Corbyn had, before becoming leader, power without responsibility and now he has both. Does the way in which he is handling his new responsibilities explain his failure to be a fully rounded, effective leader of a political party?
“Our problem is simply the capacity to respond to everything. After only two or three weeks in office we discovered we had a backlog of a hundred thousand emails sent to me. We had a backlog of a thousand invitations to speak at places all over the country, and all over the world for that matter. We started from scratch with our office, so just the sheer management of issues off this is huge. It’s now much better, it’s getting better. We’ve got more staff in place, a better team in place, it’s growing but it is quite difficult.
Also I’m quite concerned that if I spend time in the office someone will always find something for you to do. There’s always a crisis that needs your urgent attention. If I wasn’t there, either the crisis wouldn’t happen or it wouldn’t need your urgent attention. But the fact I’m there means that it becomes my problem, not somebody else’s. So I’m quite assertive about the need to ensure I go travelling round the country. I’m doing basically three days travelling every week. So we’re going everywhere. I did over a hundred events during the leadership campaign and by the end of the year I will probably have done 400 to 500 public meetings.”
“I feel constantly concerned that I’m spending all this time doing everything involved in all my leadership activity and sometimes I feel a tear between that and my responsibilities to the community that I represent. So I have a weekly fight over the schedule set out in my diary. That’s where I do get quite assertive, because I insist on spending time with those people and groups I always have represented even while now also travelling across the country – and also I make sure that I have time for myself. Half a day, or a day a week, so I can dig my allotment.”
“Corbyn’s team prepare for PMQs over Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday morning the key prep session.”
“He keeps his feet on the ground by visiting not just his own constituency, but also by getting out of London altogether. Corbyn has built into his new routine a strict edict that nearly every week he only spends three and a half days at Westminster and that the rest of the time he’s out on the road, away from the Parliamentary bubble.
“There is a sort of relentless demand on one, so every week Prime Minister’s Question Time comes round, every week there’s a whole lot of things that have to be done.
And it’s balancing that with the need to not spend one’s whole time in one’s office, dealing with whatever crisis appears. I find if you are in an office, the crisis finds you. If you’re not in the office, the crisis finds somebody else.
And so I’m very insistent on doing my constituency work and constituency surgery. I had to cancel two interviews yesterday because so many people came. I was there for five hours [which is two and a half hours longer than he’d put in his diary].” ”
When does Corbyn find the time to deal with matters such as the charges of anti-semitism? Or, are such matters crises that are best left to somebody else? And, if so, who is dealing with them?
Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Who, then, is the Sergeant Towser, exercising power in the Labour leader’s office whilst Corbyn is perfecting his portrayal of Major Major for an upcoming remake of Catch 22? Seumas Milne?
Thursday 26th May Update: Corbyn Decides to be Own Chief of Staff
In an email to staff, Fletcher said: “this is ‘flat’ structure in which there is no Chief of Staff but instead a senior team that reports in to Jeremy. Thanks all very much for all your work for Jeremy and the Labour party. The changes we are making should have a further positive impact on our ability to work as an effective, well-organised unit that develops a stronger policy and campaigning edge.”