Thursday, February 11, 2016

AN INTERVIEW WITH IAN DUNT




Ian Dunt is the editor of politics.co.uk. Despite writing about politics all day, he mysteriously manages to retain both objectivity and a sense of humour. I ask him some pressing questions…

I love Jeremy Corbyn in a way I have never loved another UK politician. Am I going to be heartbroken in 2020, or is it too early to tell?

No, you'll probably be heartbroken around 2018. I just can't see him making it to 2020. At the rate he's going it's quite likely he'll run out of people prepared to work in his shadow Cabinet, for a start.

The only thing stopping the parliamentary party getting rid of him now is the certain knowledge he'll just be re-elected by the membership. In a few months we'll likely be looking at some disastrous results for Labour in Scotland, Wales and England. That'll test that theory to its limit.




Corbyn is a good egg. He's decent and witty and not a machine politician. I mean, his first foreign trip this year was to the Calais jungle. He's a man of principle, whether you agree with his principles or not. People keep saying they don't want the same old robot politician sticking to the party line. But when a politician of real conviction comes along they hate him for it.

That being said, Corbyn doesn't help himself. He needs to find issues where he and the public are on the same page and make them the focus of his agenda, then work with broadcast media to talk to the public over the heads of the press. But instead he gets bogged down in weird, unpopular issues, like the Falklands, and treats the media like it's some vast conspiracy. It's all a bit of a wasted opportunity, your crush notwithstanding.




I hope you're wrong, and the good egg isn't replaced by a rotten egg. But if you had your way, who would replace Corbyn?

I don't really have an answer to that question. The really scary thing about Labour is how little talent they have. There are some good thinkers and people of principle in there, but they're not leaders. And there are some passably convincing leaders, with no original ideas or capacity for interesting political thought. That was why Corbyn got in in the first place. They all looked like losers, so you might as well go with the loser who believes in something apart from their own advancement.

I like the way Dawn Butler comes across - human, sincere, funny - but I haven't seen anything cerebral from her. Kate Green and Angela Eagle are impressive, but you can't see them in the leadership role. It's all terribly slim pickings, I'm afraid.

You can tell by the type of people the press are touting as leadership material. I mean, that Syria speech was OK, but Hilary Benn? Seriously? Keir Starmer? It's pretty desperate stuff.

If I had to put money on it, by the way, I'd say it'll be Dan Jarvis against Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis will win. But then I thought we'd currently have a Lib/Lab coalition, so take that as you will.




Have you ever thought of standing as an MP yourself?

God no. I'd sooner turn to crime. And in fact that becomes a more compelling proposition the more I look at my tax returns.

The reason most MPs are so evidently psychologically damaged is that only someone who was psychologically damaged would ever consider doing the job. You lose all your privacy and you become an object of public ridicule and contempt. And for what? So that you can trundle through whichever voting lobby your party whip tells you to.

You're really not even particularly powerful. You just act according to the whims of your party, which really is just a brand. Neither of the two big parties can claim to have roots in British communities anymore. You're not fighting for what's right, because you're not even in control of their policies or in a position to predict what they'll be in a year's time. Are you a representative of the public? A delegate? Party voting fodder? No one knows. We've made a terrible pig's ear of it, constitutionally.

And honestly, if political power is what you crave, you have more of it as a senior political journalist than you do as an MP.




That's it! I'm officially depressed. To recap: politicians are psychologically damaged autonomy-free trundling objects of contempt and ridicule, with the possible exception of Corbyn, who is not psychologically damaged but trying to make a positive difference to the poor and oppressed, but who will be out on his ear by 2018, breaking my heartAnd his Labour successor will be a bit shit too.

Do you have any good news for us, politically speaking?

Well, there's no good news exactly, but there is a glimmer of what might eventually become good news. It's been obvious for some time that the current party political system here, in Europe and the US is unable to deliver what people want, either in policy or rhetoric. And now we are finally starting to see it splinter. 




In the US, we are looking at the very real prospect of a Donald Trump vs Bernie Sanders presidential fight. Here, Corbyn has shaken the whole system to pieces. You can see the lobby journalists and New Labour types struggling to comprehend what is happening.

This could all happen to the Tories very soon too. They are currently protected by the fact the splintering of the right-wing took place outside the mainstream party, in Ukip. But that won't be the case forever. We're in a period of enormous change. So politics might soon regain some of its principles and its meatiness.

Or Trump will win, start World War Three and turn America into a proto-fascist state. But let's be optimistic.




Brrrrr! Let's change the subject for our last question: it's Valentine's Day this Sunday. A romantic opportunity to treat a loved one, or a cynical capitalist travesty?

Neither. A useful litmus test of the basic integrity of a relationship. If you think you have to be romantic with your partner due to social convention, something is terribly wrong.

And it's this sort of observation which has made sure I am still single.





Follow Ian on Twitter: @IanDunt