Talking Politics with David Jones: Time for Labour to think outside the bubble

Jeremy Corbyn looks very different depending on which bubble you're in. Picture: Scott Merrylees/Johnston Press

Jeremy Corbyn looks very different depending on which bubble you're in. Picture: Scott Merrylees/Johnston Press

1
Have your say

I’ve written before about the trap us pundits sometimes fall into of getting stuck in the ‘Westminster Bubble’, that London-centric mindset which obsesses over the grand melodrama surrounding Parliament the way other people might follow Eastenders, professional wrestling or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It can become all too easy to assume everyone shares your obsession, especially when you’re surrounded by like-minded people.

But I’ve started to wonder if there’s a similar effect going on up here in South Yorkshire. The ‘Coalfields Bubble’, perhaps, though it might be a bit late to coin that phrase.

Take Jeremy Corbyn. A divisive figure even in these Labour heartlands, but up here even his critics can find it hard to see why Labour MPs are quite so nakedly falling over themselves to stick the knife into a man not yet even half a year into the job.

But within the Westminster Bubble, it is received wisdom that Corbyn must go as soon as possible or there won’t be a Labour Party left to save. In close proximity to the still-smouldering wreckage of the Liberal Democrats, it can seem a persuasive argument.

When viewed through the bubble’s oily sheen, those Labour MPs openly calling for Corbyn to go, like Liz Kendall’s former campaign manager John Woodcock, are just acting rationally under extreme provocation.

But from up here, such antics at a time when the party desperately needs to unite look like the political equivalent of a drunk Phil Mitchell smashing up Albert Square in a stolen digger.

I’m starting to wonder, though, whether this view is any more rational, or whether it’s based on two beliefs fairly common round these parts: that every Labour leader since Neil Kinnock hasn’t been left-wing enough, and that if you change that then society’s downtrodden masses, who aren’t really that bothered about the details, will start voting Labour again.

Is that way of thinking really any less fanciful?

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Certainly the austerity agenda is there to be shot down, and Corbyn’s Labour has missed far too many open goals. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things who comes across best at Prime Minister’s Questions, but the lack of a coherent response to a budget full of holes should be of real concern to Labour supporters everywhere.

Labour needs to find a strategy that will appeal both in Westminster and their heartlands - and they haven’t managed that since Tony Blair.