Diary

Andrew Marr’s diary: The summer of Corbyn — and other things we didn’t see coming

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

This is the Corbyn summer. From the perspective of a short holiday, my overwhelming feeling is one of despair at my own semi-trade — the political commentariat, the natterati, the salaried yacketting classes. Who among us, really, predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would be romping ahead like this? Where were the post-election columns pointing out that David Cameron’s victory would lead to a resurgent quasi-Marxist left?

And that’s just the beginning: how many of the well-connected, sophisticated, numerate political writers expected Labour to be slaughtered in the general election? Not me, that’s for sure. Going further back, how many people in 1992 told us John Major was an election winner? That Parris, I vaguely recall, but anyone else? It’s jolly lucky that we don’t have an Of-Burble to regulate us.

I’m not saying that nobody successfully predicts anything; that would be bizarre. But I exclude all those throwaway on-the-other-hand remarks merely designed to cover the commentator’s backside. I’m talking about full-on, nuts-on-the-table predictions about the stuff that really matters. Most writers, scrabbling around, can find things that show them to be wise before the event. But when it comes to confident, open-throated pre-election or referendum stargazing, except where the situation is blindingly obvious to everyone, the record is dismal.

So I think a certain amount of Corbyn caution is appropriate. Most arguments against him boil down to this: he has a beard and an excessive quantity of cheap vests, and hangs about with angry, bearded Palestinians and is therefore plainly unelectable in genteel, politically tepid England. It seems unlikely, I grant you. But in the dimly far-off, remarkable circumstances of 2020, and after the Scottish tsunami, are we all so absolutely sure?


I’ve been thinking particularly about commentators’ curse because I have another political novel due out in the next few weeks, this time based on a Labour leadership struggle. Children of the Master features a desperate move by the right to seize back control of the party after a leftwards swerve. So far, so good. There’s dirty dealings, ruthless skulduggery and a Blairite woman with sharpish elbows — ditto. I daresay some current politicians may think they recognise themselves. On the other hand, I have a working-class Scottish Labour MP, which seems on the verge of fanciful these days. And a sixty-something leftist in a raw cotton shirt, triumphant…? Er, nope.

We have been holidaying in Catalonia, and the discovery of the year — you may know it — is Girona, a small northern Spanish city famous for its long Jewish heritage. It’s a place of ancient walls, deep shadows, winding, vertiginous alleyways and many bookshops. It reminded me, despite the intense heat, of Scotland. It even has a dead ringer for the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the radical architect and designer Rafael Maso. And a footbridge by Gustave Eiffel. And of course, the other obvious Scottish parallel is the nationalism of a small country. Every second balcony (Girona’s a city of balconies) has a red-and-yellow Catalan flag fluttering from it. It’s important to remember that what’s going on in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee is a Europe-wide phenomenon.

Crossing the border into France, Collioure seems as intensely Catalan as northern Spain. There are as many tricolours flying here as Union flags in Aberdeenshire. But the Catalans, who applauded David Cameron for allowing the Scottish referendum, have the extra problem, like the Basques and Kurds, of sprawling across international frontiers. It’s as if the SNP had to negotiate not only with London, but Oslo or Stockholm as well.

We had come to Collioure because I wanted to see where Matisse and Derain invented fauvism together (though Charles Rennie M was here as well). Everywhere there are metal frames to look through so you can see exactly the views they painted. The streets are seething, friendly and international. When gawky, lanky Derain arrived in his white suit, just demobilised, in 1905, the locals viewed him and his bespectacled friend Matisse as harmless lunatics. Now most of Collioure’s fishing has disappeared, it’s those cheerful paintings that underpin the entire local economy.

Derain is also interesting as an example of a great artist who lost his nerve. For five or six years he was one of the most exciting painters in the world; and then he somehow shrank and produced, for the rest of his life, rather grey-brown, dull and conventional pictures. Can readers think of other examples? Music might offer Prokofiev, or even Stravinsky but painting’s harder. ‘Losing it’ is an artistic story that hasn’t been, so far as I know, properly studied.

