One of the many problems with Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called “leadership” of the Labour party has been his complete failure to confront the biggest issue facing the country today – Brexit. At key moments, with the government’s approach to Article 50 attracting widespread criticism, Corbyn has been extraordinarily elusive.
Even Iain Duncan Smith’s “quiet man” act at the beginning of the century failed to match the eerie silence of today’s Labour party. Yesterday, we were supposed to witness a bold attempt to right this wrong – following a New Year’s resolution to “let Jeremy be Jeremy”, Labour’s spinners had planned an aggressive relaunch for their leader, with a string of interviews leading up to a set piece speech outlining Corbyn’s vision for post-Brexit Britain.
Predictably, the whole exercise was doomed to failure from the start. The speech itself, instead of focusing on any of Brexit’s numerous challenges, turned into an incoherent clutter of student-union style socialist moans, pie-in-the-sky solutions and screeching U-turns.
On the morning that Office for National Statistics figures showed another drop in income inequality in the UK (it has fallen sharply for five years), Corbyn decided to grab headlines by proposing a national wage cap. The idea attracted such derision that, by the afternoon, his advisers had frantically replaced it with a series of watered-down options, including a ban on the government accepting services from any company with a CEO who is paid more than £300k-£400k a year (good luck with those infrastructure and defence projects).
They also rowed back on Corbyn’s statement from the previous evening, in which he signalled opposition to freedom of movement. Thus, weeks away from the triggering of Article 50, we still have no idea whether Labour supports or opposes the continued right of EU citizens to come and work in the UK.
Labour’s plan to “let Jeremy be Jeremy” has, at least, worked. In the Q&A session following his speech Corbyn revealed that he still doesn’t know what a hedge fund does (he seemed to confuse hedge funds with private equity, having previously mistaken them for payday lenders). This is a man way out of his depth, who is finally losing the support of Labour’s far-left masterminds. He is now just 7/4 to be ousted this year – tight odds, admittedly, but if you’re hedge a fund daredevil, you may want to take a punt.