The Guardian commentator’s recent blog post might have raised some valid points about Corbyn’s leadership, but CHELLEY RYAN believes the timing of his interjection is deeply unhelpful to the cause he claims to care about – socialism
I’VE read several excellent replies to Owen Jones’s “Nine questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters must answer” blog post on Medium.com, ranging from the benevolent but slightly bemused to the outright hostile.
I am not sure where on this spectrum my response falls. In some ways it spans both these sentiments.
Unlike many other responses in circulation it won’t address each point he made. And it doesn’t presume to have any of the answers he’s seeking.
If anything, I feel more inclined to fire a few questions back at Jones, such as why does he expect so much from Jeremy after such a short time?
I can’t imagine how hard it is to go from backbencher to leader of the opposition heading up a hostile PLP which is willing him to fail. I’m sure it would take me longer that 10 months to feel comfortable in this new role.
Yet despite the best efforts of Corbyn’s detractors, I’ve noticed him growing in confidence and stature over his short tenure as leader, and I am a bit surprised that Jones hasn’t noticed, or if he has, he hasn’t remarked upon it.
Another question I’d like to ask is why Jones, as a professed Corbyn sympathiser with the ear of the masses, doesn’t point out the incongruence of Neil Kinnock being given nine years and two election defeats to turn the party around when Corbyn gets less than one year, despite some promising early election results?
And why is Jones so keen to see Corbyn replaced before 2020?
Can he not see how Corbyn’s unspun authenticity and deeply held principles could win over an electorate that has grown jaded and cynical through spin and broken promises?
And why doesn’t Jones spearhead a campaign to bring more balance to a blatantly anti-Corbyn media, maybe directed at the supposedly impartial BBC, which has been exposed as anything but by a recent academic study?
I’m not suggesting that Jones doesn’t make valid points in his post.
We all know they are valid because we have been pondering those points ourselves for the past 10 months.
In fact, ever since we decided not to follow the orders of the Establishment to “end the madness” and “get a heart transplant,” we knew we had taken on the most monumental uphill struggle — and so it’s turned out to be, if not even more monumental than any of us imagined.
That’s why we look to someone like Jones, with his place at the Establishment table, to provide us with support. That’s not to say we want Jones, or anyone else in his position of influence, to be a sycophant to Corbyn or the growing movement mobilising around him.
If Jones shares constructive criticism of Corbyn and his team from time to time, we need to accept it is given in good faith. Some criticism gives added weight to consistent support.
What I’m really struggling to understand is the timing of his blog post — slap bang in the middle of a crucial leadership contest, which can only damage Corbyn’s chances.
Earlier today an old friend popped into my thoughts. At first I couldn’t understand why because I hadn’t thought about her for a long time, but then I found myself reminiscing about a certain period in her life.
When we first met she was a single mum to a five-year-old girl. She’d been alone for almost four years and was desperately lonely.
So when she fell head over heels in love a few years later I couldn’t have been happier for her, especially when she fell pregnant a year or two after that.
You’re probably wondering how any of this relates to Jones’s blog post. The answer to that lies in what happened next.
A few days after a long and harrowing birth, my friend’s partner took her by the hand, and in a voice trembling with emotion, told her he didn’t think he loved her any more.
He said he’d been having doubts for several months, but being at the messy business end during the birth had cemented the thought in his mind.
He had to be true to himself and he cared too much about her to pretend he was still in love with her.
Then he sat back with a sigh of relief — unburdened, proud of his honesty and integrity, while my poor friend, already feeling vulnerable and emotional, sobbed from a broken heart.
Not surprisingly, my friend fell headlong into a severe case of post-natal depression that cast a cloud over the first year of her daughter’s life.
Was my friend’s partner right to share his feelings with my friend? If he was convinced the feeling wouldn’t pass I’d say yes.
What other alternative did he have other than to lie to her forever (and believe it or not, they did stay together)?
Was he right to unburden himself when she was at her most vulnerable? I’d say no. In fact I’d say it was pretty self-indulgent of him. He lost my respect after that and never fully won it back.
And that is just about where I am with Jones right now.
Why? Because a movement of hope has just been born. And for those of us at the heart of it, it’s been surprising, exhilarating, exciting, exhausting, painful and bewildering. Yet it was always inevitable. A case of when not if.
The shockwaves sent out by the financial crash and subsequent austerity, were the contractions.
Mild at first, but gathering pace over this past six years of unjust Tory rule until they reached a crescendo last summer.
How wonderful that one of our main points of focus after years of anger, disenfranchisement, frustration and despair is a gentle bearded man who has spent his entire life fighting for social justice when it could so easily have been a misogynistic xenophobe like Donald Trump.
And how ironic that the Establishment tries to smear this gentle bearded man and his supporters as misogynistic xenophobes to taint and smother our growing movement.
So there we have it. A movement in all its imperfect newness has been born. Clumsy, messy, figuring stuff out as we go along, prone to mistakes, but learning and growing stronger by the day.
The fact we have barely recovered from the birth pains of 10 months ago only to find ourselves having to go through it all again is deeply disappointing, but we are not cowed.
You only have to see the numbers turning out at rallies all over the country to see that.
We are fighting to defend something precious. We are fighting to defend the politics of hope over fear, the politics of unity over division, the politics of peace over war, the politics of honesty over rhetoric, the politics of equality over inequality.
The timing — which Jones spends a lot of his time agonising over — may not have been perfect, but revolutions, even democratic ones, rarely emerge to order.
We are where we are, and the time has come to fight for the chance to keep making mistakes and to keep learning from them.
We need to fight now, or succumb to despair and apathy. That’s why I ask our allies and friends to think carefully before giving our detractors a stick to beat us with.
Criticise us all you like the day after Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected leader. We can cope with it. Even welcome it if it’s constructive and moves us toward victory in 2020.
But please ease off on the criticism when we are at our most vulnerable. Is that such a big thing to ask?