When I rushed in from the garden last night to listen to the 7 oclock news, relief is what I automatically felt most when I heard Jeremy Corbyn had been ‘automatically’ put on the ballot for the election of leader (though what is automatic about a seven hour meeting, I don’t know).
Having spent a life time in Labour Party politics back in the day (Thatcher/ratecapping/abolition of the GLC), I also wondered about the words of bitterness, irritation and anger that had been expressed in the room that afternoon. Finally, as I watched Jeremy emerge from the building, shaking hands and hugging his supporters, I also felt sad about the energy Jeremy is going to have to find to plough and furrow the country over the coming weeks. I find myself wanting to shy away from the inevitable bitter clashes that are to come between him and Angela Eagle, the inevitable martyred tones, the heart wrung hands, the compressed anger, the rising passion, the embittered arguments between their supporters – theatre which will no doubt be performed in the sneering lights of the media. All this (and more) in the grim name of democracy.
I have just finished reading two of the Robert Harris trilogy about Cicero and the political intrigue in Rome in his battle for power with Crassus, Pompey and Julius Caesar (as well as many more. I just name the famous ones). It is clear that erudite speech, wealth, self-interest, and corruption are all key ingredients when it comes to politics – even 2000 years ago.
Interestingly, I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn has any of these political attributes. He is not a great speaker. He is certainly not in politics for self interest. He is not wealthy and definitely not corrupt (I don’t think anyone would demur from this). So, why does this principled man does not have the support of the other Labour MPs. I don’t know. Why do they not take his lead and help him build a party that is strong, unless they disagree with his policies. It has to be that. And why is this the case? I assume because it it is not in their personal interests. And that is the rub of politics. Politicians appear to generally perform out of self-interest, not intentionally so. The political intrigue becomes a game to which they are all yolked.
Personally, I believe in Jeremy’s anti austerity approach. I think we need to invest in communities and enable people to organise and manage their own lives within a structured equitable and legal framework. If we live under capitalism, we need trade unions and strong government to represent the interests of people and off set the corporations, trusts and monopolies. I know Jeremy is a rare politician. He is honest, committed and hard working. I want him to win. I want him to be the finger in the political dyke. I want MPs like Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle, Margaret Hodge, Owen Smith to work with him, not against him. But, the augers (much depended on by the Romans) are not good.
I don’t know why, when I read Imperium and Lustrum, I was astonished that politics hasn’t changed in 2000 years. Why did I really believe that modern society had evolved into a better, more civilised and compassionate society? I simply thought that along with electricity, the NHS, penicillin, new technologies that we would have learned a more progressive and civilised form of political engagement, at least within the Labour Party.
Now back to the garden. I’m very sad that after my careful nurturing, my broad bean plants seem to have some disease that turns the blossom to dust. My runner bean plants are so thin and wiry that is hard to imagine them blossoming at all. Maybe, after turning my hands to politics in the last forty years, my fingers aren’t as green as they need to be. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Ah well, hope springs eternal!