Sunday morning. The Sunday Politics Show, Andrew Marr: time for the senior figures of the main parties to slog it out putting their slant on the latest news and shape the debate for the week ahead. There’s a budget coming up, a hard Brexit is on the cards and Donald Trump is raging at the world over on the other side of the pond. Meanwhile, the leader of the UK Labour Party has this to say:
A bit of context: the Match Girls Strike took place in July 1888, a nice round 128 years and 8 months ago. In case you’re wondering if you’ve missed the widespread public commemorations of this landmark anniversary, I’ve done a bit of internet research to find out why it’s so high up Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda. It took me a while, as the most recent news articles I could find about it dated back to 2013, but eventually I found this transcript on Theyworkforyou.com of a debate on International Women’s Day earlier this week, led by Jess Phillips. The speech by Lyn Brown, which Corbyn links to in his tweet, is timed at 1.50pm, an hour after the debate began.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the Match Girls Strike is unimportant, or that the history of the trade union movement shouldn’t be recognised and celebrated. But this wasn’t even a debate about trade unions, it was about International Women’s Day. You might have thought that tackling violence against women or global access to reproductive healthcare would have been the key themes Corbyn chose to highlight, rather than a side note about how the women’s movement connects with the trade union story, but that’s another matter.
The thing that infuriates me more than anything is this: why did Jeremy Corbyn choose to tweet about this, of all things, at 9am on a Sunday morning, with the Andrew Marr show just about to start and the rest of the political establishment having their regular weekly conversation about what’s actually happening right now? Is it a deliberate attempt to show that he’s not listening to everyone else, like some posturing adolescent trying to interrupt while the grown ups are having a boring conversation about how Brexit might impact Northern Ireland? Or is it just that nobody in Corbyn’s office knows how to use Hootsuite?
There will be people who say that this is part of Jeremy Corbyn’s charm – that he’s his own man, that he doesn’t play the game, mindlessly following convention, he has a different agenda to the anodyne career politicians yadda yadda. Well maybe. But surely politicians, more than anybody, need to have their finger on the pulse of news and public opinion?
Every job and workplace has its conventions, its expected norms of behaviour, and politics is just the same. And if someone in my workplace was forever going off on tangents about stuff that had nothing to do with the daily work that most of us were trying to do, I’d find it difficult to take them seriously. And when that person is supposed to be in charge, frankly, I’d say they’re a liability.
Since 2015, the lack of policies, the inability to handle the media, the inept way he’s dealt with MPs and above all, the appalling mishandling of the Labour Party’s response to Brexit have all brought me to this point. It’s taken an ill-timed tweet about a 19th century strike to make me realise that I can’t justify my annual party membership fee while this is going on. I’d be doing more to help build a better society if I just gave the money to charity.
I’ve voted Labour all my adult life. I probably still will, as a miserable resentful ‘you don’t deserve this but you’re better than the Tory bastards’ protest vote. But remaining a member under this lack of leadership? Nope. I’m done.