Many People In Britain Deserve Sympathy. Labour’s Centrist MPs Do Not.

The sycophantic Westminster media identify and empathise much more with Labour’s centrist MPs than the ordinary people who make up the party membership. And it shows.

In a rather nauseating review of Theresa May’s first outing in Prime Minister’s Questions, The Spectator’s Steerpike column gushes with sympathy for the rebellious Labour centrist MPs perched behind (and around) Jeremy Corbyn:

In recent weeks, Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity has hit a new low with the Parliamentary Labour Party. Things are so bad that he is unable to assemble a full Shadow Cabinet — instead having to assign some people with more than one position.

So, it was an interesting move of the Labour leader to bring up job insecurity and difficult bosses at today’s PMQs. Corbyn suggested that Theresa May had much work to do when it came to making employment rights fairer. Alas, the Prime Minister was unimpressed with Corbyn’s complaints. Channeling her inner Thatcher, May went on to suggest that it was he who was the guilty one when it came to inequality in the work place.

The Spectator goes on to quote the new prime minister’s (admittedly very effective) withering putdown of Corbyn:

‘I’m interested that he refers to the situation of some workers who might have some job insecurity and potentially unscrupulous bosses. I suspect that there are many members on the opposition benches who might be familiar with an unscrupulous boss.

A boss who doesn’t listen to his workers. A boss who requires some of his workers to double some of their workload. Maybe even a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career. Remind him of anybody?’

This is all part of a dismally familiar effort in the Westminster media to paint Labour’s rebellious centrist MPs as the wronged and oppressed group, and Corbyn as their unlikely tormentor in chief (when if anything it is clearly the other way around).

The Spectator – and they are far from alone – expect our hearts to brim over with sympathy for the poor Labour centrists whose ineptitude made Jeremy Corbyn’s rise possible in the first place, and who now stomp around Westminster mutinously, trying to destroy the mirror which Jeremy Corbyn holds up to their faces, showing them their own vacuity.

This is a fawning, sycophantic attitude which screams “screw the people and the Labour Party membership! What really matters are the hurt feelings and stymied career aspirations of 230 members of the Westminster political class, people who didn’t go to Oxbridge, secure prize political internships and shimmy their way up the greasy pole only to find their dreams of a Cabinet career dashed because their party is locked out of power for a generation.”

That’s not to say that Corbyn is some kind of faultless, saintly figure. Far from it. But while his ideology may have been plucked unreformed from the 1970s, it is at least coherent and sincerely felt. The same cannot be said for the restive cohort of centrists who are so busy trying to find an “electable” alternative that policy and passion and principle barely register at all.

Post-Brexit, it seems to be fashionable for well-connected journalists, commentators and intellectuals to publicly muse about the possible reasons for the anti-establishment rage simmering at the surface of British politics. Why oh why have the British people stopped listening to the expert opinion of their betters in the Establishment, goes the frequent cry. Why have the people lost faith in the political class?

Hint to the Spectator: journalists openly fretting about the mental welfare of supposedly poor, downtrodden centrist Labour MPs rather than the genuinely poor and downtrodden squeezed middle and working classes goes a long way toward explaining this impenetrable riddle.



Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

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David Cameron Is At His Arrogant Worst When He “Wins” PMQs

David Cameron - PMQs - Prime Ministers Questions

Since he has proved himself incapable of cleansing the Tories of their unfair reputation as the “nasty party”, what exactly is the point of David Cameron?

The media is abuzz today with talk of David Cameron’s withering put-down of Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Spectator breathlessly reports that “Cameron delivers a knockout blow to a struggling Corbyn“:

This could have been a tricky PMQs for David Cameron. Instead, it will be remembered for Cameron ventriloquising his mother and telling Corbyn ‘put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.

What gave this jibe its potency, is that it sums up what a lot of voters think of the Labour leader. It was not quite as Flashmanesque as it sounds. For it came in response to a Labour front bench heckle asking what Cameron’s mother would say about cuts in Oxfordshire.

Even before Cameron floored Corbyn with that line, the Labour leader was struggling. He chose to go on the NHS and the junior doctors’ strike. But even on this subject, he couldn’t make any headway. Worryingly for Labour. Corbyn’s PMQs performances are—if anything—getting worse. You can tell that Cameron is now just cruising through the Labour leader’s questions.

Responding to a heckle from the Labour benches about his mother, Mary Cameron (who signed a petition opposing local public service cuts), the prime minister let loose with all of the pent-up frustration he feels at Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to play the traditional role of Generic PMQs Sparring Partner.

Here’s Cameron’s quote in full:

“I’ll ask my mother. Oh I think I know what my mother would say, I think she’d look across the dispatch box and she’d say put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.”

If this is what “winning” Prime Minister’s Questions now looks like, then both the tone and content of our political debate – even by the low standards set by Parliament – is in far worse a state than even I have been lamenting.