In politics, on the other hand…

Andrew Marr is a former editor of the Independent and political editor of the BBC and the Scotsman. His second novel, Children of the Master, is out next month.

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Show comments
  • MahatmaFarage

    Corbyn fills the gaps nicely that Blair and Brown have left and the railways is a brilliant way to reconnect with the electorate. Why did his NKOTB competition not see this coming?

  • Bert

    It’s not the Corbyn Summer, it’s Labours’ death rattle.
    Long overdue.

  • Ben1969

    Corbyn is riding a “New Left” wave that has been building since the 1990s. Led by writers such as Naomi Klein, Owen Jones, Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, Tim Jackson, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Russell Brand. Almost every “buzz” book on politics has come from the left.

    • wince

      These are ‘buzz’ books rather like ‘Chariots of the Gods’ is conclusion based on rational scientific enquiry. In the minds of the credulous, the hoax of the Just City built by the new Left continues its space flight alongside those pyramid-building space pilots.

      • evad666

        The idea of Pyramid building space pilots is far more sound politically
        ,scientifically and in engineering terms rather than Lefts love of building a defensible culture having sanctioned the wholesale invasion of our lands by hostile alien cultures.
        Andrew Marr will retain his sycophantic approach to all leftie politicos Corbyn will be stroked and preened and we will learn what we already know the BBC is wetting itself for another Champagne fuelled party to celebrate yet another group of Labour Politicians wining an election.

    • Faulkner Orkney

      Russell Brand, a writer?! Was your keyboard out with soap!

      • Freddythreepwood

        Perhaps he didn’t mean joined up writing.

    • lindzen4pm

      All handily listed under ‘wankers, tossers and nutters’ at Waterstones.

      • David

        And in the bargain bin in January…

      • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

        The worst books I have read cone from the right. “Nudge” was particularly bad. Willetts book the Pinch is just factually incorrect. Stats used to support a pretty conceived idea. Matthew Hancock’s books are just nonsense.

    • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

      The best work is factual and written by the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at Oxford .Danny Dorling. Read ” So you think you know about Britain” or “All that is solid”. Undermines the Tory media’s lies without resorting to spin. Bankrupt Britain.Morally, socially, economically, politically, Bankrupt.

  • wince

    ‘Most arguments against him boil down to this: he has a beard and an
    excessive quantity of cheap vests, and hangs about with angry, bearded
    Palestinians..’

    ‘Who would have really predicted? . . How many expected?’ There, encapsulated in this Pooterish navel-gazing piece, in its misdescription of genocidal t errorists, lies the clue to the pathology that’s endemic in the leftie-liberal media. Just one example amongst all the continuous quasi-marxist, post-Left, post-Liberal output from BBC Misinfotainment, affirming that the bien-pensants of BBC luvvie lah-lah-land are perceived as textbook examples of Orwellian doublethink.

    Who would have really predicted Carrie, sorry, Andrew, that the BBC’s vilification of the english and their culture, of the West and its institutions, it’s substantive Big Brother-like hand in shaping opinion amongst the Left and the credulous (no distinction there, really), the outrageously-biased slant on news reports, being covertly, then unabashedly partisan with the psychotically malcontent, feting the theofascistic supremacist as merely having an ‘alternative viewpoint’, would lead to a scandal-hit corporation being extirpated and, it is widely hoped, decommissioned altogether? I mean, really!

  • Icebow

    Andy Burnham was on the BBC news earlier, and it occurred to me that he would make a convincing Thunderbirds puppet.

    • David

      I doubt that Gerry Anderson would have him!

    • TheJustCity

      He is the spit of Scott Tracy. Not convinced of his specific abilities at saving people.

  • davidofkent

    Yes Girona and Collioure are lovely places (BTDT). Now back to the important subject. It appears that Labour has only just realised that some naughty Tories have been signing up as Labour supporters to vote in the man who will consign Labour to the wilderness for another ten years. It’s exquisitely enjoyable to watch.

    That Ed Miliband was a diamond, wasn’t he? And they really thought he could become a Prime Minister!!!

