Of course Jeremy Corbyn should apologise

I first met Jeremy Corbyn back in, I think, 1985. He came to Aberdeen University to speak in a debate in Women’s Week in favour of the motion “This House should ban Page 3.”

Jeremy Corbyn genuinely gets feminism more than most men, to be honest, so I find it hard to believe that he would deliberately make a sexist comment. I do think that there is an issue with misogyny in left wing politics and I think he could do more to tackle it in his party, so this isn’t an entirely clean bill of health, but there are a lot worse than he is.

When I first saw the video of him speaking in Parliament today, it did look like he had said “stupid woman” but I’ve wasted more time than it merited watching it several times since and I think he probably did say “stupid people.”

Most of us have probably found our colleagues irritating at times, even in the best and most mature of office environments. Most of us at least have the sense to express that irritation in private and away from prying cameras. The House of Commons at PMQs is about the most childish and boorish workplace on the entire planet.

In that febrile atmosphere, even the calmest of personalities can forget themselves and say things they shouldn’t. I believe Corbyn and I’ll forgive him his little lapse today.

But I think he has a hell of a lot to apologise for. Not to Theresa May but to the entire country.

For the last two and a half years, he has enabled May’s government to pursue the most reckless, the most damaging and the most senseless Brexit imaginable. Any half decent opposition leader would have had the government on the ropes within days of the Lancaster House speech when May laid out her plan to leave the Customs Union and Single Market.

With a mere hundred days to go, Spreadsheet Phil is splashing billions on preparation for a No Deal that should be removed from the table as an option and cast into the flipping sea.

And what does Corbyn do? When he has an open goal at Prime Minister’s Questions, he’s up the other end of the pitch scoring repeatedly in his own net.

He totally laid himself open to May’s pantomime jibes with all his faffing about on a confidence vote this week. A cynic might think he was giving the Tories material to beat him with on purpose. He has helped to create the Brexit Monster and he needs to take responsibility for his actions.

Jeremy Corbyn makes Iain Duncan Smith look like a good Leader of the Opposition and he (IDS) unquestioningly backed the Iraq War. He is a disgrace to the office and he should apologise for that.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • David Warren 19th Dec '18 - 8:28pm

    Corbyn is not a natural leader and never will be.

    His election was an aberration, something he certainly didn’t expect.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if after winning he had a moment like the Robert Redford character in the film the Candidate.

    For those who are not familiar with the film on hearing he has been elected Redford looks at his campaign manager and says ‘What do we do now.’

    Corbyn cut a break in the snap General Election he won’t get that sort of break again.

    My main issue with him is the fact that he has encouraged the undemocratic socialist left back into the Labour party.

    His inner circle includes people who are neither social democrats or democratic socialists.

    At the constituency level entryism is de riguer once again with groups like the misnamed Alliance For Workers Liberty organising within Labour again.

    I am sure they are not the only ones.

    Labour with Corbyn at the helm is a real danger to those who value freedom and liberty.

  • John Marriott 19th Dec '18 - 8:45pm

    Since mentioning the ‘incident’ on another thread this afternoon, I’ve reviewed the clip several times and sorry, Caron; but I’m pretty sure that he did mouth the words “stupid woman”. More interesting was the righteous, or should it be riotous, indignation shown by the Tories. Wow, they really are on the back foot if they start clutching at straws like that. Mind you, in this time of national crisis, the PM’s going for the pantomime routine may itself have been in rather bad taste. They’ll be dining out with this Corbyn gaff for quite some time to come.

    As I said this afternoon, this ‘did he/didn’t he?’ reminded me of another lip reading incident that occurred in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa back on 16 February 1971, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s late father) was alleged to have mouthed the words “f… off” to the Progressive Conservative Opposition. When questioned on the subject, the debonair Pierre claimed he had actually mouthed the words “fuddle duddle”.

    The nation had great fun with the idea of its charismatic PM actually losing his cool (something his son more or less owned up to in 2015). At least two pop records were released, one of which “Do the Fuddle Duddle” by the opportunistically named group, The House of Commons, enjoyed a run in the charts. Who said that the Canadians don’t have a sense of humour?

    Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the current case, the fact remains that most modern Labour politicians present themselves as ‘holier than thou’. They also lack a sense of humour. That didn’t used to be the case; but nowadays they just take themselves far too seriously. Did anyone see that bit a few weeks ago when Corbyn addressed the House about a recent visit he had paid to the European Socialist Group. “And the first question they asked me was…” he proudly announced. Before he could complete his sentence , the question, “Who are you?” came back from the benches opposite. Now, most people would probably have cracked a smile; but not Corbyn, who stood there po-faced waiting for the laughter to subside. What a guy!

  • Sean Hyland 19th Dec '18 - 9:24pm

    Being originally from a Lancashire mill town, where the workers in the weaving sheds needed to lip read daily because of the noise, there is consensus from there that it was “stupid woman”. This is a dyed in the wool labour seat as well. Whatever he really did say he should really have known he was likely to be on camera and his explanation back in the chamber didn’t, in my opinion, come across as convincing.

  • While agreeing wholeheartedly with Caron on the fact that Corbyn has a lot to apologise for regarding EU withdrawal, I have issue with today’s shenanigans.

    I assume that the insult “stupid woman” would also be looked at in the same light as “stupid man”? I can’t follow why either insult is necessarily sexist – it doesn’t imply (IMO) that all women, or all men are stupid – just the person you are talking to / about. I can see that if you were taking it in a racial context, there would be no good reason for mentioning the race of the stupid person. Gender, on the other hand, goes along with the person with no negative connotations. Do people here feel that such an insult should always be made in a neutral fashion, either “You stupid person”, or “You must be stupid” or some such form? I think I would feel just as insulted by either wording!

