Are the Corbyn brothers an example to all of us? | David Mitchell
For any media hoping to grab the reader’s attention, it’s been a very difficult week. The Labor Party conference was always going to be a dizzying drop in spectacle after the Chelsea Flower Show, but coinciding with the nation’s gasoline shortage was an aesthetic disaster for the media – all the cords and the tarmac and the recriminations, with only the figure of Daniel Craig – the tight-fitting smart tuxedo to relieve monotony, like a solitary button down the middle of a corpse’s back.
Keir Starmer’s team did their best to help by arranging a pleasant photo of their boss on the balcony of his Brighton hotel room, dressed but without a tie, browsing his conference speech with the sea behind. Above his left shoulder hover the ghostly remains of the western pier, collapsed and cut off from the earth, as inaccessible as most towns. Perhaps this was meant to be a subtle sign of the decadence to which Britain has been reduced by Boris Johnson, however, since the pier was closed under Harold Wilson, it is perhaps one of the few woes of the country that really has nothing to do with Covid or Brexit.
Speaking of Beaten Piers, Jeremy Corbyn’s older brother has accused people of assault. Piers Corbyn was attending a debate on the climate emergency on the sidelines of the conference where Jeremy was a speaker when, according to Piers, he “tried to ask a question,” but organizers said he started heckling. I’m not sure who is right, but it’s worth noting that the Heckled Man camp believes in climate change as the team attempted to ask a question.
A bit of a scramble ensued as Piers was encouraged to leave – “they grabbed me and they assaulted me,” Major Corbyn said – at the end of which Piers was still there. “You have to sit down and show some fucking respect,” the president said to applause. “They tried to take me away and they gave up,” Piers proudly concluded. Her little brother has not been so lucky when it comes to the Labor Party.
Jeremy Corbyn is a divisive figure, but he’s never more sympathetic than when seen alongside Piers. Most people have family members who sometimes let them down or behave badly, weird or worrying. In Boris Johnson’s family, that person is obviously Boris Johnson. But between these two Corbyns, Jeremy, for all his unusual qualities, is normal.
Imagine his exasperation. He was attending an event without controversy. He would have looked forward to a simple session of mutual congratulations for being right about how fucked up the environment – serious remarks, some worried applause, a heartwarming atmosphere of doom without upsetting speeches about anti-Semitism or changes to the electoral rules of the left. Then appears Piers who, not content with telling everyone that Covid is a hoax, found a hole in his schedule to shout that, as the leaflets he later distributed said, “the change climate of human origin does not exist “.
It’s a strange thing about conspiracy theorists that they are often so eager to collect the full set of conspiracies. Despite the odd and improbable nature of each individual theory, few adherents seem able to limit themselves to just one. To me, this seriously undermines the plausibility of a given claim. For example, it seems highly unlikely, but not totally unthinkable, that the moon landings were rigged. But it’s off-putting when you try to open your mind to this possibility if whoever claims it quickly adds that the planes entering the World Trade Center were holograms, Covid is spread by 5G, Elvis is still alive and the Queen. is a lizard. As any statistician will tell you, if the chances of each being true are low, the likelihood of all of them is tiny. Conspiracy theorists determined to change the minds of any rational person would do well to limit themselves to one crazy thing each.
But Piers’ mind is too active for that. Although he apparently has his work cut out for trying to persuade everyone that the coronavirus is imaginary and that we are needlessly destroying our society by locking ourselves up and sticking needles into each other, he cannot resist. at the desirability of also mentioning that there is absolutely no problem pumping endless amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Can’t he see that this is a potentially disastrous split in his focus? At this rate, the general public will not be convinced of any of his views. Won’t he look back with regret and wonder if, if he had been content to stick to the carbon dioxide case or the Covid case, he would have to less able to win in one of its objectives?
Or is it not a question of winning? Does he just have a deep psychological need to break consensus just because it’s consensus? Whereas, if the existence of Covid was somehow disproved, he would immediately start talking about a deadly virus he had imagined and claiming the government was keeping it a secret? Or, what if humanity’s effect on climate was disproved, about an invisible gas that made the weather vindictive? Are these the boos that reverberated around the climate emergency debate when it began to interrupt that he was really there for it?
What’s admirable about the Corbyn brothers is that, given the difference in their views, they don’t often argue. God knows they are constantly called upon to do this, but whenever possible they allow their very different approaches to politics to proceed independently. Piers did not interrupt Jeremy in the debate and Jeremy did not comment on Piers’ intervention. It is as if there is some kind of fraternal truce in effect. In fact, at the start of the climate debate, Piers was sitting next to Jeremy’s wife Laura Alvarez – in what harmony we may not know, but maybe they were discussing family plans for Christmas? Or maybe they weren’t even arguing at all.
Is this something the siblings in the boardroom could learn from? That it’s okay to hang out with people you don’t quite agree with? How ironic if it was the example of Jeremy Corbyn who took the Labor movement away from all fruitless bickering and mutual contempt and demonstrated the moral acceptability of compromise.