  • Faulkner Orkney

    Everyone seems to be over-complicating things.
    Corbyn believes in some truly mad stuff that will stuff our economy and debt our notion’s moral standing…forget the satellite guff about beards or Labour’s future.

    • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

      Mad stuff if you are a millionaire.

  • Nigel Farrage

    I like Jezza, obviously he will destroy the country, but apart from that he has livened up politics and shown Labour supporters what a complete shambles their party is. He has also proven that Labour were not, and are not, fit to rule this country.

    Now there is one problem. He/they are making this current Conservative administration look competent. IMO Cameron is getting away with murder at the moment. Just one of many examples – Calais (Cameron should be sacked).

    • Robin

      What’s wrong with Calais? It’s a news story because the migrants are *not* getting in, hence they’re accumulating. Fine job IMO

      • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

        The migrant crisis is an exaggeration by the right wing media. There are only 2,000 at Calais compared to the 600,000 Cameron let’s in anway. When I went to Le Man’s this year I spent nearly a day in Coquelles, I saw no immigrants even at the tunnel.
        Supposedly another 200,000 have arrived in Sicily this year. Most via Catania. I have just returned from two weeks there, with 2 days in Catania itself. I counted a grand total of 15 black faces, 4 of these were tourists sat by a pool. I even tried the large port in Catania, but no luck, just the usual cruise ships and oil tankers.
        Crisis, what crisis?

        • Peter Stroud

          First: BBC part of the right wing media? I think not. Second: so the miles of video tape showing the masses of refugees crossing the Med from Africa to Italy are of hundreds of actors performing under direction. Again, I think not. And what of the Macedonian refugee crisis, currently being shown on 24 Hour News.? I suggest the most likely interpretation of the news videos is that there is, overall, a serious crisis. A crisis that is difficult to deal with..

          • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

            I suggest you are wrong. Those at Coquelles represent just 0.3% of our annual influx of immigrants. The 200,000 supposed to have swarmed to and swamped Sicily were in no evidence while I was there ,even when I went looking for them.
            They are 200,000 souls entering an EU with a population approaching 600 million.
            Of course it is ghastly when a crammed boat sinks, but realistically the media has blown this up and Cameron just wants the pretence of doing something.

  • saffrin

    If anyone but Corbyn wins I predict NuLabour will experience a Clegg moment after the next general election.
    Total wipe-out. After 13 years of being told the British working class are too bone idle to work, stigmatising council house dwellers as benefit scroungers while all along employment agencies are advertising British jobs all across Eastern Europe.
    Even NuLabour’s degree graduates have realised there never was going to be enough jobs to go around for so many.

  • Morris Jasper

    What is this stuff I’ve just read? Is it a piece of lazy journalism on lazy journalism, or perhaps it relates to lazy thinking in general? Or is he making some awry insight into the whole Corbyn carnival? No, it’s none of these things. It’s a not very subtly embedded plug for his new book. Now I don’t object that much to being sold to, but please, do try a little bit harder to make the wrapping paper just a smidgen more interesting.

  • Isage000

    RIP Labour, Guardian and the BBC.

    • Gilbert White

      If only it was this easy.

  • lindzen4pm

    Apart from Marr and his fellow leftists at the BBC, no-one gives a flying **** about the circus clowns vying to run the bankrupt whelk stall, AKA Labour. You’d need to Ouija Ray Cooney and Brian Rix to get an accurate appraisal of events, and Stanley Unwin to make sense of it all. All deep joy and thorkus for great laugh’n tittery. Oh yes.

  • gerronwithit

    Corbynism, like the SNP, is the outward sign of discontent at the heart of Socialism at the moment. The UK has been steeped in Socialist ideology and propaganda since tertiary education was occupied by the lefties circa 1930 and continues right up to this day. All those PPE Firsts have had to digest and expound philosophies that have never really stood up too well outside their elitist intellectual circles. Just take a look at Cameron who is supposed to be a Conservative.

