Why Cameron and Corbyn Should Remain their Parties’ Leaders

Oh my god, I don’t know if you heard, but apparently there’s a CRISIS going on right now! And, it seems, the best thing to do when there’s a CRISIS going on is to talk constantly about how there’s a CRISIS going on. Oh no, wait, talking about how there’s a CRISIS going on isn’t enough. Instead, we have to SHOUT about the CRISIS that’s going on. Oh, and let’s run around tearing our hair out as well, because that helps. Uh oh, that’s not enough either. What we clearly need to do in order to deal with a CRISIS is to CHANGE EVERYTHING. Yes, let’s all behave like stockbrokers when there’s a market crash and GET RID OF EVERYTHING because there’s a CRISIS going on.

I’d like to see or hear politicians calmly addressing the problems that are approaching as a result of the Brexit vote. It’d also be nice to see or hear more of politicians who aren’t expending large amounts of energy on creating or fighting leadership contests when there are already some significant issues to be dealt with. In that light, here are three reasons each why David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn should remain their respective parties’ leaders.

First up, Dave:

  1. He won a general election just over a year ago (admittedly via a rubbish electoral system) and gained the mandate he had, in part, on the basis of promising a referendum on EU membership. So, it’s a bit weird that he’s resigned having done exactly what he said he would.
  1. He’s on record saying that he’d stay as the Prime Minister even if the UK voted to leave the EU, and there’s already a public perception that MPs don’t stick to what they say they’ll do.
  1. He bears a large part of the responsibility (not all of the responsibility, just part of it; these things are complex) for the UK being in its current situation, and it’d be nice if he’d stick around to deal with the consequences. That seems to me to be part of being a leader.

As for Jezza:

  1. He was elected leader of the Labour Party less than a year ago, when it was known that there would be an EU referendum coming, and when it was known that he was not a full-blooded supporter of the EU. Sure, he’s partially responsible for the referendum outcome, but only partially (the campaign was long and rancorous, with competing factions campaigning on the same side, thousands of campaigners, and millions of interactions, so of course there were disagreements, angry emails, and claims that some people weren’t doing enough), and getting rid of him doesn’t change it.
  1. Party leaders are elected on the basis of internal party processes (although Labour’s process was open to everyone who didn’t want Corbyn to be leader as well as all those people who did), not the spectre of future general elections. Few people predicted the outcome of the last general election or, indeed, the referendum last week, so I’m not convinced by the ‘we can’t win a general election’ self-fulfilling prophesy. It would be nice to see support for the party leader and a focus on engaging with the public rather than a party turning its focus inwards in the belief that changing the leader is some sort of magic bullet that will make a general election victory suddenly much easier. And incidentally, I’m not convinced that a more centrist Labour leader would be more clearly distinct from the ‘establishment’ that was given a bloody nose last Thursday than is Corbyn.
  1. It’s bizarrely contradictory to cite prospective party disunity as a reason for triggering a leadership contest that will certainly create party disunity. Again, this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Parties are broad churches but their members share more with each other than they do with other parties. Crucially, I’m not convinced that even the most centrist Labour MP shares more in common with a Conservative than they do with Corbyn (though maybe I’m wrong on this), and it would be nice to see both sides recognising this rather than focussing on their differences. Or, in other words, to see both sides recognising the unifying purpose of their party, rather than using it as an arena for a never-ending battle between ‘New’ and ‘Old’ Labour.

I’m not a party member, and I never have been, but I can’t say I’m tempted to become one on the evidence of the last few days. To the extent that the country is facing problems, it’d be nice to see elected representatives behaving like calm leaders rather than acting as the angry faces of feuding factions.

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