I hate to go on about Jeremy Corbyn, I really do, but his public performances as leader of the Labour Party over the past two days invite ridicule, even opprobrium.
First, he announces his shadow cabinet. The good news, if you were confidently expecting a panel in which the female gender featured prominently, is that half the positions went to women. The bad news is that none of them was a senior position. Should Labour win a general election tomorrow – admittedly an unlikely prospect on various levels – the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be a chap, actually one of Jeremy’s Trotskyist pals. Likewise given to males were the post of Deputy Leadership and the briefs for Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary. Women, it is true, received Health and Education, but then nursing and teaching are almost reserved occupations for the ladies.
Then he shows up at St. Paul’s cathedral for a service commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary commemorating the Battle of Britain looking like an absent-minded teacher of English literature who’s got out of bed late, dressed in the first things that came out of the wardrobe, and rushed into church with seconds to spare. “Sorry, I couldn’t find my bicycle clips.” His jacket and trousers don’t match and his top shirt button is left undone. During the service, he’s photographed among the great and the good standing silently while the national anthem is sung.
To finish off what he probably regards as a perfect day, he shows up at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton and gives a rambling, almost incoherent speech. It is delivered deadpan. Where is the emotion, the indignant fervour? Where, even, is wit? He was in a comfortable environment, his listeners all fellow-travellers on the revolutionary road, but even they could only muster a polite round of applause. Okay, there were a few cheers, but they seemed no more than the mechanical plaudits of the delegated who have been prodded by stewards to get to their feet and put on a decent show for the cameras.
The man seems to revel in his image of a dishevelled substitute teacher, and he has all the charisma to go with the part. When he stands up to speak, he generates all the excitement of a pupil forced to read an extract from the Iliad to the class as a punishment.
You may agree with his policies – even I can’t fundamentally argue with some of them – but still object to his calculated, crumpled, ice-cold intellectual style. I have already bemoaned the evident lack of humour. There doesn’t seem to be much warmth, either.
The man may have integrity, but it is the sincerity of a man who has been programmed. He is a political automaton, a Westminster manifestation of a Dalek. The political positions come out of his mouth as if they were entered by technicians at keyboards. They lack any shading. Peace on earth equals good. Armed forces equals bad. Wealth must be abolished. Poverty must be eliminated. Russia must be trusted. Israel must be punished.
He’s almost, dare I say it of a committed atheist, almost Christ-like – without the sponsorship of course – and we know how that campaign ended.
On that blasphemous note, I promise not to write a Jeremy piece for at least a month.