    As quango after quango, charity after charity, public sector after public sector have been filled with champagne Socialists, the belief that shallow leftist policies, thought and attitudes (for example, anti austerity) will solve our country’s and the world’s problems has led some, mainly of the Corbyn and SNP variety, to explore the deeper circles of Socialist Hell. The disastrous results will be the same, only quicker.

    • Freddythreepwood

      Bullseye!

    • AtMyDeskToday

      Crap!

  • Dr. Heath

    The computer programme which ‘moderates’ comments here has stopped me from suggesting that Corbymania might endure, that he might become his party’s leader and that voters might, even after nearely five more years of waiting, make him Prime Minister. Why my comment has ended up, permanently, to judge by past experience, in Pending Limbo, I cannot imagine. Even Eth Diagruna’s Comment is Free human moderator fails to match this completely illogical degree of censorship.

  • Freddythreepwood

    ‘Derain is also interesting as an example of a great artist who lost his nerve. For five or six years he was one of the most exciting painters in the world; and then he somehow shrank and produced, for the rest of his life, rather grey-brown, dull and conventional pictures. Can readers think of other examples? Music might offer Prokofiev, or even Stravinsky’

    Same thing happened to Elvis, Andrew. And you could even have pointed out his Scottish connection.

  • Nevill68

    The political commentators did not see it coming as they are part of the post Blair consensus which does not allow in fresh air. There is a universe of anger out there about the destruction of the public services and the loss of both personal vocations and an opportunity to serve the community. No more can this view be labelled as perverse and unrealistic it has its champion at last.

    • Freddythreepwood

      ‘There is a universe of anger out there’

      No there isn’t! There might be anger in your restricted circle, but the result of a recent General Election would suggest that it doesn’t extend to the universe.

      • Nevill68

        In the general election the great anger didn’t have an English candidate to vote for and a huge number did not vote. In Scotland they trashed Labour. Let’s see who is right in 2020

        • Freddythreepwood

          You appear to be suggesting that the entire universe was and is looking for an English candidate to vote for, which is arrant nonsense. One of the many problems with you lot is that you don’t put brain in gear before the twaddle comes out of your backsides. As for 2020; dream on. Of course you can vote for the bearded Trot, but no one will notice.

          • Nevill68

            We’ll see Socrates.

          • Freddythreepwood

            You can see Socrates if you like; there’s just as much chance of that as there is your man ending up in No10.

          • Nevill68

            Bye Socrates

  • Deloris Walsh

    The reason you did not capture a wide range of peoples views was because you were so busy pontificating amongst yourselves in that smug arrogant way you do. Whilst ordinary people just got on with things talked amongst themselves and came to their own conclusions.

    • Deloris Walsh

      There is more to interviewing than shouting and talking over people whose views the interviewers don’t agree with. I have watched Andrew Neil do this on numerous occasions. He then sits back with a smug look and thinks he has won the argument. They are getting more like Fox news interviewers everyday

  • Rbeastlondon

    ‘There, encapsulated in this Pooterish navel-gazing piece, in its misdescription of genocidal t errorists, lies the clue to the pathology that’s endemic in the leftie-liberal media. Just one example amongst all the continuous quasi-marxist, post-Left, post-Liberal output from BBC Misinfotainment, affirming that the bien-pensants of BBC luvvie lah-lah-land are perceived as textbook examples of Orwellian doublethink.’ Nicely put.

  • pgtipsy

    Prokofiev and Stravinsky losing their nerve? What an odd idea – I’ve never heard that before, and I’m a musician. Neither of them ever produced anything dull or conventional.

    • Hamburger

      Sibelius? Elgar?

      • pgtipsy

        These 2 are much better examples, Sibelius especially.

  • Mark

    >>But when it comes to confident, open-throated pre-election or referendum
    stargazing, except where the situation is blindingly obvious to
    everyone, the record is dismal.>>

    Dan Hodges has been calling it consistently right for quite a while now.

  • lurkinggherkin

    “how many of the well-connected, sophisticated, numerate political writers expected Labour to be slaughtered in the general election?”

    You’ve mistaken a mere bloody nose for slaughter, Andrew. The former, can trigger a rush of adrenaline….

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