The newly-elected leader of Britain’s opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a radical left-winger who rebelled against the organization he now leads numerous times in his 30-year career. He’s also playing the early days of his new job with a deftness that the media seems to be missing.
He refused to speak to journalists from The Times – a newspaper owned by longtime Labour adversary Rupert Murdoch – and is now crowdsourcing questions for his first head-to-head encounter with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Prime Minister’s Questions is weekly combat between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – now Corbyn – as well as an opportunity for MPs of all parties to question the PM.
Corbyn’s first encounter with Cameron takes place today. He has emailed members of his party – not simply MPs but the rank and file, many of whom recently joined in order to vote for him – asking them what they feel he should ask the Prime Minister.
A page has also been set up on Labour’s website inviting anyone to contribute ideas. I would expect that to rapidly fill up with vitriol from Conservative Party attack dogs and trolls out for a laugh.
On Facebook, I stumbled across a loose acquaintance decrying Corbyn’s decision as an “all-time low for UK politics” and a dereliction of duty. In that person’s view, seeking the views of the party and the people is not leadership.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve become used to a presidential style of politics in the UK with successive leaders – Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron – ruling based on the advice of small coteries of advisors and friends, so-called ‘kitchen cabinets.’
To my mind, that setup is not leadership. That is ‘jobs for the boys’ and nepotism run wild. It is the situation that led a cartoonist to lampoon former Education Secretary and now Minister for Justice and Lord Chancellor Michael Gove, suggesting he’d put himself forward to fight aliens despite knowing nothing about flying fighter jets.
Corbyn is using the tools of the modern world to steer his leadership in its early days. He should only be bolder. Democracy is about the voices of the people. How can we decry someone attempting to listen?