In a funny way I have some sympathy with Jeremy Corbyn following the resignations and adverse publicity that followed this week’s reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet. Given his intentions these reactions were inevitable. However it is evident that it provided yet more evidence of his ineptitude as an operational manager.
My sympathy results from my practical experiences as a human resource (or personnel, as we called it at the time) manager. In this role you learn from your mistakes. My first lesson came in the early 1980s at the headquarters of the National Coal Board. My boss, for whom I had the greatest respect, was charged with implementing an agreed, but sensitive plan for a Departmental restructuring. I was working for him on many of the detailed implementation. No-one was sacked but there were some promotions and a number of disappointments. We drew up a detailed timetable for people to learn of their fate – the order in which they were told reflected both their seniority and likely reaction. The mistake I made was to ignore an informal network. The secretaries congregated in the coffee bar and fed each other’s anxiety with mostly incorrect rumours. We should have brought them all together at the start and told them that we would be coming back to them at close of play with hard information, and in the meantime please avoid unhelpful speculation.
All this illustrates that Jeremy Corbyn and his immediate advisors have little or no practical experience of working with and through other people in organisations. Jeremy and John McDonell are accomplished at manipulating large meetings where everyone is predisposed to agree with them, but are not very good at politics.
However none of this matters to them. Their objective is to gain control of the Labour Party at all levels and their success should be measured in how many of those who oppose their views they have removed. It is yet another early skirmish in Labour’s inevitable civil war. No more, no less.