During the last Labour leadership election I wanted Jeremy Corbyn to win. Like many Labour supporters across the country I was not keen on Labour's 'austerity-lite' politics; I still felt betrayed by Labour's support for the Iraq War; and I found the other three candidates for the leadership entirely uninspiring.
But after seeing Corbyn's performance as a leader over the past 9-10 months, and particularly given recent events, I've now come to the conclusion that Corbyn has to go - and soon. Here's my reasoning:
1. The EU referendum
By taking such a half-hearted approach to the EU referendum, Corbyn helped an ugly Leave campaign to win. This in turn means that the vulnerable people he has always professed to care the most about are going now to face huge challenges - their jobs, rights at work and (in the case of ethnic minorities) their basic security have all been put at risk. There are times to be equivocal and critical about the EU (and it *does* deserve criticism, not least in how it treated Greece, or where TTIP is concerned), but the referendum campaign was not one of them: the stakes, overall, were too high for that. Much has been been made by Corbyn's followers about the fact that two thirds of Labour supporters voted Remain, but that still means a huge proportion of Labour voters did not support a key Labour Party policy. If even a small percentage of those Labour Leavers could have been persuaded by a more positive and vocal Labour campaign to stick with the EU, then we would not be in the dreadful mess we are in now, with the economy on the brink of a recession and racism being displayed overtly on the streets.
2. The electoral stats
In the recent local elections, Corbyn's share of the vote was down on Miliband's (who was hardly the most electorally successful Labour leader ever), and in Scotland, under his leadership, the Labour Party finished third, behind the Tories. This gives the lie to the idea that Corbyn is uniquely capable of re-energising Labour voters. In both the local elections and the EU referendum he simply could not get the former Labour heartlands to vote for him, or even with him.
3. Corbyn's supporters
The way that many of Corbyn's supporters react to criticism is often very sinister. Anyone who dares criticise the man on social media, even mildly, can expect to be labelled as a 'Red Tory', 'Blairite scum', 'liberal fascist' and so on (regardless of where they actually sit on the political spectrum). At rallies, 'Eradicate Blairite Vermin' t-shirts are worn. His followers direct misogynistic abuse towards female reporters whom they perceive as being biased. MPs who don't toe the Corbyn line are threatened with deselection. I've had personal experience of Corbynistas deleting comments I've made on Facebook which were broadly supportive of the guy's policies but critical of his leadership. All this undermines the idea that the movement behind Corbyn is particularly tolerant and inclusive, and if he's relying on a following that seems to routinely dehumanise, abuse or censor its critics to stay in his position as leader, it might be time to start questioning the 'decent man' description that everybody automatically inserts into a conversation about him.
4. First Past The Post
First Past the Post is an antiquated, unfair voting system that the vast majority of modern democracies do not use, because it rewards single parties who win considerably less than 50% of the vote with majorities in parliament. By attempting to cling onto the leadership despite a colossal loss of support from his MPs, Corbyn is risking a permanent split in the Labour Party - a split which, under First Past the Post, would in all probability deliver majority government to the Conservatives for a generation. Remember what happened when the SDP, Labour and Lib Dems were all simultaneously vying for left-leaning votes in the 80s - we got 18 years of Tory rule, despite 60% of the population consistently voting for other parties throughout that period. Until Labour is in a position to introduce proportional representation (and I've yet to spot much enthusiasm from Corbyn for that), the reality of the situation is that as a party Labour will have to remain a broad church. With the vast majority of the parliamentary party so opposed to his leadership, Corbyn has proved himself incapable of keeping this church together.
5. The mandate of Labour MPs
Yes, Corbyn got a large mandate from Labour party supporters, receiving over 250,000 votes in a leadership election. But over 9 million people voted for the MPs who now want Corbyn to go. Those voters deserve a voice and a say in proceedings - but they are being ignored by Corbyn's decision to fight on.