Wondering why Corbyn is doing well?
I’ve posted below a couple of videos I took at Labour spring conference earlier this year. They feature Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham being unbelievably useless when asked questions on the very serious topics of the work capability assessment and the closure of the all-important Independent Living Fund.
I post these not as a Corbyn supporter – I am not, because it is not in my nature to back politicians – but to give you examples of the amazing evasiveness that other leadership candidates employ when asked basic questions about social security by people who they don’t recognise and suspect haven’t been accredited.
The shiftiness you see in the videos below speaks volumes about both candidates and about the reasons why the mild-mannered Corbyn’s apparent plain speaking is sort of turning into one of the political finds of the millennium. I went to the Corbyn meeting on Tuesday in London and found it very interesting (it was packed, for starters). There was nothing particularly exciting about his presentation – he doesn’t shout much and he doesn’t punch the air, or stride around the stage a lot, or any of that sort of psuedo-radical carry-on. He just stands there in his Dad-shirt and talks about the NHS, trade union rights and housing in much the same low-key way as he probably would with a couple of mates on a walk. I think his advantage is that he’s coherent, on social security anyway. Which is more than can be said for the rest of them. My experience at Labour spring conference strongly suggested that candidates like Cooper and Burnham had nothing to say on social security and couldn’t get away fast enough when anyone asked. They were apparently so frightened of being labelled welfare-sympathisers that they just looked at questioners in horror, rattled out a few sentences that nobody could follow, and then ran for it. This was an interesting approach from people who were and are purportedly so keen on dialogue.
Here’s Yvette Cooper sprinting away and telling me to go find Rachel Reeves when I asked her what Labour would do about the work capability assessment (this is at Labour spring conference):
Here’s Andy Burnham responding to questions from disability campaigners about the Independent Living Fund closure by saying the ILF wasn’t his policy responsibility. Before he legged it, he told campaigners to get in touch with his office to set up a meeting to talk about the ILF. Curiously, he wasn’t available for a meeting when people tried to get in touch:
And while we’re on the evasiveness theme – here is Sadiq Khan departing the scene very quickly indeed when he was asked to say something to a disabled campaigner who’d been arrested at the Budget protests earlier this month. The campaigner was sitting outside parliament surrounded by police when Sadiq happened by. I realise that Khan isn’t standing for the party leadership, but he does want to be London mayor, so we’ll throw him into the mix, because he fits so well.
The amazing thing was that Khan couldn’t bring himself to say anything about the situation at all. He had absolutely nothing – on the arrest, or the disability funding cuts that people were protesting about. He didn’t say a single word. It was like he shuffled through all the press statements and Spad instructions in his head, but couldn’t find the one labelled “lines to use when meeting disabled protestors.” Unable to come up with a single accredited thought, he left. I wonder if this one of the reasons why Corbyn is doing well. He’s up against contenders who seem to think that the best way to relate to people is to race for the exits.
To say that these people can’t communicate with punters is the understatement of the decade. If social security is your thing – they can’t talk to you at all.