The weekend brought a deluge of reaction to Thursday’s High Court ruling on Article 50. Everyone from renowned legal experts to armchair constitutionalists weighed in on what the ruling meant for Theresa May and whether the judges had made the right call.
Under normal circumstances, the voice of the Leader of the Opposition would be prominent in such a conversation. But these are not normal circumstances and the leader of the Labour party is not a normal opposition leader. It took Labour more than an hour to release a statement in response to the judges’ rulings, and several hours more to correct the mistaken spelling of Jeremy Corbyn’s name in the press release.
The statement itself added nothing to the debate, calling for accountability on the terms of Brexit and promising to make the case for a deal that puts the economy first. Meanwhile, with talk of an early election growing, journalists were understandably keen to hear from the man who would be PM.
A crew from ITV tracked him down at an event only to be prevented from asking him questions by aides who blocked the camera with their hands. Displaying his infamous disregard for the media, Corbyn declared “we’re being harassed here” before hiding in a doorway as staff remonstrated with a baffled camera crew.
Further proof, as if it were needed, of how ill-equipped Corbyn is for front-line politics, let alone high office. Yesterday, however, it seemed as if he was flexing his muscles on Brexit, reportedly promising to block the triggering of Article 50 if May failed to secure access to the EU’s Single Market.
This may have been music to the ears of hardcore Remain backers like Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, but the idea was quickly shot down by Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. The confusion over such sensitive and high-profile policy decisions (played out in full public view) only serves to remind the country that Corbyn’s party is incapable of providing effective opposition. The courts may well grant parliament a beefed-up role in scrutinising May’s Brexit plans, but don’t expect Corbyn to take a leading role in the process.