Silent Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet

There are plenty on the Left who have taken great umbrage at the immediate Conservative attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Evidently, in their minds, the printing of direct quotes from Corbyn by the Tories - and, indeed, the national press - amounts to a vicious smear; political mud-slinging of the most spiteful form. There has been immense caterwauling over the ‘lack of context’ and ‘misrepresentation’: there are, apparently, numerous layers of grey on the Corbyn spectrum. Perhaps there are, but in this case the statements from Corbyn on his terrorist ‘friends’, our national defence, and even Osama Bin Laden, reside in the darkest black on his monochromatic palette. The sort of black that belongs in an Attenborough documentary on the deepest depths of the oceans: “at this depth, no light at all penetrates.” Ironically, that description is also applicable to the selection of the Shadow Cabinet.

The blow-by-blow account of Sunday night’s desperate scramble to fill the opposing front bench is either thoroughly disconcerting or highly amusing, depending on your allegiance. It reads like a binned Thick of It script, discarded for being too far-fetched. If you haven't read Darren McCaffrey’s first hand account, do so. It perfectly summarises the waterfall of incompetence and lack of self-awareness that is swiftly becoming the hallmark of the embryonic Corbyn leadership.

If you’re hoping to persuade the electorate that your party doesn't have a problem with women then it’s probably not a wise idea to fill the shadow positions of the four Great Offices of State with white, middle-aged men. It’s definitely not a wise idea to then try to claim that you don’t buy into that archaic idea and that all cabinet posts are created equal. John McDonnell certainly wasn’t engaging in vigorous ear-bending in a bid to become Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration.

If you're trying to rebuild your Party’s economic credibility after a General Election defeat, in which voters roundly rejected your fiscal abilities, then it might not be a great start to appoint a Shadow Chancellor - the aforementioned McDonnell - who mouth-frothingly fantasises about the “overthrow of capitalism,” and was considered too Left Wing for even Ken Livingstone’s taste. On top of that, McDonnell’s track record of IRA sympathising and making heinous, violent statements about female Tories will do little to assuage the angst of those troubled by your terrorist ‘friends’ and who believe your Party has a problem with women.

If you’re attempting to con the general public into believing that the mass exodus of big beasts to your back benches is of no concern, and that you’re confident your replacements are of equal or better quality, then it’s not exceptionally persuasive to appoint a Shadow Education Secretary that you have never even met. Or a Shadow Health Secretary who would consider NHS funding for homeopathic treatment. Or a Shadow Environment Secretary - responsible for agriculture and farming - who is an avowed vegan and believes that the meat, dairy and egg industries “cause immense suffering” to animals. Or Diane Abbott.

These examples are a microcosm of the litany of issues that a Corbyn leadership impresses upon Labour. Commentators had to dig out their dusty copies of ‘Who’s Who’ for many of the new faces, and at first glance they don’t hold up under scrutiny. Of course, there may be reasonable justification for all of these seemingly barmy appointments. But we’ll never know: Corbyn’s disdain for - and avoidance of - the mainstream press has reached previously unimaginable levels. This media silence has now permeated through to his appointees, with both McDonnell and Benn cancelling appearances on short notice over the last few days. 

Corbyn appears to believe that he can succeed in getting his message across by limiting himself to non-traditional media and online networks. The same online networks that gave Labour false hope in May. Social media is the most sonorous of echo chambers, and if Corbyn wishes to have his ego massaged, and avoid any form of accountability for his actions, then he is welcome to it. If he has any sort of genuine interest in a 2020 victory, however, he needs to drop the surly attitude, engage with traditional media outlets, and start a dialogue with those who fundamentally disagree with his politics. Unfortunately for Labour, though, that just isn’t his style.