Thursday, January 31, 2019

Why Jeremy Corbyn is like Billy Liar



These days this blog does not aspire to offer a hot take on each days events. In fact, I have rather tired of blogs that do.

One reason for this is that your takes will probably be wrong. I know that doesn't stop newspaper columnists, who rely on the fact that no one remembers what they said the week before, but I am a veteran of the days when bloggers thought they were doing some different and more honest.

A good example of getting wrong is a post I wrote in April 2016 where, in response to some long-forgotten speech or statement, I welcomed Jeremy Corbyn's conversion to the European cause.

Of course, as this week's events have made clear, he hadn't converted to it at all.

Still the first part of that post stands up well, so I am reproducing it here:
"I knew him when we were 18 or 19, and his views have not changed. We are talking about the thick end of 50 years ago." 
So said one of Jeremy Corbyn's old friends when interviewed by the Shropshire Star last year. 
That planting a red flag on top of the Wrekin is the most endearing thing I have read about Corbyn, but his friend's comment did play into the fear that his politics do not represent an engagement with the world around him. So it was good to hear him today accepting political reality and arguing Britain should remain in the European Union. 
As Martin Kettle says: 
The Labour leader finally caught up with the pro-EU shift that his party made under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s. 
That pro-EU shift did arise partly out of despair at Margaret Thatcher's repeated victories, but it also recognised that the world was changing. Westminster was not the only seat of power, and battles that could not be won there might be won somewhere else. 
Throughout this period, Jeremy Corbyn clung to his anti-EU beliefs. He was a supporter of the Labout left's 'alternative economic strategy' and its emphasis on import controls. 
There is a danger in getting less radical as you grow older - "I used to be a bit of a firebrand when I was your age, but you can't change human nature" - but there is a greater danger in living inside your head and not engaging with contemporary problems. 
Somewhere in the background of every young radical is the ghost of Billy Liar and his imaginary kingdom of Ambrosia.
You can see what I mean in the film clip above.

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