so tired of corbyn

Rayner lets rip as Corbyn dies on his lips
John Crace, Graun, Nov 12 2019

Angela Rayner in Blackpool. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Just before the start, the blinds in the executive suite at Blackpool football club were drawn, throwing the room into semi-darkness. As a mark of respect, perhaps. Two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn was in the middle of a surprise sellout tour of the UK. The merchandise stalls had been doing great business with JC4PM T-shirts and the Labour leader had frequently been upgraded to bigger venues. He had been the man. Now he increasingly looks more like someone going through the motions. A last chance powerless drive to cash in by playing a few old favourites in front of a few die-hard fans, before he can dive back to his Born to Runner beans on the allotment, muttering to himself that he had given the election his best shot. Less than two weeks previously, Corbyn had launched Labour’s election campaign with a high-octane rally in Battersea. Back then he still had hope. However small. Now he could barely keep his eyes open as he introduced a showcase programme for lifelong education that should be at the heart of his party’s manifesto. It was almost as if he was punch-drunk. Years of being the underdog, of disproving the doubters, of always bouncing back, have finally taken their toll. Now it looked as if he had had enough. This was Corbyn at his most downbeat. He mumbled:

It makes me angry that some schools are closed on a Friday.

Only he didn’t sound angry at all. Rather, he just sounded a bit fed up. The ageing geography supply teacher who is counting down the days to retirement and doesn’t really give a toss whether the kids learn anything so long as they give him an easy ride and he gets out alive. Not that he didn’t have plenty of good lines. About the floods, about the importance of training for everyone, about children going hungry in schools. He just couldn’t deliver them. Sentences that must have looked great on the page died on his lips. Rallying cries that faded into whispers. It was all he could do to get a response from the audience when he ended with the old favourite of “Our NHS is not for sale.” A few of the hundred or so Labour activists in the room broke into a desultory, short-lived chorus of “Not for sale,” though more out of a sense of obligation than with any real enthusiasm. Live Aid it wasn’t. Even Angela Rayner appeared taken aback by the lack of energy in the room. Normally the shadow education secretary can be relied on to fire up a crowd, but she was unusually hesitant and underpowered at first. She began:

I’ve seen off four education secretaries.

Er, yes. But she had never actually been education secretary, which is Labour’s entire raison d’etre. Coming up with great policies is fairly pointless if you’re never in a position to implement them. Corbyn has seen off three prime ministers and the Tories would be more than happy for him to stay in place and see off three more if it meant Labour was out of office for another 10 years. Gradually, though, Rayner began to hit her stride. She has a great back story and she tells it very well. How she was at home with a baby when her classmates were doing their GCSEs, and how it was only by going back to college to get qualifications that she learned how to help herself and her son by building a career. Everyone deserved a second chance at life. Though it didn’t sound as if Corbyn was going to be allowed a third one. She then raced through her plans for a national education service to close with a killer pay-off. Poverty wasn’t just being penniless, it was being powerless. And she was the voice of the dispossessed.

For the obligatory Q&A, Corbyn joined Rayner on stage and the pair gave every impression of looking as though they were appearing in a hostage video together. Yes, we are being extremely well treated. Yes, we do love these jumpsuits. Orange is our favourite colour. Their eyes screamed “HELP.” Corbyn did most of the talking and his answers were bland and noncommittal. The floods were very serious and he would definitely have done something different to the Tories. The cyber-attack was also serious and he didn’t want to speculate who was behind it but he would encourage others to do the speculating for him. Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump were all bad. Finally, though, Rayner let rip. A new Labour government would make the postwar Attlee government look pedestrian. She said:

I am disgusted by Boris and Farage! I don’t fear them! Bring it on!

This was the passion that had been missing all morning. The voice of someone furious that her party was unable to convey even its most basic messages at a time when the Tories were a shambles and the prime minister a low-grade hustler who wouldn’t pass the most basic of security checks. The voice of someone who demanded to be heard. The audience started to perk up. There was some hope after all. Just maybe not in this election.

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