Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Britain’s hard-right Tory Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (BoJo the Racist Clown), recently told US Vice President, Mike Pence, that Labour’s genuinely left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is “a gigantic chlorinated chicken.” The official Tory Twitter account even featured a Photoshopped image of Corbyn wearing a chicken costume, making the joke (which doesn’t even work) that the Tories have found a bigger chicken than KFC. (KFC is a corporation, not a chicken.) KFC tweeted negatively in response. The person who took the original photo tweeted (later deleted) that his image was being used without license; the word “Tory” comes from Gaelic for outlaw. Tories and ex-Tories, including Alistair Burt (co-convenor of the political wing of the anti-Assad terrorists who wrecked Syria) and former chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who four-times over the last few years called for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia, tweeted or stated in response to the official chicken tweet that the Tory party should stop such puerility because it is better than this. No it is not.


The once-respected Party (unjustly so), is now under the command of No. 10’s advisor Dominic Cummings, a man with access to billionaire hedge funds (by his own admission) and described by colleagues as a “loopy,” “career psychopath” with an “anger management problem.” Leading the circus is BoJo the clown, who, despite being in power for a month, has already lost six major votes (despite Parliament sitting for as many days), sacked more than 20 of his own MPs, reduced the Tories’ already thin majority to minus 45, angered police chiefs by using graduates as campaign props, and drove out his own brother, Jo, who cited the “national interest” as his reason for quitting the government.

BoJo and Cummings’s cunning plan was 1) to purge the party of any MPs who oppose a hard Brexit (in order to win back voters from the Brexit Party), 2) hold a quick general election on a hard-Brexit platform, and 3) win a majority by appealing to the UK’s significant number of hard-right voters. Corbyn, says BoJo and his coterie of hard-right mainstream media enablers, is “chicken” for refusing to vote for a general election and fall into the BoJo-Cummings trap. They are spinning Corbyn’s refusal as a sign of his cowardice. But Corbyn’s reasons are sound, albeit frustrating for those of us who can’t wait to destroy the Tories.

By law, BoJo has the power to change any election date that he calls. If he calls one for October 15 (or whenever), he could then arbitrarily change the date to November 1st; after the new Brexit date and thus enable the no-deal Brexit that Labour seeks to avoid. Corbyn voted against a general election because a bill forcing BoJo to seek an extension of Article 50 with the EU–and thus seek to avoid a no-deal–had not yet become law. But now it is law. Begging Brussels for a Brexit extension be an absolute humiliation for a PM who promised Brexit “do or die.”

So, with the law seeking an extension in place, Corbyn is chicken for continuing to vote down an early general election, right? Not quite. BoJo has already hinted that he will break the law and refuse to extend, making him the first PM to openly suggest his intention not to obey the law. In addition, suppose the EU says “no” to an extension unless there’s a second referendum or a general election. Suppose they say no under any condition. That means that with BoJo as PM, Britain still leaves the EU without a deal. Corbyn needs time to get rid of BoJo via a vote of no-confidence. Every EU member state needs to agree to an extension and there are rumours that BoJo might ask his pal Orban of Hungary to veto the extension; Hungary being an EU member state.


But suppose that Corbyn becomes PM by default due to a no-confidence vote in BoJo. The EU Council Summit begins on Oct 17, which gives Corbyn enough time in the UK Parliament to call for a vote of no-confidence in BoJo. If successful, the MPs who hate Corbyn, but whose priority is to stop a no-deal Brexit, will have little choice than to accept Corbyn as a caretaker PM. Corbyn himself will then ask the EU for an extension. (Reports suggest that former Tory deputy PM, David Lidington, already held secret talks with EU members to confirm that they will extend even with BoJo as PM, despite what the French foreign ministry now says.) If the EU still says no, the slot between Oct 17 and the Brexit deadline of 31st gives caretaker Corbyn time to revoke Article 50 domestically and avoid a no-deal Brexit; and thus Brexit altogether. This way, no deal is off the table either way—Article 50 extended or revoked—and a general election inevitable because Corbyn would not sit for long as a caretaker leading a minority government.

If this version of events transpires, the pro-Brexit Nigel Farage’s hard-right, big business-financed Brexit Party will see a massive swing in its favour from disaffected, pro-hard Brexit Tory voters. But it won’t be enough of a swing to win many seats. This is great news for the Labour Party because, as seen in two by-elections, the Tory vote is split by the Brexit Party. Opposing candidates, usually representing Labour or the Liberal Democrats, win by default. This would wipe out a lot of Tory seats in Parliament and jeopardise their chances of an electoral victory. But this can only happen if BoJo is seen to be unable to deliver his hard- or no-deal Brexit: hence it’s better for Corbyn to wait before agreeing to a general election.


The problem then is the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats taking Labour votes. Its own, annual National Executive Committee report admits that Labour hemorrhaged support to the Liberals over the last few years. Few deny that this is due to its lack of commitment to Remaining in the EU. Another reason why Corbyn is wise not to agree to a general election now is that it is essential that Labour does not go into a general election during the party conference season (late September). This is because, unlike the Tories, Labour is a democratic party internally. Therefore, the members—not party managers—decide what happens. Last year, the members voted at conference to pursue a Labour Brexit. This was a ridiculous strategy designed to “honour the Referendum result” because a Labour Brexit is one so soft that Brexiteers won’t accept it and one that Remainers won’t accept anyway because they back Remain. This year, having lost a large number of seats at local council elections and at the European Parliamentary elections, Labour will hopefully be forced by the grassroots members and local party branches to back Remain unequivocally in its 2019 general election manifesto. Labour backing Remain officially will decapitate the Liberals who are running on an anti-Brexit platform.

Another benefit of holding a general election in late-November or December instead of late-Summer-early-Fall is that old people, many of whom vote Tory, are less inclined to go out and vote in cold weather. Also, if Labour waits until November or December, the record numbers of mainly young people now registering to vote in disgust of BoJo will be able to register in time. So, if Corbyn holds off a general election until November or December, Labour will benefit from a grassroots forcing him to back Remain, a split Tory-Brexit Party vote, neutered Liberal Democrat challenge, a drop off in old people turning out to vote Tory, and surge in young, left-leaning voters.


But all this assumes, perhaps dangerously, that the Tories won’t get their act together by then: by allowing the sacked MPs back into the party in order to look more moderate or, conversely, by forming a hard-right pact with the Brexit Party to avoid the vote splitting. Corbyn’s delaying tactics didn’t foresee the recent Scottish court ruling that BoJo’s early shut down of Parliament was unlawful and could thus lead to a no-confidence in BoJo sooner than anticipated, potentially allowing Brexit to happen by mistake because a general election could not occur until November, even if Parliament reopens earlier than expected in light of the court ruling. It also assumes that Corbyn will be able to get a general election when he wants one. Suppose that BoJo brings back his predecessor’s failed EU Withdrawal Agreement and that MPs vote it through Parliament this time in fear of both a Corbyn government and a no-deal Brexit. If that happens, Britain will leave the EU on Tory terms and BoJo won’t have to call an election until 2022 under British law.

It also assumes that sinister forces like the US Central Intelligence Agency won’t try to bring Corbyn down in some massive scandal. Ex-CIA chief and current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, infamously told a group of Zionists that he would “push back” against Corbyn before Corbyn becomes PM. Trump recently described Corbyn as a “negative force”, the same epithet given by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chávez, whom the CIA worked hard to try to remove and undermine.

It’s all too easy to think that Corbyn is running scared of a general election, but the risky strategy of waiting might just pay off.


T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).