Pathetic bunch

From Jeremy and Corbyn, Chapter Four – order now on Kindle

The back of Corbyn’s neck went damp. Why does he have to say such things?

A murmur spread along the horseshoe.

No one cares; he’s only prolonging the meeting. Sometimes these things run all night.

‘Well, I think Jeremy’s quite right,’ said Diane, doodling her biro and glancing sideways at him behind her fringe.

‘This is precisely why we need to change the… narrative. If we could just get in the race, we’d have all the way until September to make the anti-austerity voice heard. It is incumbent upon us. If only someone were willing to stand.

‘But is that so necessary?’ said Ian. ‘Wouldn’t we best spend our time supporting Andy, to keep Liz out? Back the lesser evil.

‘Andy may have said a few things off- colour, but the unions are behind him. Remember how close we were in 2010? We could have ended up with the other brother. If we support Andy, wouldn’t that be the best way to change the, what Diane says… narrative?’

‘Hear, hear!’ said Dennis, arms folded defiantly. ‘Even if we got nominations – and we won’t – no one’s listening… Look at Scotland, leadership went to that right-winger. Scottish membership’s collapsed, what’s Left going to do without Scots? Look how rest of country voted. Not exactly inspiring, Diane, is it?’

‘Well, sounds like Dennis has thrown in the towel,’ said Diane.

She was not a chair with a light touch, often thrusting her thoughts without hesitation into any passing exchange.

‘I think we should remember that the Tories only managed twenty-four percent of the electorate, and we go twenty-three. It was a lot closer than people think.’

‘You just can’t say that people voted for the Tories,’ said John, anguished by Dennis’ sentiments.

‘I was as bowled over as you, Dennis, when I saw the votes coming in. But the beastly truth is as Diane says – they didn’t get a quarter of the country.

‘You know, I think that if we get on that ticket we should say that it’s high time we had a proper system of proportional representation.’

‘And compulsory voting,’ added Diane.

‘With PR the Tories wouldn’t have been able to form a government,’ said John.

‘We could have been talking about a coalition with the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. Many of the trade unionists I’ve spoken to are saying something similar. Greece has a system of PR, and look how well they’ve done recently – elected an anti-austerity government.

‘And did you see how many people are now represented by that one UKIP MP? I don’t cry myself to sleep for them, but… four million? It’s ridiculously out of proportion. If every MP represented that many people, Westminster would stand for almost half the planet!’

Corbyn was uncomfortable with the way the discussion was going.

He had been sat with his hand raised for some time. It was his silent protest, disliking the way some colleagues just butted in. A moment passed in silence until John brought Corbyn to Diane’s attention.

‘Thanks. Look, it’s not the first time we’ve heard this question of electoral reform.’

Dennis and the veterans were already nodding their heads in anticipation. He hoped John did not find him rude in opposing him. He tried addressing his remarks to the youngsters, rather than appear too confrontational.

‘I think we’ve always got to remember that these PR systems on the continent, clever and clean as they might seem, fundamentally don’t allow for local representation. The connection with the MP and the constituency is severed, and then it’s the party that sends MPs to Parliament, and the leadership draws up the list. And you know who they would put at the very bottom of such a list!

‘I think we’ve always got to remember that these PR systems on the continent, clever and clean as they might seem, fundamentally don’t allow for local representation. The connection with the MP and the constituency is severed, and then it’s the party that sends MPs to Parliament, and the leadership draws up the list. And you know who they would put at the very bottom of such a list!

‘I’m sorry John, but I’ve heard the argument again and again over the years. I can understand the frustration, but if we manage to mount a candidate, I don’t think we should muddy the water with that sort of thing.’

‘Is that necessarily true? About the local link?’ asked Diane, not wanting to discourage Corbyn, for whom she had a soft spot.

‘Scottish Labour did just that, Diane,’ said Corbyn. ‘Probably accounts for half the mess they’re in today.’

‘I think we’re missing the main point,’ said Jeremy.

Droplets of sweat ran down Corbyn’s spine

‘No matter how you arrange the deck chairs, it’s the policies that matter. Syriza hasn’t come to power in Greece because of the voting system. PR isn’t an ‘anti-austerity’ system.

Of course, smaller parties have more of a chance. But it cuts both ways: coalition government… not a good thing. Blair cynically established a PR parliament in Scotland so the SNP would have to share power. A fat lot of good it did.

‘And were the Tories any better in coalition with the Liberals in the last government? Not a bit. Europe is riddled with coalition governments. If they can manage it, they consider it far better to have the socialists prop up the Tories, like in Germany. Is Germany any more left-wing? I don’t think so.

‘The reason Labour lost is not because how the deck chairs were arranged, but because we completely failed to inspire, because we offered nothing fundamentally different from Tory austerity. That’s what we need to address.’

The veterans applauded, and everyone joined in, even Corbyn, reluctantly. His friend had fought his corner, but he was not sure he approved of how he had gone about it.

‘Well, this is not Scotland, and it’s certainly not Greece,’ said Ian.

‘You can’t say the British people are like the Greeks. And the voting system isn’t the point, as Jeremy says. If there were genuine feelin’ out there, we’d know about it, but we haven’t seen anything like that. So let’s not kid ourselves. The time’s not right.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Cat, ‘I have a feeling things are changing more than some people think. What about the protests in Bristol and London? Thousands of people just spontaneously came out after the elections. And wasn’t the one in Bristol called by a group of schoolgirls on Facebook…?’ The rest of the new intake nodded in confirmation.

‘A few thousand kids on’t twitter is not masses,’ said Dennis.

‘Where are workers? Where are unions? Ian’s right – I regret to say it – but there’s no mood for that kind of thing here. Not in this country.’

‘Well, perhaps not from the unions,’ said Diane. ‘Pathetic bunch. Did you hear McCluskey after the Queen’s speech? Pleading with the government to reconsider! I mean come on, give me a break, grow some balls.’ Dennis cackled, and the others round the horseshoe smirked.

From Jeremy and Corbyn, Chapter Four – order now on Kindle

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