Jeremy Corbyn - A Man of Principle? Really?

28/06/2016 16:24 | Updated 28 June 2016
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

I remember vividly sitting down last summer, in the middle of the Labour Party's interminably long leadership election, to write my weekly column for the Catholic Universe newspaper.

As I typed in my regular twelve hundred word thought for the week my mind turned to the contest which was taking place for the top job and the four candidates who were fighting it out for the post. By the time I had finished and my column had gone through the sub-editing process, columnists don't do headlines, my piece had been titled 'Nice guy Corbyn pushes Labour to edge of oblivion'.

Without going into the piece in detail, it's fair to say that from colleagues in my own party I got quite a bit of stick for that column. Quite a few of them told me in not particularly complimentary terms that Mr Corbyn was the way forward. A few suggested that this party, the only party I have ever voted for and of which I have been proud to be a member for many years was not the party for me.

But Jeremy Corbyn did indeed win the leadership election by a landslide and after a period of misgiving, I have never liked his brand of simplistic ideology which fails to consider the complexities of ordinary family life where things like affording a new car or taking your family on holiday matter more than the Venezuelan political system, I decided he needed to be given the benefit of the doubt. I resolved to keep my thoughts to myself yet today, in the midst of the worst crisis that has ever befell the party, I feel compelled to break that silence.

There's very little doubt that Mr Corbyn's voice resonated with a small but significant minority of the population. I reasoned that whilst his far left politics might not be mine at least he was a decent and principled man. Personally I didn't think he had a hope in hell of becoming Prime Minister but at least his heart was in the right place.

And then came the referendum campaign and all of those judgements about character have come flooding back into focus and really do need to be questioned.

Jeremy Corbyn, we were told, was a man of principle, a man who had held steadfast to his beliefs for more than thirty years - even in disagreeing time and time again with a Labour government - and yet here we were in a fight for the future of this country and where were those beliefs evidenced.

We know Mr Corbyn had long been a eurosceptic but in advocating for Remain maybe, just maybe, his position had changed. But maybe, as it turns out, it had not.

We hear that no one from the leader's office attended meetings of the Labour In campaign. We have seen evidence that pro-European strategies were watered down from that same office. No less a figure than Alan Johnson tells us that "At times it felt as if they (the Leader's office) were working against the rest of the Party".

If all of that isn't clear enough three weeks before the crucial vote that would determine in no small part the future of our country this man who wants to be Prime Minister decided to go on holiday. Living in another era, as he appears to do, maybe Jeremy had found a cracking deal on teletext?

A man of principle doesn't do, or allow, those things. A man of principle, a leader, stands toe-to-toe with his party. A man of principle, a leader, is the voice of his party, he is the last one standing, he isn't just 7.5/10 committed.

And when approached again and again by figures who have dedicated their lives to Labour, and whose combined wisdom and experience is immeasurable, to be told that the damage he is doing to the party is incalculable a man of principle, a leader, doesn't dig his heels in repeating the word 'mandate' as little more than a mantra. A man of principle, a leader, realises that sometimes he must sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Last week the British public, for better or worse, opened Pandora's Box and our political world has been rocked by the horrors and revelation that came rushing out. Perhaps the main question, uncovered by that event, which needs to be answered quickly by the Labour Party is whether Jeremy Corbyn is a decent man, a man of principle, after all?