The Labour Conference is going even worse than expected. Kevin Schofield, editor of PoliticsHome, yesterday afternoon posted on Twitter the comments of a Labour MP after the Brexit votes:
“We look like a chaotic, scruffy, angry, deluded and dangerous rabble. We hate success, hard work, intelligence and wealth. We like mediocrity, laziness and irresponsibility. We aren’t sure what we think about the biggest crisis facing the country since the war. We are chanting, cult-like, the name of a leader who has a public approval rating of -65. Why would anyone vote Labour? We deserve everything coming to us.”
So morale among moderate Labour MPs, which is the majority of them, could be better. But it would be unfair to blame this all on Jeremy Corbyn, with his public approval rating of -65. He has been put in a very difficult position by Brexit, where the pro-Remain views of most of his MPs and members conflict not just with his own long-established, albeit in recent times unexpressed support for Leave, but with the views of several million Leave-supporting Labour voters.
Whoever was leading the Labour Party would find this conundrum hard to resolve, and Boris Johnson, with his insistence on leaving with or without a deal by the end of October, has made the problem harder.
For as Charles Moore suggested in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister has set a trap for his opponents. By treating October 31st as a serious deadline, he “has driven many of them to reveal their true colours as Remainers instead of keeping up the pretence that they just want a good deal”.
Jo Swinson, the inexperienced new leader of the Lib Dems, plunged straight into that trap, adopting a far more definitive Remain policy than was needed, one which appalled some of her older colleagues and will make life harder for her party’s candidates in areas such as the West Country.
Corbyn has been wily enough not to plunge into the Johnson trap. He can be mocked for the ambiguity of his policy on Europe, but there is also a certain hard-headedness to what he has done.
The Labour leader is not trying to compete on Europe with the LibDems – on that, they will always be able to outbid him. But he reckons the electoral demand for old-fashioned socialism is higher than many of those who scorn him care to realise.
In the 2017 general election he was proved right about that. Contempt for Corbyn is no substitute for the hard work of showing why his policies are wrong, and addressing the discontents to which he claims socialism is the answer.