Monday 24 April 2017

Setting the wrong specification

It is already clear that a major part of the Tory election platform will be to compare and contrast May and Corbyn, in the belief that May will come out better.  And I suppose it’s a fair tactic, even if strictly speaking most of the electorate can’t vote directly for either of the two individuals.  Assessing which of the two best meets the perceived person specification for the top job is a fair question to be asking.  The more important question, though, is who decides what that person specification is?
The Tories and their allies in the press and media are in no doubt at all: they will set the specification, and the rest of us will be expected to make the assessment on the basis of the specification which they set.  From the interview which Corbyn did yesterday, it appears that two of the most important attributes for any Prime Minister of the UK according to the specification with which we are being presented are a willingness to annihilate millions of men women and children in a revenge attack, and an enthusiasm for extra-judicial killing of perceived enemies.  In both cases, the only acceptable answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’; anything else can and will be used to suggest weakness, and the idea that any PM should want to consider the detail of the situation at the time is to be officially regarded as risible.
I almost feel sorry for Corbyn that an intelligent and reasoned response to such a black and white question is being interpreted as unsuitability for the job; for me, a willingness to declare in advance that death and destruction will be unleashed whatever the circumstances makes a person far less suited to the job.  But only ‘almost’ feel sorry – because for decades, the Labour Party’s leaders have been part of the consensus which has narrowed the acceptable range of responses to one.  The Labour Party has collaborated in setting the person specification in such a way that their own leader is now regarded – even by most Labour MPs – as being unsuitable for the job.


Anonymous said...

Whilst it is true that the media expects only one response to such questions, part of Corbyn's problem is that more often than not he seems unable to properly articulate his position - or maybe it is just prevarication. Either way, he is frequently unconvincing and has become an enormous electoral liability for Labour. Sadly, the only party cashing in on his weakness are the Tories. If today's Welsh poll is accurate (and I have no reason to think that it isn't), they are set to become the main representives at Westminster of our dear little country. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that, but I can't help but be depressed by it.

John Dixon said...

"...part of Corbyn's problem is that more often than not he seems unable to properly articulate his position..." I agree with that, up to a point. But I suspect that any other politician attempting to give a nuanced response to a question would face the same problem from a media which is determined to demand a simplistic 'yes' or 'no'. Some might handle it better, but anyone trying to avoid being drawn into such a black and white scenario is likely to be made to look shifty. I wish that the solution could be as easy as the media makes everything else look.

"...I can't help but be depressed by it." Likewise. But the writing has been on the wall in several successive elections and much of the (non-Tory) political establishment in Wales has chosen to look the other way.