Tuesday 28 June 2016

What do people mean when they say Corbyn wasn't passionate enough?

The main reason people keep giving to justify the anti-democratic coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn is that he supposedly "didn't campaign passionately enough" in favour of the UK remaining in the EU.

This assertion about Corbyn's lack of passion has become so oft repeated that it's become almost ubiquitous, but it's not actually all that clear what it means.

If we look at other figureheads of the Remain and Leave campaigns, it's true that a lot of them were more "passionate" in making their case. They picked a side and then gave a completely one-sided version of events.

According to the high-profile Leave campaigners the EU is a monstrous institution and upon quitting it, our country would immediately turn into a fantasy land paradise where the hard-right Tories would invest an extra £350 million per week in the socialist NHS, help the UK steel industry and start giving a damn about tax-dodging (despite having blocked, obstructed and vetoed a load of EU efforts to help the steel industry and combat tax dodging). additionally Michael Gove could ban all those pesky experts that weve all apparently "had enough of" from ever expressing their views again.

According to the high-profile Remain campaigners the EU is just fine, in fact even better now because David Cameron's renegotiation was such a triumph (definitely not a load of smoke and mirrors rubbish). They warned that upon quitting Britain would immediately collapse into economic Armageddon. If the fear of economic chaos wasn't enough to convince you to stay, then how about the threat of a post-Brexit "Punishment Budget" full of tax rises and even more toxic Tory austerity?

Jeremy Corbyn actually presented a balanced argument. He didn't engage in the Doomsday fearmongering rhetoric of the Tory dominated Remain camp, and he didn't tell a load of blatant lies, or promote naive wishful thinking, or make fascistic appeals to anti-intellectualism like the appalling Tory dominated Vote Leave mob. 

Jeremy Corbyn was one of the only ones who spoke to the public as if we're adults. He didn't speak in simplistic black and white terms, because things are never actually so black and white. 

He admitted the EU has big problems, because to say otherwise would have been an outright lie. 

He said that on the balance of things (the economy, trade, workers rights, the environment ...) staying in the EU and trying to improve it from the inside was a better idea than bailing out with no actual plan for what comes next

 Agree with him or not, he was one of the only ones who spoke to the public as if we're adults, rather than simple-minded idiots who can be swayed one way or another with fearmongering threats or by a load of spectacularly unrealistic spending pledges.

In my view, taking a balanced approach is actually a really good way of winning an argument. If you just engage in hard-sell for one side then it's pretty much impossible to switch people back who have been tempted by the other side. However if you make an argument that actually acknowledges their concerns, but steers them towards your side of the debate, there's the possibility of changing their minds.

The problem is that people didn't see Corbyn making these arguments because the mainstream media pretty much ignored him throughout the whole campaign.

Had Corbyn been someone who isn't considered a massive threat to the cosy establishment order, maybe he would have got more airtime and more people would have had the chance to hear what he was actually saying?

To criticise Corbyn because he was largely ignored by a mainstream media that has been unrelentingly hostile to him since day one is just as ridiculous as criticising him because he didn't engage in the same kind of fear and threat based intimidation tactics as Cameron and Osborne.

In my view what people are saying when they criticise Jeremy Corbyn for "not campaigning passionately enough" is that in modern British politics, honesty is a rubbish debating tactic. That Jeremy Corbyn was politically naive to try to speak to the electorate like we're adults, and that he should have assumed that we're all a bunch of intellectually lazy halfwits and pushed some crude absolutist propaganda at us.

If taking a dispassionate and rational stance is considered a "lack of passion" these days, which is an unforgivable crime only resolvable by an anti-democratic coup against the culprit, rational political discourse is clearly well and truly dead in the UK.

The other option of course is that this coup against Jeremy Corbyn actually has nothing to do with what he said during the EU referendum debate at all, but has come about because the Labour MPs who see their parliamentary seats as a lifetime ticket to the Westminster establishment club (rather than an obligation to actually represent the views of the people who elected them) have been waiting for an opportunity to oust him from day one, and Brexit was just the excuse they were looking for.

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