Dabbler Diary – Colouring Books for Corbyn


We could all write screeds on why left of labour groupings have not managed to expand even as people were angry about the status quo but the truth is that none of them have ever been able to bring together the enthusiasm and direction that Corbyn has managed.

Michael Rosen – 4 September 2015


Brian: I am NOT the Messiah!

Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I’ve followed a few.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian


Some time in the early 1960s something happened to the schoolboy Jeremy Corbyn that caused him to join the Wrekin Constituency Young Socialists.

In others we might call that something a ‘political awakening’ – but it bore only a superficial resemblance to one of those commonplace mishaps. Rather, it was a catastrophic neurovascular accident, perhaps of the type that the late, great Oliver Sacks was so good at sensitively dissecting.

Since that event, robbed of certain basic human cognitive functions such as empirical reasoning, Jeremy Corbyn has lived in a slightly different universe to nearly everyone else. Every day he wakes up and opens the curtains onto exactly the same world he first glimpsed in the early 1960s, and nothing that has happened to the rest of us in the intervening years – not the fall of the Berlin Wall, not the decline of mass industry, not the invention of the internet and the digital revolution – not a single thing has made the slightest impression upon it.

It is therefore not Jeremy Corbyn’s fault that he is what he is. A dolt. A cretin. A plonking lunkhead. A stupendous, award-winning bore. A finger-jabbing cloth-eared binbag of unshakeable opinions, all of them wrong. A man who has spent his life in ‘politics’ without learning the first thing about what it is or who it is for. An MP whose idea of representing his north London constituents is to spend the entirety of his time writing letters to Israel and condemning US foreign policy to small rooms of people who agree with him.

It is not his fault that he is, essentially, George Galloway without the charisma. Nor that his views fall into four categories: Implausible, Discredited, Batshit Crazy and Beyond the Pale. Nor that when he is asked by a newspaper to tell a joke, he gives an answer that no satirist could top: “I believe there’s an entire Twitter account dedicated to telling jokes on my behalf, @corbynjokes I’m told, though I can’t guarantee its quality. But if you want a good laugh, read my good friend Mark Steel’s columns.”

Not his fault that he’s Mark Steel without the wit. Michael Rosen without the books. Billy Bragg without the hits. Russell Brand without the looks.

Not his fault that he is in all aspects a perfect archetype, one which Charles Dickens would have nailed in a paragraph and a recurring catchphrase (perhaps ‘I’m told..’?). Every single thing he says or does or thinks can be fully imagined and, with the right software, predicted. He claims to write poetry on the train – and by God we can be certain, as we picture him scratching his beard with a biro, that he is wracking his broken brain for something that rhymes with ‘hegemonic’.

Such is Corbyn. And though he is no tabula rasa, on to him the Faithful have greedily projected all their political fantasies. ‘We’ve never had a Messiah like Jeremy before’, says Michael Rosen, and he should know, he’s followed a few.

The young people are being Engaged! Town halls are being packed out! (Sometimes with almost a third of the average attendance at Dartford Town FC in the Vanarama Conference Premier!) They sell badges and secondhand books to one another. It’s a Movement! Owen Jones opens the show, Billy Bragg cracks out the guitar. This time it really is going to happen!

None of this is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault, any more than it was poor Brian’s fault that he acquired his followers in Monty Python’s most piercing moment of satire. The madness of small crowds is a fact of human nature.


It’s Ed Miliband’s fault.

Never open the door to the Politically Engaged. Here is how British politics works: there are tribal Labour voters and tribal Tory voters, and there are Politically Engaged people who vote based on their principles for silly parties. Finally, there are Unengaged voters, who don’t give two hoots about politics but just before every General Election they take a good, hard, serious look at the candidates and vote for whoever they think would make the least bad government. Thankfully, there are just enough constituencies where such people are in the majority. The rest of the country free-rides on their good sense.

Edmund Burke would never have allowed entryists to pay £3 to elect a Labour leader. He understood the danger of the Politically Engaged. In a speech to the voters of Bristol he patiently explained that the point of representative democracy was that as their elected member for Parliament he didn’t actually need to do anything they asked him to.

In a truly open democracy organised factions of the Engaged can railroad through their Corbynish crackpot fantasies. This is one reason I’m glad that that preening crank Steve Hilton has sodded off to America – he didn’t get Burke at all and nearly persuaded David Cameron to introduce mass localism and thereby subject the country to the madness of small crowds.

There is a statue of Edmund Burke in the middle of Colston Avenue, though he only lived in Bristol for a few years and his voters mostly disagreed with him.


