The other day I caused a bit of a stir on Twitter when I posted this meme.
‘Neil saved our party,’ tweeters squawked angrily. ‘You should be ashamed.’
Ashamed? That’s not a feeling I’d attribute to being honest. If anything I was feeling quite satisfied with myself for drawing people’s attention to the irony of an ex-Labour leader, who was given nine long years to steer the Labour Party to the centre-right, telling Jeremy Corbyn to step down as leader ‘after a reasonable amount of time if he doesn’t connect with the electorate,’ which is thinly veiled code for the local elections should Labour do badly.
What a ruddy cheek, was my first reaction. One rule for Neil and another for Jeremy. It would be like a retired CEO who’d built a company up over a decade or more, telling the new boss to step down after six months because of inevitable teething problems. If anyone should understand the scale of the task facing Jeremy it’s Neil.
On Wikipedia it says, ‘His first period as party leader – between the 1983 and 1987 elections – was dominated by his struggle with the hard left, then still strong in the party. Kinnock was determined to move the party’s political standing to a centre-left position.’ Just replace the words hard left with hard right and it could have been written about Jeremy years from now.
Let’s face it – nothing makes a party more unelectable than disunity, and nothing leads to disunity more than major upheaval. And Jeremy’s surprise win was always going to lead to major upheaval. So that’s where we are right now; in a very similar place to the one we were in in 1983. We are a party going through a process of realignment, welcomed by many and resented by some.
So let’s forget about electability for now and focus on unity because no one’s going to vote for a party who call to mind a brawl at a drunken wedding. The public can’t see our policies through the pandaemonium. We need time to sort this out.
Just ask Neil.