Corbyn’s dreadful interview

Jeremy CorbynI didn’t see Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May last night which social media was agog over, but I did hear his interview with Emma Barnett on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning. As one might expect, the programme focuses on issues of particular concern to women, and making child-care available so that women can work, particularly when they live in areas where the cost of living easily outstrips a single wage, is one of them. Barnett asked him how much his policy of non-means-tested childcare for all 2 and 4-year-olds (not 3-year-olds?) would cost, given his and his party’s repeated insistence that their manifesto is fully costed, and he didn’t know. He claimed that it would be funded mostly out of corporation taxes, but after much umming and ahh-ing, Barnett had to furnish him with the figure herself, sourced from his own shadow education secretary. When Barnett reminded him that this sort of thing reinforced the perception that “we can’t trust [Labour] with our money”, which she said went back to the time of Gordon Brown, he did not defend this point either.

I don’t disagree with the argument that a party leader should know, especially in advance of a radio interview, how much a major party policy would cost if implemented; if he cannot personally keep track of it all, the party should be organised enough that he goes into the interview briefed about these things. The argument that Theresa May made similar underestimates of the cost of her free breakfast idea, put by Barry Gardiner MP on the same station’s World at One programme a couple of hours later, doesn’t really wash; if Labour know that the media is biased in favour of the Tories and against Corbyn especially, they should be ready with the facts, as Blair’s team made a point of being in the run-up to the 1997 election, not bumbling about when asked a question in a live interview

Worse, much like Ed Miliband (who I believe largely lost because of his indecisiveness, particularly on the issue of a potential coalition with the SNP, more than because of fears about his handling of the economy), he did not defend Labour’s record on the economy when they were in power. This idea that “Labour cannot be trusted on the economy” is an invention of the Tories during the Coalition period; they were always known for being strong on the economy and for resisting calls from the Left of the party for massive tax-based spending increases. This was the orthodoxy of the time and they implemented it fairly competently; their reputation for borrowing comes from the last three years when Gordon Brown was trying to protect people’s savings when banks went under. All this is common knowledge, yet when Emma Barnett throws a classic right-wing talking point in his face, he does not defend his own party’s record, nor did he object that offering free childcare is not most people’s definition of a waste of taxpayers’ money; it would be a valued service to many people. Perhaps not to everyone, but then, many people do not value the NHS until they need it.

I’m getting sick to death of the flattery of Jeremy Corbyn. The scene reminds me of when I was studying Hamlet at sixth form; the teacher told us that men in Hamlet’s position (kings and princes, and other important noblemen) were expected to live up to a certain ideal of manliness dubbed the “Renaissance man” — he was meant to be cultured, educated, gracious, dashing and brave — and if he didn’t, there would be a lot of flattery but a lot of discontent behind the scenes. That seems to be what’s going on now. Not only was he ill-informed in today’s interview; he didn’t even sound interested. He had a bit of a cold, true, but his voice was flat, monotonous. I’m sure some people would warm to a politician who didn’t play interviewers’ games and remained calm when provoked, but he just goes to the other extreme. Theresa May paints a picture of him “alone and naked” while negotiating our exit from the EU, but I wonder how he’d perform in any international negotiations (I don’t care about Brexit; I hope it does fail, though with the result that we stay in the EU rather than end up isolated). He just sounds out of his depth.

Of course, none of this could persuade me to vote Tory. To me, they’re the injustice party, and a bad Labour government is better than any Tory government as others will make up for Corbyn’s failings (though in my constituency, Labour do not have a hope). But others will disagree, and I fear he lost the election with that one interview, with the section of him not knowing how to answer a simple question being repeated on news bulletin after news bulletin. I know some people will be telling me I should be giving Corbyn all the support I can, rather than “talking him down”, but he is doing that for himself more than I ever could.

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