Now this is a leader. ‘No, Geoffrey, No…’


In Foyles bookshop I noticed that an entire bookshelf was dedicated to ‘Colouring Books for Adults’. I wandered over and was slightly disappointed with its contents (I’d imagined something that would require a lot of pink crayon, but they were just books of intricate line drawings, for adults to colour in).

At this stage, knowing what a cranky misanthropist I’ve become, you will be expecting me to rail against adult colouring books and make some biting satirical remarks about the infantilisation of our culture, but I won’t. From crochet to jigsaws to sudoku, there is a fine tradition of crazes for harmless ways to occupy fingers and certain restless parts of the brain during long, alcohol-free evenings now that electrical appliances take care of most of the chores.

If only Jeremy Corbyn had spent his nights colouring in pictures of jellyfish instead of photocopying pamphlets the world would be a better place, and that twenty quid I put on Yvette Cooper at sevens would be looking a great deal wiser, too.

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18 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Colouring Books for Corbyn

  1. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    September 7, 2015 at 07:58

    Twenty quid at sevens is still a decent punt I feel, and you might be pleasantly surprised come next week-end. But Cooper’s plan to ‘change’ a Britain that doesn’t need much changing doesn’t impress, nor her choice of life-partner.

  2. September 7, 2015 at 10:01

    Yvette Cooper seems quite ghastly – the sort of tutting, passive aggressive person that you might encouter in the teaching profession, or Social Services. She and Andy Burnham don’t have any vision and will say whatever they think people want to hear.

    I don’t share your contempt for Jeremy Corbyn. He may be a ‘Holy Fool’ and if he got into power, the money that he promises to redistribute would have already moved to another part of the globe within seconds, but his popularity will hopefully make the careerists and gravy train politicians take a good look at themselves.

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 7, 2015 at 10:15

    Suffering withdrawal symptoms we have been, returning from the wilderness Brit is, once again, soothing the furrowed brow. Or sumpin’.

    Consider this, if HM opposition are about to install a new head honcho then far better it be one who is from the busted flush wing of the party than a replacement for the venomously reptilian Blairs or the bloodsucking Kinnocks, the choice of the plural is deliberate.
    The left is, as we blog, becoming positively orgasmic or, just possibly, balsamic, the dearly beloved state broadcaster even more so, now that it’s staff perk (or Strictly Come Dancing, as it is sometimes called) has joined the fray and is once again among us. Why, bless it’s cotton socks, only last week it managed to blame Cameron for the carnage in the Med.

    If only Mr Corbyn ran the show, we could, each of us, look forward to harbouring about five hundred aggressive Syrian males aged about twenty five. Each and every one a highly skilled electrical engineer, negating the need for our good selves to change a fuse.

  4. Brit
    September 7, 2015 at 10:17

    Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand Yvette either, but there are three bad candidates and one catastrophic one. A mistake the other three candidates made early on was to accept the narrative that this election was a choice between principle and expediency – i.e. between being right but unelectable, or compromising and being electable. Corbyn is both unelectable and morally bankrupt.

    You could argue that the most interesting thing about this election is the treatment of Liz Kendall, as a demonstration of just how much people hate being told uncomfortable truths.

  5. Worm
    September 7, 2015 at 11:40

    welcome back Dabbler Diary! I have a somewhat sociopathic desire to see Corbyn let loose on the Labour party to see exactly how much damage is wrought

    • Brit
      September 7, 2015 at 11:51

      Yeah there is a part of me that wants that too – the same part that wants to see crashes in Formula One. But the better part of me knows that it’s unhealthy to only have one party of potential government to vote for.

  6. Gaw
    September 7, 2015 at 19:20

    I’ve just enjoyed this bit from Robert Tombs ‘The English and their History’ (highly recommended):

    At the height of the Terror, [Joseph] Priestley ‘read with pleasure, and even enthusiasm, the admirable Report of Robespierre on the subject of morals and religion’. He still regarded France’s enemies, including Britain, as the ‘ten horns’ of the Beast of the Apocalypse.

    Alas, the JaCorbyns have always been with us. Back in the day the link to a sort of manichean, millenarian religious enthusiasm was more evident. But it’s still very much there. If you add in the anti-semitism present amongst a vocal number of his supporters it looks even more like a self-justified and smug little persecutory sect. Politics as ‘spilt religion’.

    I very much hope he loses.

    • Brit
      September 8, 2015 at 09:24

      I’m still hoping. Otherwise we’ll have a Labour party leadership that fundamentally doesn’t believe in: NATO; property rights; representative democracy; the English conception of the rule of law.

