As every West Wing aficionado knows, “Let Bartlett be Bartlett” was the political strategy which allowed the east coast liberal be his true self, based on the idea that what he gained in authenticity would more than outweigh what he lost from the unpopularity of his opinions.
Well a week ago, Seumas Milne and his chums in Jeremy Corbyn’s press team started briefing that the Labour leader would soon start to deliver a variant of the plan. But rather than base it on the (popular) fictional US president they decided to ape the (divisive) US President-elect, Donald Trump. From now, we are told, Corbyn will be himself, say what he thinks, and any backlash will be outweighed by speaking his mind, with the consequent media attention and authenticity garnering brownie-points.
So a set of “let Corbyn be Trump” interviews were arranged for Monday morning, with the media primed that the Labour leader was set to announce Labour’s support for restrictions on freedom of movement. But not content with one headline, Jeremy Corbyn proceeded to also announce a whole series of additional vote-winners like his plans for a wage cap and his intent to join a picket line. On freedom of movement, he managed to simultaneously say that he supports and opposes it, leaving us none the wiser as to Labour’s Brexit policy.
There have been worse relaunches (like the time Gordon Brown reinvigorated his premiership by posing in front of a swastika – beautifully illustrated below) but the net effect must surely cause even his biggest fan to question whether he really is the man to hold the Government to account. With two Labour MP’s having resigned for lucrative external jobs in less than a month, the by-elections to come might just decide whether Jez sees Labour through to a general election.