Jeremy Corbyn and the dilemmas of leadership

Bennister, Mark and Worthy, Ben (2021) Jeremy Corbyn and the dilemmas of leadership. In: Corbynism in Perspective: The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Building Progressive Alternatives . Agenda Publishing. ISBN 9781788212915

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So how should we judge and evaluate Labour leaders? A ‘continuing problem’ has been to find a ‘leader with the capacity to combine both the realism of the pragmatists and charisma of the prophets’. Labour leaders have been traditionally caught between conscience and cunning, or idealism versus pragmatism. Navigating the complex dilemmas of political leadership will challenge any party leader, but Jeremy Corbyn presented a perhaps unique set of contradictions and paradoxes. His authority was both strong (in terms of his supporters) and weak (with the wider public), and created an unusual arc of failure, near-success and then catastrophic defeat.
Dividing our analysis into the core components of leadership capital we see that Corbyn’s skills, relations and reputation were all flawed. On skills, Corbyn was evidently not up to the formal, managerial aspects of the job, he did not possess or learn in office the necessary political skills to create a coherent vision for governing in key policy areas, and communicate it successfully. On relations, he failed to reach beyond a narrow base to build a broader political coalition likely to win an election, relying on a narrow and divisive set of confidents whom he was unable or unwilling to control. On reputation, he failed to deliver the perception of competent leadership that demonstrated that he could ‘get things done.’ Corbyn, on Brexit or on rooting out anti-Semitism within the party, never gave the impression that he was the one in charge, making decisions and determining policy direction. In fact Corbyn’s leadership capital rose from nowhere, peaked in 2017,could not be sustained, then swiftly ebbing away under intense scrutiny.

Keywords:Corbyn, Leadership, Labour Party, Parliamentary opposition
Subjects:L Social studies > L200 Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:45835
Deposited On:27 Jul 2021 10:13

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