Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

The Unspun Spun

There is always a difficulty when an individualistic backbencher becomes party leader. To lead you have to show some sensitivity towards those to be led.

This means compromising – which is difficult when you have been elected because you are different and authentic.

Media management and authenticity do not go well together, but without some management you end up spinning.

We have seen a few instances where the media management has been a bit lacking.

“Anthemgate” seems to have been mismanaged:

  1. Corbyn stood in “respectful silence” and did not sing the National Anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial service. Appropriate for someone who is not a monarchist – you respect the anthem, but you do not call upon the deity to save the Monarch.
  2. Right wing press uproar.
  3. Reversal of position by Corbyn. Initially talking about “taking a full part” in future commemorations, and then a party spokesman letting it be known that in future “he would sing“.
  4. John McDonnell tries to claim on Question Time (17 September 2015) that he did not sing because he was overcome by the occasion.

The position regarding the EU Referendum has also been spinning:

  1. Corbyn initially would not commit to campaigning to stay in. Appropriate as Cameron’s desired reforms would make the EU more “business friendly” – with probable dilution of the social chapter – and consequently considerably less attractive (to Labour) than it now is. Tactically this could have been interesting – warning Cameron not to “overdo” the reforms.
  2. Some of the “New Labour” Europhiles were up in arms – Lord Falconer saying it could be a resignation issue.
  3. Reversal of position. Or were they worried that the previous position was too close to the Unions’ position?

The gender balance of the Shadow Cabinet could have been defended.

  1. Corbyn initially had a reasonably gender balanced shadow cabinet.
  2. Guardian journalists up in arms because the “senior team” was all male.
  3. Angela Eagle hurriedly (?) appointed as Commons deputy
  4. Claim made that in “New Socialist” politics we should not think of the Home Office, The Foreign Office and Treasury as being “senior” appointments!
  5. Nothing is made of the fact that many of the women in senior and middle ranking roles in the previous shadow cabinet had made themselves unavailable – or that the necessity for gender balance should not totally over-ride merit.

Authenticity is hard to maintain, but surely one strategy should be to decide on a position, robustly defend it and then stick to it.

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