General election: Is Jeremy Corbyn just looking for an escape route? – Ayesha Hazarika

Jeremy Corbyn out-smarted Dominic Cummings’ alleged plan for Boris Johnson to call a general election after a no-deal Brexit, but Labour is still staring at defeat in the looming snap poll, writes Ayesha Hazarika.

The number of Jeremy Corbyn's closest allies is slimming down faster than Tom Watson, says Ayesha Hazarika  (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)
The number of Jeremy Corbyn's closest allies is slimming down faster than Tom Watson, says Ayesha Hazarika (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve just had an email. “Take away No Deal, then let’s have the election.”

For a second I thought “Blimey, Deliveroo’s got political” but no, it was from Jeremy Corbyn saying bring it on baby.

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I genuinely think Labour is in a really difficult place here. Damned if they do. Damned if they don’t.

The maxim in politics was that the opposition party would always champ at the bit for an election.

“Name the date?” would be the cheer line at Prime Minister’s Questions from days gone by.

But that will sound somewhat hollow next time when the Tories start falling about laughing and making poultry-based sounds.

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But even worse will be the rictus grins plastered across the faces of the Shadow Cabinet behind Corbyn, as they grimace through the jeers knowing that even though their boss desperately wants one, the party they still love could get absolutely kebabbed. It’s tough.

Corbyn was right to vote against an election which would have allowed us to crash out of the EU with no deal.

That was highly counter-intuitive for him because it was smart, strategic and ruthlessly buggered up the best-laid plans of the so-called genius Dominic Cummings and his so-called boss Boris Johnson.

Almost Blair-like cunning

It was savvy opposition. It was almost Blair-like in its cunning. So much so that Blair praised Corbyn.

Which is maybe why the Labour leader has reverse-ferreted to his original position of an election as soon as the Brexit extension is secured.

The idea of an election before Christmas has caused concern as it would be a de-facto Brexit referendum and Labour’s position is still far from clear or popular with the public.

Keir Starmer reportedly told the Shadow Cabinet that when door knocking in Camden, Labour voters were switching to the Lib Dems because they want their vote to be counted as anti-Brexit. This is happening in other Remain areas like Bristol. I’ve seen it myself.

Then you have the fact that Corbyn is massively unpopular because of anti-semitism, bullying and misogyny within the party. But he seems defiant and I can kind of see where he’s coming from.

Outside the world of political strategy and geekery, it isn’t a great look to give it the big one about being match fit and ready for victory and then turn down yet another chance of an election.

The ‘magic’ of 2017

It looks shifty and all about self-preservation which it is – welcome to realpolitik.

Corbyn and his closest allies – a group slimming down faster than Tom Watson – still believe that they can repeat the so-called “magic” of the 2017 election where broadcast rules gave him more coverage and people saw what a great campaigner he was. Apart from not winning.

They also correctly remind people that he was 24 points behind in the polls.

But their biggest hope is that despite what commentators say, Brexit won’t be that big an issue (it wasn’t in 2017) and that people will care more about austerity and their radical policy package.

I think that’s unlikely given where we are, but it’s not impossible and that’s important to register.

Labour’s head should say no to an early election, but its heart clearly says yes.

Or maybe Corbyn’s just had enough. And maybe an election is his escape route. I wouldn’t blame him.