Donald Brind says a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership is now a “virtual certainty”

Donald Brind says a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership is now a “virtual certainty”


Reflecting on a dispiriting week for the red team

Corbyn’s tent suddenly looks a lot smaller after the loss of policy chief Neale Coleman.  a big loss. 

“If you want them to eat chicken, don’t lay out a buffet”. That’s a favourite piece of advice from a Lefty friend who I work with offering training in media skills to progressive folk in the Labour movement and charities. The point of the advice is — focus on your key message and don’t get drawn into highways and byways which will provide the media with negative stories.

When he appeared on the Marr show on BBC  Jeremy Corbyn’s “chicken” was to put fairness at the centre of Labour’s New Year message to the voters. That had been the key theme of his speech to the Fabian Society the previous day.   

In the event he didn’t so much offer a buffet as a banquet, with musings about repealing anti-strike laws passed in the 1980s,  Trident submarines going to sea without nuclear warheads and negotiations over the Falkland with Argentina.

Lord Prescott blamed Marr for asking questions designed to get headlines. Shadow Minister Chris Bryant and Channel Four’s Paul Mason took the same line.    

I’m afraid we media trainers will have none of such rubbish. If your day job is Leader of the Labour party you go into a TV studio prepared to focus on the core message you want the voters and determined to avoid anything that will provoke negative headlines.

At best the Corbyn performance was naive. His aides should warned him against naively answering every question as if it was a chat around the kitchen table. Just imagaine what a series of such interviews would do to Labour’s campaign during a General Election.

Here’s a suggested model answer : “Andrew, that’s not an issue people want to hear about today. Voters want to know what Labour has to offer them on the NHS, housing, and social justice where the Tories are hurting not helping the British people.”

It was the start of a miserable week for Labour MPs. Despite the fact that most oppose Corbyn they heard David Cameron use Prime Minister’s Questions to lump them together with their leader. “Anyone watching this Labour Party, and it’s not now just the leader, it’s the whole Labour Party. they are a risk to our national security, a risk to our economic security, a risk to our health service and the security of every family in our country.”

Worse was to come with the resignation of head of policy Neal Coleman, after losing a battle for influence with head of strategy and communications Seumas Milne. Most MPs think Corbyn let the wrong man go. Coleman is credited with trying to make a success of the “big tent” reaching out to MPs who didn’t vote for Corbyn.   

It all makes a leadership challenge – don’t ask me when or how – a virtual certainty, which gave added piquancy to the the appearance of Dan Jarvis at a gathering of Labour Women. They were launching a pamphlet celebrating five years of the Fabians Women’s Network. Former SAS officer Major Jarvis is a longstanding supporter of the network and was the only male speaker of the evening. Most of the people in the room – including me would probably prefer Labour’s next leader to be a woman – but a feminist and a war hero wouldn’t be a bad combination. I agree with Henry G Manson about Lisa Nandy’s chances.

Donald Brind

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