If Corbynites want to be taken seriously then they should try to be less annoying

Jeremy Corbyn isn't perfect, and his supporters need to be willing to acknowledge this

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The Independent Online

"So this is an amazing thing no one has really noticed: Jeremy Corbyn is the only privately educated leadership candidate." When I tweeted this observation last week I wasn’t making any value judgements about the new Labour leader. I was simply tweeting a bit of political trivia that surprised me. But that didn’t seem to matter to the Corbynites who angrily replied.

They perceived my tweet as a slight against their man, and went on the attack. I’m not the only person to which this has happened. You only have to mention Corbyn in a slightly-negative light on social media and you’ll find yourself in the line of fire.

It seems that Corbyn has a social media army made up of cadres of supporters ready to correct any perceived negativity towards him. Although to be fair, Corbynites aren’t the only group like this – they are rivalled by the SNP’s so-called “Cybernats”, and UKIP’s band of crackpots. But it is the first time I’ve encountered such a front from Labour supporters.

But now Corbyn has become leader, the game has changed. The battle within Labour has been won, but now there's five years of war with the Tories lying ahead. Credibility is crucial. So my message to Corbyn's supporters is this: you really need to become critical friends of your man, and not just zealous sycophants. And I say that as someone who is left-leaning and voted Labour at the last election.

As the polls for the Labour leadership closed last week, the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft released a dossier of research into what happened to those who abandoned Labour at the last election. It was a piece of excellently timed trolling. According to its findings, Labour must reach out to people who voted for the Tories if it wants to form a government again.

 

As part of Ashcroft's research, focus groups were carried out with voters. One of the most interesting findings was that “several participants noted that Labour supporters on social media, including their own friends, had been unpleasantly aggressive in their comments about the Conservative Party and people who voted for it. While this sometimes made them less likely to admit how they planned to vote, it never made them more likely to vote Labour – and in at least one case strengthened their resolve to back David Cameron.” In other words, the approach taken by cyber Corbynites during the leadership campaign has been a massive turn-off for many potential supporters.

If you want Corbyn to be a credible political voice and further whatever ends you support, then the very worst thing you can do is deify the man, and defend everything he does. Rather than twisting logic to explain how the media is distorting the truth, wouldn’t it just be easier to just say “Yep, I’m not very happy with Corbyn previously describing representatives of Hamas as his friends, but I do like what he says about tuition fees”? And do you really have to defend his decision not to appoint any women to the biggest shadow cabinet jobs?

If any headway is to be made, the angrier Corbynites need to relax a bit. Occasionally, living in London I’ll board a bus and find there is someone standing in the aisle shouting Bible verses in a bid to convert people. I always wonder how low the rate of return on that effort must be: For every convert there must be hundreds of hours wasted and tens of thousands of people thinking that the shouter is completely unhinged.

So take this as a plea: if you want to help Jeremy Corbyn now he's the leader of the Labour party, then perhaps it is time to think before you tweet?

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