A remarkable campaign is coming to an end and leaves the Labour Party in turmoil. Whatever one thinks about the candidate, the support for Jeremy Corbyn was different from anything we have seen before, with some most unusual features. One of the more bizarre was a Guardian letter, published on Saturday 15th August, from 27 academics. They endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature since ‘There is a possibility that academics who have always felt that their research – whether on social policy, public health, economics, sociology or other disciplines – was ignored by policy makers may now be more in tune with the Labour Party’.
As someone who has held Visiting Professorships at three UK Universities I take a different view.
The letter is naïve in two respects. First, there is not the slightest prospect of Jeremy Corbyn being in any position of power and influence. If he becomes leader the Labour Party will face a decade of non-electability. If he does not, and is accommodated in some shadow job, he will resign within a short time. Secondly, he has not the slightest interest in policy detail preferring to talk in slogans and soundbites.
Sufficiently irritated by the letter I inspected the list of signatories and found two from Kingston University, where I currently hold an appointment. I had never met them so I e-mailed them as follows: I am considering featuring your letter in a forthcoming blog and have a very specific question. Did you spend any time canvassing on the doorstep at the May General election and, if so, what sort of response did you get? I would be quite happy to share our experiences here in Norfolk.
From one I received the following reply: I am away and will be slow in replying to emails until 31 Aug. Note the absence of any suggestion of an alternative contact. No organisation other than a UK University would allow an employee to produce an ‘out of office’ that so blatantly disregards the recipient.
The second reply was more fulsome. As I had indicated that it would feature in my blog I have no compunction in reproducing it in full (while not identifying the author).
Hi Martin, (sic)
No: I was in fact overseas at the time (in Palestine), and in Romania before that. As a recent migrant to the UK, I’d only just arranged to vote, and I haven’t joined the Labour Party (nor am I likely to: I prefer to not be identified with a particular party, even though my sympathies lie in that direction).
Though I don’t take part in party politics, I’m engaged with several groups that are trying to influence Labour Party economic policy, including LEAP.
So that‘s it then. The Kingston signatory has not been involved in the Labour Party nor has he any intention of becoming involved. However he supports Jeremy Corbyn because it might lead to his work being taken more seriously. I wish he and his co-signatories would spend twenty minutes meeting the electorate on the doorstep in the working-class housing estates of North Walsham. Experience of the real world might cause them to think before behaving in such a self-indulgent way.
On 21st August I will be publishing a short book:
Labour’s failure and my small part in it: a memoir for my grandchildren
It will be made available free of charge as a download on this site and my personal website http://www.martynsloman.co.uk. I also intend to produce a Kindle edition. The book is based on my experiences of 50 year’s activism, my despair about the current state of the Labour Party, and the steps that we need to take to regain credibility.