The Labour Party leader’s image has always been a problem but people are now responding to his human side, says Jim Duffy
There is never a dull moment in politics. When the election starting gun was fired, it was going to be a landslide for the Conservatives. Rule Britannia was going to sweep the boards and paint the town blue. Oh how Mrs Thatcher would have been so proud of Theresa May. And Jeremy Corbyn, who has not had an easy time in charge of the Labour party, was doomed. Yes, it was the end of the Labour Party as we know it and all that amazing work Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had done to elevate it from the beer and fags red brigade. The Lib Dems were still not totally forgiven for nestling up to the Conservatives under Nick Clegg and the SNP were in total charge of Scotland.
Well, that was last week! So, what has happened that has changed the game so dramatically?
Let’s be honest first. The UK is a busted flush financially. We can tinker with this and that and play about with national minimum wage and taxes, but if we are being totally honest, radical change is needed. With the UK national debt at over £1.7 trillion in January of this year and not getting any better, I would suggest that tax, VAT, corporation tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty taxes, insurance taxes and any other taxes you can think of really need to double – do they not? No other business could actually go on like this and be allowed to trade without the auditors and administrators coming.
But, of course, that’s not news political parties want to give us. So, let’s set reality aside and just do what we always do and focus on personalities and media, soundbites, gaffes and sartorial panache. And this is where I think it is getting interesting.
I wonder if we are now getting used to Jeremy Corbyn and his team screwing up radio interviews when asked about numbers and funding for his policies. Diane Abbot on LBC last month was indeed cringe-worthy, while Jezza himself got into a pickle this week while being interview on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, when asked to explain his numbers.
But he did the right thing afterwards. He apologised, while on the rostrum in Watford. Well done Jezza!
It is Jeremy Corbyn’s humanity that may indeed be a big win for the Labour Party’s election campaign. Yes, he gets his figures wrong on occasion. Yes, he could do with a trip to get a dapper new suit. Yes, he’s not as Teflon as Tony, in that the old IRA stuff keeps dogging him.
While we’re on this subject, Diane was also quizzed on her historical IRA views. Here we go – I thought she would dodge the question. But, no she did not. Di made clear that we all grow up one day and it’s okay to change your view. Again, a wee bit of humility. Is this side of Labour the magic pixie dust that will get them enough seats to continue to be meaningful and indeed form that weird thing called a progressive alliance with the SNP and the Lib Dems?
And what about Mrs May? Initially, we all thought she was a shoe-in for a massive Commons majority. I certainly did. There was a lot of polish, expensive suits and skirts and of course, well-executed and orchestrated media appearances. But, the debacle of the death tax and the subsequent U-turn was all very stage-managed. It’s still very stage-managed: all there to look good in the media. Is that not what Tony Blair did? And where was the substance?
I’m going to argue that Mrs May’s halo has slipped and we can all see it, but the Conservatives are glossing over it. And maybe, just maybe, we as human beings are reading the signals. Maybe we don’t want it all glossy and polished. Maybe we want a bit of amateur. Maybe we want to see our politicians as they are.
Could Jezza actually do the unthinkable and land even more Labour seats? This is a feat that six months ago, I would never have bet on at the bookies. Are his “normalness”, his lack of spit and polish, his lack of confidence at times and his uneasy manner when in front of TV cameras, actually a winning formula? I certainly would not look forward to being grilled by Paxo – would you?
I don’t mind the media manipulation or management during general elections. It’s all part of the game. And a lot of agencies are being paid big money to get it right. But, if we look at President Trump on his election campaign, he was making gaffes all over the place. He showed his human side – like it or not – and was happy to go off-piste with his interviewers. He was up against a far more seasoned and slick opponent in Hilary Clinton. But, would you Adam and Eve it? He won. So, maybe there is something in this, and there is some form of explanation as to why Jezza has narrowed the gap on Mrs May.
Only time will tell, but authenticity goes a long way.