I’ve never been attacked from the left before . . .

Jeremy Corybn and I have a row about PR.

How can you not like Jeremy Corbyn? Good old-fashioned lefty, hard-working local MP, pro-Palestinian, anti-war, outspoken on climate change (in contrast to his odd, climate-change-denying brother . . . )

But yesterday, in a live discussion on the Iranian-owned, English-language satellite channel Press TV, Corbyn reminded me of how ugly, dispiriting and out-of-touch Labour tribalism can be. He objected to my support for proportional representation, attempted a half-hearted defence of our monstrously unfair first-past-the-post system and accused me of belittling the arguments in favour of the fabled "constituency link" out of a supposed animus towards "the working class" and towards -- specifically -- Labour's safe seats.

I'm not often left speechless -- but then I'm not often attacked from the left.

Let me be clear. I oppose all safe seats -- David Cameron's Witney constituency as well as Corbyn's Islington North seat. I'm a democrat first, a leftist second. And as I said at the Vote for a Change launch meeting last year, in a democracy, no politician should be "safe" from the wrath of the voters.

Does that not make sense, Jeremy?


Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.