Saturday 2 January 2016

Jeremy Corbyn, Women, and the Shadow Cabinet

I know the so-called women's pages in the Telegraph aren't meant for incisive political comment, but Cathy Newman's piece on Jeremy's will-he won't-he reshuffle is a strong contender for idiocy of the year. And we're only on 2016's second day. It has it all: bad faith, banalities masquerading as analysis, omissions of fact. It's awful.

Cathy sets out a thought experiment. What if Jeremy Corbyn chooses to stuff his shadow cabinet full of women? What indeed. The shadow chancellorship should go to Angela Eagle, the foreign office to Yvette Cooper, to Liz Kendall social security or health, promotions for Gloria de Piero and Sarah Champion, and jobs found for Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds, Naz Shah, Stella Creasy, and Jess Phillips. She rounds off by noting that "the Labour leader has no excuse as he ponders his next move. If he cares about promoting women, there is no shortage of talent. Now he needs to tap it."

Indeed he does, but given how unassailable Jeremy's position is , is it likely his closest political ally is going to get dumped for someone who refuses to be drawn on whether Jeremy should be Prime Minister or not? Or, again, given the position of strength from which the putative reshuffle is to be made, why would Jeremy hand the shadow foreign office brief to someone, like Yvette, who thinks bombing raids over Syria in the absence of a plan is fine and dandy? And, to be frank, Jeremy would be out of his tree to hand health to Liz Kendall who, lest we forget, wants more markets and more businesses in the NHS - because she thinks they know how to run public services better. Cathy is an experienced political journalist, so to leave out the politics highlights either shocking incompetence or cynicism: when none of these get the call, Jeremy is obviously an awful sexist.

Let's also note that the MPs getting the Newman seal of approval - Yvette, Liz, Rachel, and Emma - were not passed over by Jeremy when he appointed his first shadcab. They ruled themselves out of participating. If they want to put themselves up for future consideration that's a matter for them, but let's not rewrite history and pretend they were unjustly marginalised by bolshevik brocialism.

The other thing about Cathy's list is that it's very, for want of a better word, metropolitan. It's only a matter of time before Jess Phillips is on Question Time more than Nigel Farage seeing as the media can't get enough of our blunt-talking comrade, and all of the others are very well known to the TV studios. Cathy's known to occasionally hang out with some of them too. Meanwhile, there's a pool of 99 female Labour MPs to choose from - many of whom never got a look-in under the blessed Ed, and who Cathy wouldn't know from Adam. For instance, she notes that Anna Turley has "laid low". No, since her election Anna's been neck-deep campaigning for Redcar steel works and is now dealing with the aftermath - I suppose Cathy cannot be blamed for such a non-Westminster trifle not figuring on her radar. There are plenty of other very able women currently knocking about in junior briefs and doing the business from the back benches. Perhaps now it's time they were given a chance instead of the same old same old.

Just like last time, Jeremy's appointments will reflect the political make up of the party, and given the strength of the left and the tilting of the balance against the PLP since his election, I imagine its bent will be more reflective of the new normal. I am sure any women who are brought in will, as with the men, get positions on the basis of their politics, their competence, and likelihood of their not undermining the leader. Whoever gets a job I'm sure Cathy and her ilk will find something to moan about, but tough. This is politics, not the bloody X-Factor.


David Timoney said...

I fear you're right about Jess Philips. Her narrow repertoire will make her perfect for the long-running soap opera of Question Time, particularly as her schtick now seems to centre on elevating ignorance to an art-form (her contribution to the Observer today should be framed and put in the National Gallery).

BCFG said...

The use of 'feminism' as a political weapon to beat your opponents with is used more and more by more and more unsavoury elements. It is clever (even if superficial) because to argue against it opens you up to claims of misogyny and debate is at a very superficial level anyway. It is like a very devious chess manoeuvre. (Though this article is a good example of the appropriate response).

I think its increasing usage can be tied to the War on terror. It is particularly prevalent among decents of all political stripes.

It should also be noted that the person who deploys the tactic is relying on the audience being a bunch of morons who are susceptible to superficial cheap shots (plenty of those folk around thanks to the sterling work of our unfree media), and moreover presumes that the audience are morons and consciously knows it). I don't think it is stressed enough by critics how much political discourse presumes the idiocy of the audience. We, as the audience, should recognise this and open our eyes to it. This is why left decency is such a poisonous and reactionary phenomena, because it sometimes ensnares some gullible naturally progressive types into embracing politics built on innuendo, maliciousness and downright dishonesty.

The important thing for Corbyn is to get rid of as many political opponents as possible and bring in as many supporters as possible. A purge in other words. Which is absolutely the right and moral thing to do.

After all, the man himself, Blair, would never have tolerated a PLP that was so out of tune and step with himself. He obviously had no problem with a PLP out of step with the natural Labour supporters but that is another thing!

Lidl Janus said...

"The important thing for Corbyn is to get rid of as many political opponents as possible and bring in as many supporters as possible. A purge in other words."

The best thing about this tactic is how the public will see this as clever politics, and not at all the sort of hard-left insurgency the media has predicted since August.

The second best thing is that 9 out of 10 spin doctors regard 'purge' as the word most likely to signal 'electable reasonableness' to voters as a whole.

BCFG said...

Lidl, you should be a political adviser, given your insights into the predilections of voters.

Maybe we could purge them but call it giving everyone a go at being an MP? I am sure the voters will find this comforting, as 9 out of 10 voters think being fair is the best thing a politician can do. They also like their MP's to be honest, which is why they all are and always have been.

Lidl Janus said...

Well, I doubt I'd truly cut it at the top level, but I'd be better than you. "Mr. Nixon, this 'silent majority' concept is proving powerful, and you might carry 49 states with it. But for the clean sweep, you'll really have to come across as more of a sweaty, paranoid weirdo determined to steal the election."