      Incredible, really, innit.

  7. law@mhbref.com'
    Jonathan Law
    September 8, 2015 at 20:53

    I don’t really do politics – it’s a bit like golf or grand-prix racing, something I’m quite happy for other people to be interested in. Yet this Labour leadership thing has all the fascination of a hideous, slow-motion car-crash – you want to look away but you really can’t. Whatever your political views – and I I’m probably more sympathetic to the Labour Party than most who hang out around these parts – there’s something horribly compulsive about watching a great British institution destroy itself for absolutely no reason at all (Cameron has a majority of 12 for Chrissakes).

    I don’t really have any sort of joined-up view on this, so the following observations are numbered just as they come. Most of the points seem so obvious as to hardly need stating, but if that was so we would hardly be where we are, would we?

    1/ There are people I like and respect who genuinely see Corbyn’s apotheosis as some sort of Berlin Wall or Mandela moment – an authentic grass roots movement that is poised to tear down the hated edifice of ‘austerity’ and ‘neoliberalism’. This must be one of the most pitiful delusions that I have ever encountered. To come close to forming a government, Labour obviously has to win back the people who with varying degrees of reluctance voted for them in 2005 but with varying degrees of the same went Tory in 2010 and/or 2015. Whatever his other merits may be, J. Corbyn must be about the last man on earth to do this. Do his supporters honestly think there are thousands of people out there in Corby and Waveney saying something like “Well, I was quite impressed by Ed Miliband, but for me he just wasn’t, you know, pro-Hamas enough …”

    2/ The idea that Labour can ignore such hateful facts because it will be swept to power by some vast invisible army of non-voters is perhaps the most desperate delusion of them all. As a strategy, it’s about as realistic as the Paiute Ghost Dance. All the analyses I’ve seen suggest that non-voters tend to split right-left in very similar proportions to voters – and may even lean slightly to the right. And another thing about non-voters: they tend not to vote.

    3/ Ed Miliband isn’t to blame – at least not directly. The £3 entryists might make a lot of noise on Twitter but they won’t be the ones what won it. If the figures that people are bandying about are at all right, Jezzer could have won without them –and handsomely.

    4/ Gaw was surely onto something the other week when he pointed a finger at ‘selfie politics’ and the disastrous influence of social media on left politics generally. There’s a sort of magical thinking on Twitter that calls to an answering weakness in left thought, or certain kinds of it; the idea that if you get enough people to chant #CameronMustGo then the nasty man will be compelled to disappear in a puff of blue smoke. Or perhaps it’s less magic than Gnosticism – an assumption that thinking good thoughts is more important than anything that may or may not happen in that nasty old ‘real’ world over there. There’s a part of the left that seems to think Labour won the last election where it really matters – on social media – and that isn’t too bothered about when or if the general electorate catches up. This was true even before Corbyn came along.

    5/ I’m surprised to find myself saying this but in an odd way, I can see Jeremy’s personal appeal. He has a very old-fashioned, unyouthful, ordinariness that is somehow seductive; you can see him putting in a stiff afternoon on the allotment, knocking shyly on your door with a punnet of quite excellent runner beans. Next time you’re in WH Smith take a look at Anglers Mail and that bloke on the cover holding up a 90 lb carp: I bet he looks a lot like Jez.

    Brit says that JC reminds him of a Dickens character but to me he’s more like one of the comic lefties in Anthony Powell – an Erridge or a Quiggin; prickly, dull, self-important, and endlessly self-deluding but oddly hard to hate. It’s difficult not to have some warm feelings for a politician who can solemnly declare that “Anyone who wants to be beekeeper should be a beekeeper”– it’s exactly the sort of thing that Chauncey Gardiner would say.

    4/ But prime minister of the United Kingdom?

    6/ I probably shouldn’t, but I’m actually starting to feel a bit sorry for the guy. He’s earned his moment of triumph – whatever else, it’s hard to deny that he out-campaigned his opponents – but I don’t think he’ll enjoy being leader. He’s never had to take responsibility, or make a decision, or accept a distasteful compromise, and at 67 it seems a bit cruel that he should have to start learning. Jez will soon wish he was back on the allotment and who can blame him? One way or another it will all end very badly – but so does everything, I suppose.

    7/ Even if by some miracle Corbyn should lose, I suspect the damage is already done, in terms of there being any immediate future for sane left-of-centre politics. Just imagine if Yvette surprises us all and scrapes home – the Corbynistas will know they’ve been robbed and we’ll see a level of hate and vitriol beyond anything we’ve witnessed so far. Cooper will spend her whole time fighting off the ranters and nutjobs and wishful thinkers, so that the Corbyn agenda effectively continues to dominate.

