UK Politics

If Corbyn despises soap-opera politics, why does he continue to fuel it?

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Yesterday evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn completed a limited Shadow Cabinet reshuffle – sacking Culture Secretary Michael Dugher and Europe spokesman Pat McFadden, whilst installing Emily Thornberry as Defence Secretary in place of Maria Eagle, who was demoted to Dugher’s vacated role.

Yet Corbyn’s final appointments were merely concluding footnotes in a slowly churning two-day plot that featured intense speculation regarding the futures of Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn and Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle.

Corbyn’s reshuffle was supposedly designed to cull dissent within the Shadow Cabinet and install a loyal group of left-wing MPs who would be willing to promote Jeremy’s anti-austerity, anti-nuclear message. Essentially, the Labour leader believes that internal strife between prominent MPs – dramatized by the press – has muddled Labour’s message and has prevented the party from effectively holding the Tories to account.

Replacing an incoherent din, Corbyn’s seeks to harmonise a Labour melody. Yet, the Labour leader is apparently prepared to destroy everyone’s instruments in the process. Befitting the style of a die-hard socialist, Corbyn has failed to comprehend that the means will distort the ends.

Through appalling mismanagement, Corbyn has stoked a petty drama that will overshadow his grand ideological message. Indeed, his excruciatingly protracted reshuffle played-out in the public domain. As the hours mounted, so did the speculation of internal wrangling. It was like a purge conducted via fax by an impotent Frank Underwood, with every memo copied directly to the press. The upshot of Corbyn’s power struggle has not been a refreshed, reinvigorated Labour narrative. Rather, soap-opera politics is now more prominent in the Labour Party than ever before.

One of the foremost issues currently being discussed by the press surrounds speculation that Hilary Benn has agreed to toe the party line in public. Conflicting statements have been made on this issue by various members of the party; hardly demonstrating newfound clarity. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell stated yesterday evening that Benn would conform, whereas Benn himself has since said that he will continue “exactly as before”. The reshuffle has provoked rather than curtailed trivial disagreements. Several MPs have even resigned from the frontbench since the changes were announced.

Moreover, though we are unsure whether Benn has been “muzzled” or not, Corbyn’s support for open debate within the party has evidently expired. Thus, a central refrain of the Corbachev project has been abandoned – merely four months into his tenure. In interviews and speeches, the Labour leader previously emphasised his belief in a more mature political dialog – one involving greater debate and dissent. Yet, in a thespian reversal, Jeremy now preaches loyalty and compliance. Will this not cloud the Labour message? Will the electorate not be perplexed and bewildered by the malleability of Corbyn’s hitherto resolute principles?

Ironically, a shambolic Labour reshuffle drew to a cringing conclusion with the removal of Pat McFadden for “incompetence”. In an effort to quell conflict and bring the curtain down on the stage-play within the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has inadvertently fashioned the material for a second act. In all probability, the press will continue to hurl scathing words at Corbyn as he blunders in the spotlight, waiting for the Labour leader to plunge off his platform into the electoral abyss.

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