond a certain point, showing open contempt for them begins to shade into contempt for democracy.

Yes, I'm fully aware that the open hatred many of the left recently displayed for anyone who voted Conservative in May's general election comes into precisely that category, of those who cross the line between disagreement with your opponents and despising their exercise of their democratic rights. It showed them in a very bad light.

All the more reason for the centre and right not to fall into the same trap.

And that includes Mr Corbyn's opponents with in the Labour party such as my own MP.

Naturally I entirely agree with Jamie Reed's comments about Jeremy Corbyn's opposition to the nuclear industry, which he rightly described as "poorly informed and fundamentally wrong."

I look forward to quoting those comments extensively on the doorstep during the campaign for the forthcoming Howgate county council by-election, and indeed, in every election in West Cumbria while Jeremy Corbyn remains leader of the Labour party.

Nor will I criticise Jamie Reed for returning to the back benches rather than serve in the team of a leader he so obviously disagrees with.

But agreeing with his resignation and the opinions he expressed, and approving of the way he did it,  or imagining that it showed good political judgement, are quite different things.

The fact of his resignation was principled but the manner of it was anything but.

Not for the first time in his political career, Jamie Reed has expressed opinions which many residents of his constituency will agree with in a confrontational and counterproductive way which will do nothing whatsoever to help him fight for their interests.

Publishing a pre-prepared letter on social media which strongly attacked his new leader within moments of that leader's election, and when his victory speech had barely begun, was a great way to get headlines. A less good way to convince those in the Labour party who need to be convinced about how much our community needs new nuclear build.

It's given a great piece of political ammunition to people like me - and by God we'll use it! - but to those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn and quite possibly a good chunk of the rest of the Labour party, for Jamie Reed to deliberately rain on JC's parade in this way will look like at best an arrogant contempt for democracy and at worst a betrayal of the people who put him where he is.

Jamie Reed may think that resigning in this way made him look like a man of principle, but if, God forbid, there is another Labour government during the remainder of his parliamentary career, he has probably made it harder for himself to deliver on those principles. There is no memory in British politics longer than the memory of Labour party members for what they consider betrayal.

No comments: