“I actually paid more tax than some companies owned by people he might now quite well.”
Jeremy Corbyn, PMQs, April 13th, 2016
There. In a nutshell. Jeremy Corbyn uttered quite possibly the most witheringly perfect slap down of David Cameron and George Osborne’s grubby tax arrangements.
“You know what he is really jealous of? That I can go shopping in Holloway Road, and he has to stick with Bond Street.”
Jeremy Corbyn responds to David Cameron’s braying sartorial bullying.
These are a couple of recent quotes from Jeremy Corbyn that offer evidence that he has the ability to attack back against the Tories with humour and pathos. Some will argue that two little quotes only provide straw in the wind evidence, which is of course correct, but, broaden Corbyn’s recent performance onto a political widescreen, it is beginning to look like he has found his mojo and confidence as Leader of the Labour Party.
Faced with incredible enemies outside and within, it was inevitable that he would struggle in his first few months as Labour Leader. The guns have been pointing at him in every direction. The media has thrown a kitchen sink full to the brim with vitriol and smearing, and within his own party, the PLP have plotted, briefed against and howled at the moon in sour grapes defiance against him.
But perhaps, just perhaps, the tide is beginning to turn. The PLP dissenters are slowly becoming quieter or indeed, becoming marginalised. Corbyn’s soundbites and speeches have become stronger, and he is beginning to look comfortable in his own skin as a leader. It appears that Corbyn has grasped the inconvient truth for his critics and enemies that he ain’t going away. He has a whopping mandate from Labour members and as such, he is working from a position of huge strength within the Labour Party. This, combined with the Tories embarking on their own public school debating club civil war over the EU, Cameron’s tax affairs and Osborne’s budget shambles, a series of events have conspired to allow Corbyn some badly needed breathing space.
Many commentators have criticised Corbyn for being slow to the punch over the EU referendum or Cameron’s tax affairs, but I beg to differ. Corbyn shows a refreshing instinct for stepping back, taking stock and then delivering a well thought out and considered response. His recent responses on tax havens and the EU were both well structured, to the point and spoke of truisms that were framed in a narrative that are easily understood – traits that were consistently missing from the over intellectualised and foggy approach of his predecessor, Ed Miliband.
Part of Corbyn’s problem within the political chattering classes is that many people just don’t like the look of him. They are locking themselves into a vortex of lazy preconceived perceptions that a politician should look, sound and dress in a particular way. But, who would you rather have – someone who “betrays” the country by grudgingly singing the national anthem and lacking the ability to tie a decent knot in his tie, or someone who is grubbily finding ways to avoid paying his own tax, whilst destroying the very public services that the rest of us pay our taxes for?
Corbyn’s approval ratings are now higher than Cameron’s. They remain low, but we have now reached a point where, after a few months as Labour Leader, he is probably now surprising people with his ability to stick at the job while offering a vision that many of us writing and reading this blog broadly agree with.
Corbyn’s first 100 days as leader were inevitably difficult, but there are real signs that the next 100 days are showing a marked improvement. The initial wave of media and PLP consternation has been withstood, and we are reaching the point where Corbyn can now proceed with the monumental task of widening mass electoral support. On one hand, he has the opportunity to ride the crest of a wave of anti establishment politics. On the other hand, he will continue to face the might of a right wing media who will continue to find ways to destroy him. But, he was already withstood so much vent and fury and yet, he is still standing, and standing on surer footing than he did at the end of 2015.
He hasn’t flinched. He has kept his head while all around him are losing theirs and he has shown a quiet dignity that may just appear to broader hinterlands of the electorate. As the Tories implode over Europe, as the Blairites enter their own ice age and as the media continue to become caricatures of themselves, Corbyn is still in the arena, not by humiliating himself or throwing his toys out of the pram, but by rising above it all and increasingly showing a sureness of touch that comes from an ever increasing confidence.
None of this guarantees election success. That is a monumental challenge. But, he is still there, chipping away with a sense of realness as a bizarrely refreshing antidote to the off putting, ego driven, muscular politics exhibited elsewhere.
His critics continue to snipe that he is nothing more than a glorified leader of student politics. But which is the more grown up? A leader that refuses to slander or demonise his opponents while openly standing up for the poor and vulnerable in society or a leader who is more concerned about throwing soundbites out about “terrorist sympathisers” or braying about what type of suit his rivals wear while marginalising millions of people across the country?
Personally, I find quiet dignity and considered responses to major issues somewhat more grown up than the braying, divide and rule approach to life. As such, Corbyn is displaying a hell of a lot more maturity than David Cameron right now.