So here’s my letter of farewell to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
I was an entryist, really. I hadn’t been a member of the Labour party for years, but I decided to put up the money in order to vote at this leaderhsip election. Like 40% of those who joined for this purpose, I voted to try and vote you out. We lost, as you probably know… I didn’t vote against you because of your policies. I voted against you because you are unelectable.
I think the Labour party is dead and gone for a generation at least, possibly for all time. But Jeremy, I wish the best for you, I really do, so for what it’s worth, here’s my advice as a concerned bystander.
Have a vision, not a complaint. The strategy of pointing out how horrible the Tories are, and mumbling about “hope” and hoping people will vote for you is a losing one. It didn’t work for Ed Milliband, and it won’t work for you.
Become media-savvy. The media really want to report on a soap opera, and not on your policies. If you give them any hint of a soap-opera, that is what they will report. That’s why you need to have a united party. That’s possible, if you try and become a leader, rather than an activist (see below) but there’s absolutely no point being cross that the media won’t listen to your policies. Get some knowledgable media people, who are happy to disagree with you. When you do things like sit down on the floor on a train, and put it on youtubeu look more like Rik from the Young Ones than a party leader – and that is currently how you come across.
Prioritise your party above your own convictions. All parties are coalitions, and you have to lead a coalition, not be the spokesperson for any one ideology. There will always be people in your party who will be against you whatever you do (you were one of those in previous times). But most of your MPs want to win an election, under the genuine hope that they can do good. That will only work if you can let your party be more important to you than your own personal convictions. You will think that is a lack of integrity – in reality it is prioritising one integrity over another – the integrity of your party over your own personal integrity. You have to work out which matters to you most.
Learn to communicate. If you are going to be genuinely radical (which is probably necessary in terms of what is happening in the world) then you have to reassure people that you are not going to be dangerous. Remember the Yes Minister Maxim. If you have nothing to say, make sure the way you style your message is new, thrusting, visionary, dynamic. If you are going to be radical, house yourself in oak panels, leather seats and music by Purcell.
Stop being so religious. I was a big fan of Tony Benn in his later years, but in his prime he had a sort of religious fervour about his political ideology – in a way that he never did about his actual religious beliefs. There is no absoute right or wrong in politics, and only the zealots think that way. We are a democracy, and zealots don’t get elected. Over the last few decades we have drifted into a form of capitalism which needs to change, but that will also take decades. If you sound as though you want it to happen tomorrow, people will think you’re a revolutionary. Democricies are very large ships, and you don’t turn them by throwing them into reverse.
Finally, You need to lean the difference between being an activist and a leader. Like many people, it wasn’t your politics which set me against you, it was your lack of leadership. You have been an opposition politician for many years, voting against your own party’s government, and that’s an important role. But it’s not a leadership role. This is why you have been accused of bullying – because you’re still behaving as you were when you had no power. When you are powerless and you’re shouting, you may be called a prophet. But when you’re in charge and you’re still shouting, you’re a bully. You may feel as though many people are against you. But you have power now. You’re the one in charge. You can use it to unite or to divide. You can use it to take revenge or to reconcile. That takes more than words, it takes time and listening and action. I’m leaving the party because I think I know the way you’ll choose. But I’d loved to be proved wrong.