Where’s Jeremy Corbyn? The Labour leader is missing in action

A placard at the People's Vote march questions Jeremy Corbyn's absence. Photograph: Michael Edwards.

A placard at the People's Vote march questions Jeremy Corbyn's absence. Photograph: Michael Edwards. - Credit: Archant

The UK could be weeks away from another general election, meaning all opposition parties need to be rallying the troops. But, as frustrated Labour member MARTYN SLOMAN notes, Jeremy Corbyn is again missing in action.

Given the maelstrom that is the current political scene there is a surprising consensus on the way that events could unfold. This is because the position and ambitions of our prime minister are so transparent.

For Boris Johnson, like his opposite number across the Atlantic, ego dominates and reputation is all. What matters is what appears or can be said to happen, not what actually happens. He has staked his reputation on delivering Brexit on October 31st. If it doesn't take place as predicted it will be everybody else's fault - the EU, the Irish government, unsupportive MPs. That will set him up nicely for a 'people versus parliament' general election that will be the nastiest any living person has ever witnessed.

Many parliamentarians on all sides of the House are endeavouring to prevent this dreadful scenario from taking place. They are determined to do all in their power to prevent both a head-on attack on the principles of representative democracy and the consequent delivery of an economic disaster. Some of them, for example Philip Hammond, Dominic Grieve and Justin Greening from the Conservative side, have already displayed great courage. We can be sure that there is a huge amount of organising and planning taking place across the party divide in advance of the resumption of parliament on September 21st. However, there is nothing that we ordinary voters can do to assist them beyond demonstrating our strength of feeling and wishing them well.

It is the Labour Party that concerns me. It would: I have been a member for over 50 years. The continued ambiguity of the party's position is a cause of distress. Alan Johnson, an education minister under Tony Blair and someone who would have made an excellent leader himself today, described Jeremy Corbyn's position on Europe as a total disaster. "He's not a leader. He's never going to be a leader, never wanted to be a leader, and is totally uncomfortable in his role of leader".

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Whatever one's opinion on Alan Johnson's scathing judgement, it would be a mistake to write off Jeremy Corbyn's potential contribution to overturning Brexit. His ability to motivate and inspire his younger supporters was much in evidence during the 2017 general election, though sadly absent in the referendum that took place in the previous year. We need him, first, to stop equivocating and to offer the clear message of Remain. Every recent national and local poll has demonstrated that this is a political necessity if the party is to offer a serious challenge in a future general election. Jeremy Corbyn still enjoys a following and we need him in play to mobilise his supporters and we need him in play now. It is no good to waiting until late September after Labour Party conference. Moreover the mechanism exists, through the Momentum network, to mobilise pressure, should he choose, through social networking.

In an article, published in The New European in February 2018, I wrote, "Future generations will be amazed at our lack of action and the total impotence that so many progressives feel today…. I will learn from the success of the Corbyn campaign and use social media to promulgate my position and my concerns." I went on to start campaigning on social media.

Eighteen months on I still feel isolated and impotent in my north Norfolk retreat but more than ever believe that we should all do what we can. Accordingly I have established, and will be promoting a new hashtag '#jeremyMIA' - standing for Jeremy missing in action' - to see if we can embarrass him to do his bit before it is too late. If you feel the same way I hope you will use it too.

- Martyn Sloman was parliamentary agent for the North Norfolk Constituency Labour Party in 2015. He blogs on the Labour Party as 'leftyoldman' and tweets as @eugrandparents.

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