And Tim Montgomerie’s decision to leave the Conservative Party is vindicated, as David Cameron’s latest flash of temper reminds us that under his leadership, the Tories are not interested in enacting radical conservative reform in the model of Thatcher, but rather seek to wield power just for the sake of it, while ridiculing everybody else from their lofty perch. Why else refuse the opportunity to respond directly to criticism and defend his record in favour of delivering smarmy, schoolboy jaunts directed at the Leader of the Opposition?

People who defend David Cameron’s rootless, opportunistic leadership of the Conservative Party love to claim that by steering such a centrist, New Labour-friendly course, the prime minister is in some way helping to “de-toxify” the Tory brand.

The clear implication of this is that we should shut up and accept the fact that there is almost nothing conservative about this Conservative government, because bland centrism and the failure to advance conservative principles is the price we have to pay whilst conservatism’s reputation is cleansed of the “stain” of Thatcherism. And to be fair, with so little else to recommend Cameron’s government other than the fact  it is not Ed Miliband’s government, they have a point. Detoxification is all that the Tories have going for them at the moment.

Except they don’t even have that. We live in a political climate where anti-Tory activists will daub “Tory Scum” on war memorials, spit at innocent people attending the Conservative Party conference and indulge in all manner of overblown rhetoric about the heartless Evil Tories coming to take away your human rights and cast your disabled relatives out onto the streets to die of exposure. If the past few years are supposed to have been an exercise in image rehabilitation for the Tories, they have been the most abject failure and waste of political capital.

Yet David Cameron is supposed to be our Great White Hope, the man who delivers Conservative majority governments at general elections by running away from any policy or principle which might be seen as “nasty” or right wing.

It is all the more surprising, then, that Cameron consistently chooses to be so nasty and unnecessarily aggressive at PMQs – not just putting his points across or counter-attacking forcefully, as PMQs requires, but actively relishing in delivering the most personal put-down or remark possible. Less Tony Blair’s devastating but above-the-belt “weak, weak, weak” jibe at John Major’s expense, and more “you’re too poor to buy nice clothes”.

Seriously, how did David Cameron think that his “proper suit” comment would play once it seeped beyond the Westminster and media echo chamber and into the public consciousness? Sure, it won a big laugh and sustained mockery of Corbyn in the House of Commons chamber, but replayed on television it just looks like a cheap and nasty stunt from a man who would rather resort to personal insults than answer a straightforward question.

People sitting at home – those few who actually pay any attention to the outcome of Prime Minister’s Questions, at any rate – will not have seen a clever and likeable prime minister slapping down an angry, extremist left-winger. They will have seen a haughty, self-important Old Etonian standing at the dispatch box and making cutting personal remarks about the sartorial choices of a slightly befuddled but harmless-looking professor type.

Even when David Cameron “wins” Prime Minister’s Questions (as he did today) he loses, because he is fundamentally incapable of winning his exchanges with the Leader of the Opposition without morphing into the most ridiculous caricature of a snobbish public school boy imaginable in order to do it.

And hey presto, Labour’s work is done for them – smoking gun evidence that the Tories are a party of arrogant toffs, and that if they had their way then politics would only be for impeccably dressed people from establishment families, wearing Savile Row suits and speaking the Queen’s English. And all Jeremy Corbyn had to do in order compound this perception in the public consciousness was wince through David Cameron’s latest smarmy insult.

Remind me: what was David Cameron’s essential winning quality, again?


Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

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PMQs In The Jeremy Corbyn Era

Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs - 3

Jeremy Corbyn’s first outing in Prime Minister’s Questions was not the humiliating car crash predicted by some of his opponents – in fact, there were promising glimpses of what a refreshed PMQs could yet become

There was a quiet dignity to the way that Jeremy Corbyn, newly-elected leader of the Labour Party, got to his feet as Leader of the Opposition and asked his first question of David Cameron.

To the extent that optics matter, Jeremy Corbyn looked smart, in a friendly old professor sort of way – watching Corbyn, it almost feels as though there must be a bag of fuzzy unwrapped Werther’s Original sweets hidden somewhere in his jacket pocket. And for a man who has never held a front-bench role before taking on this most high profile one, Corbyn did not sound the slightest bit nervous. In fact, his voice seemed deeper and more resonant than it has at times on the campaign trail.

But enough of the fluff – it’s the substance that counts, not the presentation. And on this front too, Corbyn acquitted himself perfectly well for a first outing at PMQs. In fact, he rose to the occasion, following through on a pledge to use his time to ask questions submitted by members of the public.

This could easily have been gimmicky and awkward, an act of political spin straight out of The Thick Of It. But in fact it was actually quite moving, in a strange way – those of us who watched PMQs today saw the voices of the people brought into Parliament’s highest profile set-piece event, the type of direct advocacy normally reserved for backbenchers at sparsely-attended debates.

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