Jeremy Corbyn says that if he was Prime Minister, he would authorise the police to use ‘whatever force is necessary’ against terrorists. Is that true? Is he really ready to go back on decades of suspicion of the police, of hostility to the security forces of an imperialist British state? How can this be reconciled with the man who was so obviously unwilling to back the use of lethal force in that interview with Laura Kuenssberg that’s doing the rounds again. Jeremy Corbyn opposes ‘shoot to kill’ policy. Does he mean it? I have no idea.
But the comment confirms that Mr Corbyn’s newfound political ruthlessness is the story of this election. These last few weeks he’s acting like a man who actually wants to win, and will say (or at least try to say) the things he has to say to get some votes.
I don’t say that as a bad thing, necessarily. There’s a lot to be said for ruthlessness in politics. The willingness to say things people want to say does, after all, mean that you might just end up doing things that people want you to do. For all that ‘populism’ has become a dirty word, that’s not such a bad thing.
But that ruthlessness is something that’s hard to reconcile with the Jeremy Corbyn that has gone before. The Jeremy Corbyn celebrated and almost deified by his cult-like devotees. The honest, plain-spoken monk-like ascetic who tells it like it is and damn the consensus, the establishment and the MSM. The living rejection of the spin-driven, focus-grouped ultra-cynical tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear politics they often (and wrongly) ascribe to Tony Blair.
That Jeremy Corbyn really didn’t look like a man who wanted to win elections. Having won the Labour leadership (twice), he has spent most of his time in the job trying to consolidate that position, appealing to the people who put him in the job. And maybe that’s all the general election has been about: if he delivers more votes (NB: votes, not seats) than Ed Miliband, he’s secure in his post even after losing the election, and the ‘Blairites’ who said he’d destroy the party will have to get serious about leaving to start again somewhere else. (The fact that the election result could effectively anchor Mr Corbyn and his Labour Party in place on the Left of politics may yet be the most important thing that happens this week. But let’s see the result before saying more about that).
But what will the cultists make of the new, calculated and even (whisper it) professional Jeremy Corbyn? How does JC 2.0 fit with their ideal? Can they go on worshipping the man who promised to end politics as usual when he acts like just another politician?