Jeremy Corbyn’s crass and dishonest handling of the ‘no-seats-on-the-train’ controversy sums up everything that is politically and personally wrong with him, his advisors and their view of the world from the perspective of the hard left.
Just to recap, Corbyn was persuaded to gain some political capital from his promise to re-nationalise the railways by filming himself sitting on the floor of a Virgin train from London to Newcastle, supposedly because there were no seats available. Virgin responded by releasing film from closed-circuit cameras showing Corbyn passing through a carriage in which more than several seats were vacant.
Corbyn promptly attacked Virgin, and its chief executive Richard Branson, for attacking him, inevitably claiming it was part of some dastardly capitalist plot to discredit him. “I can’t wait to nationalise you,” said Corbyn, or words to that effect.
Silly enough as that reaction was, from a tactical point of view, he then backtracked on his original offence with some half-baked explanation that he had been looking for two seats, one for himself and one for his wife. Now, it is hardly a unique experience for couples to board a train, or a bus, only to find themselves sitting apart. It happens to my wife and me all the time. Occasionally, we can’t even get seats together on an aircraft. Such is life in the world of travel these days.
A savvier politician than Corbyn – and most politicians are – would have responded in such a way as to remove the story from the front pages as quickly as possible. He could have done so simply by admitting that he was mistaken, or by acknowledging that in staging his ‘sit-in’, yes, he was making a political point. He might even have kept entirely shtum, and let the storm-in-a-choo-choo blow over of its own accord as most stories do in August, not for nothing known as the silly season.
But not our Jeremy; instead, he stoked the dying embers, adding yet more fuel.
He is as far from savvy as a politician can be. So are most of his fellow-travellers (in both senses of the term). They try to turn this lack of guile into a political virtue. “See,” they say, “we’re not like other politicians, always lying and cheating and having you on. With us, what you see is what you get.”
Well, evidently not. Having their man sit on the floor of a train to underline the lack of seating when plainly there are plenty of seats available is not giving us what we see. Someone, a professional campaign veteran perhaps, should have been on hand to tell Corbyn that the sit-in was not a good idea, but Corbyn disdains to have such people around him, on the grounds that such people are precisely the kind of cynical hucksters he wants the party to get away from. He surrounds himself instead with acolytes who are so slavishly devoted to The Cause, so immersed in their evangelism, and so consumed by their undeviating self-righteousness that every vestige of common sense has deserted them – and decency, too, if the recent defensive response to charges of anti-Semitism is anything to go by.
The Corbynistas fail to recognise that they are turning Labour voters off in droves because of evidence to the contrary that the party has of late signed up hundreds of thousands of new members. The membership has indeed doubled to 600,000 in recent weeks, a figure that might be the envy of the Conservative Party if the Conservative Party was not busy running the government as the Labour party tears itself apart in opposition and its leader stumbles from one blunder to the next with metronomic regularity. The gains in enrolment may represent an impressive achievement purely in organisational terms but means nothing in the greater political scheme of things.
Meanwhile, many Labour voters – as opposed to the rigidly left-wing Labour activists signing up for Corbyn’s great socialist crusade – are themselves busy defecting to Nigel Farage and his UK Independence Party, whose populist platform is as far from the Corbyn camp’s raving Trotskyism as can be imagined.
An honest fool is at least half-way to gaining public affection. A dishonest fool will never get a look in.
Corbyn is a dishonest fool.