Imagine there was a political party which you had supported all your adult life (even though at times it espoused policies you didn’t fully agree with) because ideologically its economic and social policies were closely aligned with your own. Imagine a new leadership emerged which if anything brought the party’s stated aims even closer to your own… except that the leader was vociferously opposed to the teaching, promotion or funding of the arts in schools and colleges. The leader had publicly stated that he believed all theatres, orchestras and opera companies should not only lose any public funding, but should be closed down, as they were a bad influence on society. Furthermore, although never stated as party policy, there were constant rumours that the leader’s motivation for this belief is that the arts are ‘infested with homosexuality’, betraying an irrational prejudice which is strictly speaking proscribed by law.
This imaginary tale is of course preposterous, and yet it has many parallels with the way I feel at present about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, except of course for ‘the arts’ read ‘Israel’ and for homophobia read anti-semitism.
No-one is claiming that it is Labour Party policy to be anti-semitic, but come the next election, who is to say what might end up in the Party manifesto? Alternatively, if the manifesto contradicts what are the known beliefs of the leadership, what confidence can one have that when in Government, the Party will not legislate according to those beliefs.
Which leads to the obvious question: how can the Labour Party extricate itself from this mess? Strangely, I see some similarities with the world of classical music.
Those of us who are involved in some way with organising or supporting classical music groups will be only too familiar with the regular pleas to appeal to a wider audience, and not to alienate future concert-goers by sticking to traditional habits and modes of behaviour. The response to these pleas may take many forms, some more radical than others. It is now more common to see orchestras performing in all black than in formal dress, and opposition to clapping between movements of a symphony seems, to me at least, to be less vociferous than in the past.
These ripples of modernisation are however less annoying to me than another trend, aimed at ‘popularisation’ of the genre, which is becoming much stronger in the classical music world these days, which I would like to call the ‘cult of the performer’. This manifests itself, for example, in the now annual concerts at the BBC Proms by certain groups or individuals, whose identity, rather than the music they are performing, is seen as the main ‘selling point’ of the event. Of course, this has gone on for years (e.g. the Glyndebourne Prom), but such concerts (the John Wilson Prom, Metropole Orchest, Heritage Orchestra, even the Berlin Philharmonic’s visit) are booming, admiration for the artists involved notwithstanding.
So why does the ‘cult of the performer’ annoy me, and how does it relate to the problems of the Labour Party? Because both are examples of the triumph of personality over purpose. People are being encouraged to attend a concert, not because of the music to be performed, but just because of who is playing it. This may be de riguer in the world of pop music, but in the classical world, there surely has to be a ‘higher motivation’.
In the case of the Labour Party, there is a disturbing level of cult worship of Jeremy Corbyn, as if the social and economic policies he espouses can ONLY ever become Government policy if HE leads the party to victory. And this personal support leads people not just to brush under the carpet aspects of his beliefs that ought to be questioned, but even to adopt those beliefs, just as in a cult.
So what about the original question – how does Labour get out of this mess. If you support the Labour Party, and want to see them elected to govern the country, you must realise that Mr.Corbyn is fatally flawed as a leader. The message MUST be more important than the messenger. In other words, separate the man from the manifesto.