    The problem facing the sane left is exemplified in the utter failure of Liz Kendall’s campaign. With the loss of Scotland, Blair’s essential analysis – that Labour can only win from the centre – has got to be truer than ever. And yet Blair and Blairism are so tainted that it’s become an impossible position to occupy.

    7/ I’m usually wrong about politics, so everything I’ve said above may be tripe. Who knows, JC may turn out to be the new Gladstone. But I had that Andy Burnham pegged as a tosser years ago. I’m not wrong about that.

    • wormstir@gmail.com'
      September 9, 2015 at 16:52

      agree with everything you’ve said Jonathan. As I only see ‘youngsters’ my age posting about him on facebook, Im wondering what the older, less social-media savvy labour voters are thinking about him – hard to hear anything above the twitter echo chamber though

      • Gaw
        September 10, 2015 at 16:04

        Me too. Sadly it’s confirming for me that, as the critics say, the concept of progress is very problematic. For those Corbynites who aren’t driven by outright malignity the 20th century didn’t happen.

        • Worm
          September 10, 2015 at 21:12

          probably literally in most cases as they weren’t old enough to remember any of it…

    • Brit
      September 15, 2015 at 17:37

      I agree with virtually all of that except:

      On the point (5) the loveable eccentric thing doesn’t do it for me at all (even though I’m generally all for eccentrics, as surely my curation of this blog will testify). I don’t care if he likes bees and allotments, nobody with such a profound lack of intellectual curiosity should get points for making a living out of pontificating and propagating ‘ideas’ – the very job which he is least suited to do, and the only one in which he is an actual danger to the public.

      And (3), it is Ed Miliband’s fault. True the £3 voters alone didn’t win it, but the noise created by the entryism took Corbyn from the ignorable joke candidate to one worth voting for by existing members. And at a deeper level, it’s Ed’s fault because he created the conditions for the party to renounce the successes of the Blair years and open the doors to this hi-jacking. And he pointlessly defeated his brother back in 2010, who may well have been PM now.

      • law@mhbref.com'
        Jonathan Law
        September 15, 2015 at 20:00

        Well, yes, it’s odd to think that if things had gone only slightly differently we could all now be complaining about the ghastliness of Prime Minister David Miliband …

        As to what happens next, who knows? My own guess — which might just be wishful thinking — is that Corbyn’s leadership will unravel spectacularly during the EU referendum campaign, when his lack of a coherent position and his inability to take the PLP with him are both cruelly exposed for all to see. He will be left leader in name only, until a ‘dignified’ exit can be arranged well before the election. But as to who would be in a position to take over… And even if Labour somehow manages to turn it around in the next decade or so, the Tories will still be saying “Look, how can anyone trust the judgement of a party that (overwhelmingly) chose Jeremy Corbyn for it’s leader”. And they will be right.

  8. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    September 9, 2015 at 12:37

    Today’s left resembles the Luddites and Romantic poets more than the generation that built the welfare state and post-war economic dirigisme. I tracked the Greek crisis fairly closely and, while plucky little Greece taking on humourless Teutonic bankers won the hearts of the world’s progressives, there seemed to be very little in the way of concrete policy analysis beyond advocating the sovereign right of the people to default on their debts. The old left had things like the Beveridge Report and far too many turgid, scholarly political and economic treatises to guide them on the road to a better future. Today they seem happy to rely on the splenetic nostrums of a Russell Brandt and the incoherent slogans of the Occupy movement to inspire them on their way to a safer, more nurturing past.

    • Gaw
      September 10, 2015 at 16:09

      Labour, and the left more generally, has an incredible paucity of good ideas and people. To confirm the latter look at the candidates for the ’76 Labour leadership election – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_1976 – and compare their various achievements against the current lot. The gulf is staggering. The party is knackered.

  9. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 15, 2015 at 19:54

    I doubt that Corbyn will be around long enough to do any damage, the images of last nights opposition front bench were surreal, all that was missing was Arthur Scargill sitting on Red Robbo’s lap whilst fondling Len Murray’s leg. The real damage will be done By Watson, Brown’s vile thug.

  10. Brit
    September 15, 2015 at 20:10

    The appointment of John McDonnell, the decision to shun the media and general shambles of the first few days suggest it’s going to fall apart pretty quickly without much need for an argument – but the problem comes if it falls apart TOO quickly. What follows? The centre of the party needs a year or so to get its act together, find its best leader and come up with some ideas.

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