Tony Blair may well have had recurring nightmares about weapons of mass destruction being launched against Britain however, his main fear now appears to be that one such weapon, Jeremy Corbyn, is about to reduce the Labour Party to rubble. The Labour Party that Blair joined in order to achieve power will be, according to Blair, reduced to nothing more than a protest group should Corbyn become its’ leader. The fact that Blair gained the ultimate political prize in 1997 was largely fortuitous although, had things worked out differently, there was never any doubt that he would eventually become Prime Minister. He had Thatcher’s blessing after all and to be fair, he was a bloody good orator and he definitely looked the part. Unfortunately, Blair fell victim to that old, familiar problem – he spent so long in office that he forgot why he was there. It could not have helped matters, having a “mate” who kept harping on about when was he going to get a turn at running the country ? It’s hard to imagine how Blair and Brown became such great pals in the first place but I digress. I am sure that Gordon is a thoroughly decent individual but he was never likely to win a general election outright so, obviously, he became increasingly concerned that Tony might renege on his alleged promise to step down as leader of the party and pass the reins over to him. Well, we all know what happened when Tony finally handed Gordon the tiller, leaving his old mucker to flounder like a sailor trying to bail out the sea-water from his sinking brig with a bottomless bucket.
However, looking back on the events of Blair’s final year in office, it’s incredible to think just how comfortable both he and his cronies became in Westminster. They may well have made the occasional visits to their constituencies to share beer and sandwiches with their supporters but fine-dining in the capital was where you were more likely to find them. Many of those same ministers and advisers who are now slagging off Jeremy Corbyn had previously been branded as troublesome Lefties themselves, people like Jack Straw, Neil Kinnock and David Blunket. Now they have become part of the Westminster Elite and are indistinguishable from those politicians who sit on the right of the house. Some of the old boys who might appear to have retained some of their credibility such as John Prescott who whenever I met him always struck me as being very left wing, are putting their support behind consensus [bland, uninspiring, fence-sitting] politicians such as Andy Burnham and Tristram Hunt. Personally, I believe that if you put power in the hands of such individuals then the Labour Party will never see government again. However, my own choice for deputy leader, Caroline Flint, is more forthright about Corbyn’s appeal when she says that Jeremy is comfortable in his own skin and comes across as sincere which people like. Unfortunately, a lot of people felt the same about Tony Blair in 1997 and look where that ended up. Ms Flint however, would be a good foil for Corbyn should he become leader of the Labour Party as she has the respect of all factions within the party and can certainly punch well above her weight as she has proved time and time again since being elected as MP for Rother Valley in 1997.
So, what will Jeremy do post election? Will he appoint two of his biggest supporters, Maxine Peake and Julie Hesmondhalgh [the late Hayley Cropper] to be ministers for Culture and Education respectively? Perhaps not although, I would put my money on Julie/Hayley doing a much better job than Tristram Hunt and I can’t imagine that Maxine would want to see off the BBC. However, in his first few weeks of office Jeremy is bound to become embroiled in a matter that has its’ origins in the Blair years but has been allowed to rumble on under Cameron’s watch. I’m talking about the enquiry into the Iraq War which has been “independently” scrutinised by Sir John Chilcot for the past six years and has cost the tax-payer, ten million pounds so far. Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP at Westminster, stated that The Iraq War was a foreign policy disaster and the ramifications are still being felt today … and the continued delays to the publication of this report are a democratic outrage. However, whilst it would be hard to disagree with Angus I feel that we are no closer to seeing the report published especially, since Chilcot has revealed that his report is factually flawed and may have to be started again! How bloody ridiculous is that? Allegedly, Sir John gets paid over £700 a day for working on the report but only pops in for the odd day every now and then. To be fair, I suppose after six years of going over the same old stuff, anyone would struggle to find the energy to work more than two consecutive days in any one week. However, most employees would be set a task along with a deadline and if they were falling behind, be told to pull their bloody finger out. Never mind whether you’ve promised to look after the grandchildren or you had to wait in for the gas man! However, that’s not how they do things in Westminster regardless of how desperate the rest of the country is for a line to be drawn under this unfortunate episode in Britain’s military history.
I consider myself fortunate not to have lost any close friends or relatives to either the Iraq war or the Afganistan campaign. However, I do have neighbours who are not so fortunate, who either lost loved ones or saw them return both physically and mentally damaged and I often wonder what goes through their minds when politicians and civil servants play this game of pass the parcel. Perhaps there will be a particularly bad news day which will provide the most opportune time to let slip the findings of the Chilcot Report but that would only do the friends and relatives of those who died or were injured in Iraq a great disservice. Jeremy Corbyn, as elected leader of the Labour Party, will be in the best position to bring an end to six years of procrastination by Chilcot and his committee by challenging the Prime Minister to present Sir John with an ultimatum, either finish the job by the end of the year or hand it over to someone who can. His critics say that Corbyn is too radical but they are missing the point entirely if they assume that by actually doing something you risk being labelled an extremist. Not surprisingly, it is largely the older generation who are saying this whereas the young, those between the ages of eighteen and forty years of age, are wholeheartedly behind Jeremy. They want to see their elected representatives doing something for the public good and not, as some might say, only concerning themselves with stuff that might help their own careers . Tony Blair can argue until he is blue in the face [ subtle joke there ] that electing Corbyn as party leader will mark the end of the Labour Party as an electable future government but I disagree. Whenever we consider a difficult situation, we often talk about thinking outside the box, taking a fresh perspective or sometimes, going back to basics and that’s where we appear to be right now. We’ve got a Tory government that is making things up as it goes along be it about immigration, the health service, schools or welfare and the only voices that can be heard opposing the Tories are coming from a small bunch of Scottish MPs who appear to be in London on an extended work placement. Seriously though, rather than imagining the damage that someone like Jeremy Corbyn might do to the party, electing him as leader is more likely to be what actually saves the Labour Party from becoming an irrelevance.