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Isn't it about time that Labour cottoned on to the fact that things aren't going too well for them?

Mark Steel

There's an innocent charm to some of the calls for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down, especially on the grounds he has a bad image in the media. Because, if history teaches us anything, it's that, if Labour had a different leader, the Press would be lovely to them.

The Sun would declare gracefully: "At last, Labour has seen sense and selected the far more electable Clive Lewis, who unfortunately has a squidgy nose and wants to abolish the Army and replace it with a falafel and will use public money to build a mosque in space and his hobby is waterboarding the Duchess of Cambridge and he wants to ban Boxing Day and make Vera Lynn apologise to the Germans. Here's a picture of him mocked up to look as if he's got fox mess in his hair".

It also seems possible some old supporters of Tony Blair are still not fully behind the current leader. For example, Peter Mandelson declared he tries to do at least one thing to undermine Corbyn "every single day. Something, however small it may be - an email, a phone call, or a meeting I convene. Every day, I try to do something".

If Peter visited a shrink, I wonder if they might say, "Peter, maybe it's time you let it go".

Other people waste time learning languages and caring for the elderly, so it's heartening to see some people still have time to dedicate themselves to what matters - undermining Jeremy Corbyn every single day.

In his next interview, Mandelson should reveal what he did on Christmas Day. I reckon he slipped racist jokes into Corbyn's crackers in the hope he read one out and had to resign.

The Labour hierarchy seem to have accepted Corbyn is staying, but feel he's lost the traditional Labour voter by being too metropolitan and elite. For example, during the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, the director Ken Loach presented a screening of his film about the traumas of applying for disability benefit, I, Daniel Blake, at a Labour club. Two hundred people from the local estate came, making it the biggest event in the campaign.

But the Labour candidate didn't turn up, nor did any Labour officials - presumably because it's a film about one of those metropolitan elite out-of-work builders on disability benefit whose heart attack was brought on by an overdose of quinoa.

The part of the Labour Party that pines for Blair has a point, because with their efforts in Scotland they managed to lose 55 of their 56 seats. Last week, Corbyn only lost one out of two - he's hardly trying.

Even so, it could be argued that losing seats that have been Labour since 1930 isn't all that encouraging for their prospects.

Part of the problem may be the attitude towards Brexit, which seems a little hazy, because Labour have to please the 65% of their supporters who voted to Remain, along with the 35% who voted Leave. The answer they appear to be edging toward is to support remaining 65% of the time and leaving for the other 35%.

So, the policy will be to stay in the EU every day until 10 to four in the afternoon, then leave again until midnight.

Another difficulty is most of the hundreds of thousands who joined Labour to support Corbyn only seem motivated during a leadership election. So, they should hold one every three days to keep their members interested.

Also, the party has become fiercely tribal, so the only solutions considered are "dump Corbyn", or "expel the Blairites".

This week, one of Corbyn's original supporters, Owen Jones, suggested the Left should arrange a deal in which Corbyn resigned, but could be replaced with someone else from the Left.

Within minutes, the internet was packed with screams that he was a traitor and a Tory and there were blogs that started "Owen Jones, by suggesting Labour should have a different leader, proved he works for Donald Trump and volunteers as an admin assistant for the KKK and doesn't recycle milk bottles because he wants the planet to explode so all the dolphins die then he can go for a swim with his friend Boris Johnson without being splashed by their fins because he wants to marry Tony Blair".

For a section of the party, it's unacceptable to suggest things aren't quite going to plan. Losing to the Tories last week by 2,000 votes was perfectly fine, because the election actually took place in mid-Surrey; it's only the media and MI5 who said it was in Copeland.

Maybe part of the problem is the obsession with who the leader is, which ignores the bigger question for Labour, which is why, across the West, parties that used to win elections by promising to moderate the excesses of big business can't seem to get elected anymore. The more that big business becomes despised, the more the parties of big business, such as Trump's and the Tories, seem to win support.

Someone, somewhere ought to come up with a vaguely coherent alternative to all this, or it doesn't really matter who leads Labour as they'll keep getting stuffed and, in 20 years, we'll be going: "He's hopeless. The Dalai Lama has to resign. Susan Boyle, it's your go."

Belfast Telegraph


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