    In today’s incident, it may be that the use of the word “stupid” to describe a fellow MP is proscribed, in which case that has not been highlighted by the media coverage. And I think I gathered that something said inaudibly doesn’t in any way “count” for the purposes of the record, or censure if it is taboo.

  • I really don’t care if Corbyn called her “stupid women” I have heared much worse in the workplace for much more tenuous reasons. I would however be concerned if he claimed to have said something else just to avoid being criticised. As no one can be sure, I think the verdict should be not proven and forgotten because we have much more pressing problems than this; one of which is the lack of an official opposition.

  • suzanne Fletcher 19th Dec '18 - 10:04pm

    I put this on my facebook earlier today. It reads the same whether he did or didn’t mouth the words.
    I rarely refer publicly to my time on Stockton Council, but today’s news about Jeremy Corbyn mouthing disparaging remarks about Theresa May brings a lot of painful memories back.
    Such words were not just mouthed they were said, and said loudly.
    Nobody every demanded an apology.
    It did, and still does now, put many women, from all parties and none, off from standing for election to Council. I am thankful for those that do brave it.
    I was part of a delegation of NE women to the Annual Conference of the Working Group of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) looking at “Equal Opportunities for men and women” where we debated the Manifesto of Catalonia 2002.
    I succesfully moved an amendment on behalf of women in the NE
    “calling for measures to encourage more women into public life with the necessary training, support and less adversarial ethos in our Council chambers and regional bodies”.
    the amendment was agreed, but although there are improvements, and Nolan made a difference, I still hear of women being treated with sarcasm, rudeness, and with no respect.
    If we seriously want more women to stand for election to public bodies, behaviour and attitudes have to change – at all levels.

  • I can’t tell what he said because there is no sound. He says he said stupid people. I tend to believe him. I think it’s another one of those people’s court of twitter type show trials where someone in the media is expected to show contrition for something no one really cares about.

  • ……………..Jeremy Corbyn makes Iain Duncan Smith look like a good Leader of the Opposition and he unquestioningly backed the Iraq War. He is a disgrace to the office and he should apologise for that……………..

    ICaron, How you dare try and equate Corbyn in any way, obliquely or otherwise, to the Iraq war is a disgrace.
    It is you who should apologise.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Dec '18 - 10:49pm

    @Expats: It was Iain Duncan Smith who voted unquestioningly for the Iraq War, which was almost as bad a misjudgement as Corbyn is making on Brexit.

  • Peter Martin 19th Dec '18 - 11:39pm

    You aren’t happy that JC isn’t more pro Brexit. I can understand that.

    It is reasonable to assume that most Brexit supporters are supporting the Tories but a sizeable minority are Labour voters. Some are UKIP.

    Most Remain supporters are Labour or Lib Dem but there are some Tories too.

    What would change if JC switched to becoming more remain? He’d lose more of his Brexit supporters, some to UKIP and some to the Tories, Many would just not turn out. Would he gain more Remain supporters from the Lib Dems or the Tories to compensate?

    I don’t think he would. All parties are quite tribal and I just can’t see that he would gain more than he would lose. Do you, for example, know of many Lib Dems who would switch to Labour? There would probably be even fewer who would switch from the Tories.

  • Personalising issues is a way of not facing up to them. It is time we debated the actual issues about our relationship with Europe.
    Certainly the behaviour in the Commons was by any civilised standards totally unacceptable. It is time that the Palace of Westminster became simply a tourist attraction, and the parliament of the U.K. moved to a new capital.
    I realise of course that this would get no support, so we will continue to move along the path we are so obviously travelling.

  • Peter Watson 20th Dec '18 - 11:42am

    @David Raw “Time some people got their priorities right.”
    I agree completely.
    In the political climate this morning I would not be surprised to hear complaints about sexism in a headline drawing attention to the gender of a “homeless man” instead of the awful tragedy of that story.

  • If you are talking to yourself and nobody hears you does that count as saying anything? Not in most primary schools it doesn’t. I’m sure that Mr C is quite capable of adding to the disparaging language used in that place concerning women but yesterday and no doubt today the principal charge against both front benches must be “wasting political time.” Pity the Sergeant-at-Arms can’t arrest them for it.

  • It is so much easier to say sorry . Lies cause so much more trouble. It would also be nice if showing respect for each other was not out of fashion. I know It is the Anglo Saxon way to hurl insults at each other which begins in the school playground but the people we have chosen to represent us in Parliament should set a better example . I have never felt so sad at Christmas time.

  • Steve Trevethan 20th Dec '18 - 3:10pm

    Might this great fuss about the similarities and differences between the words “people” and “woman”, when there is remarkably little fuss about the World being at the later stages of survivablility and Parliament being held in contempt by the government, suggest that we allow far too much power to the corporate media to focus and manage our thinking, feelings and actions?
    PS Has Mr Corbyn run over the Editor’s cat?

  • Bill le Breton 20th Dec '18 - 4:25pm

    The word “people” has two plosives – each of the two syllables start with a bilabial plosive ‘pe’.

    Each of the two syllables of “woman” also starts with a bilabial but they are not plosives and the shape of the lips is different because the vowel sound after the initial consonant will affect the lip position – ‘wo’ has a more rounded lip position.

    This is why in a phrase of just two words lip-readers who rely on context to interpret are not getting enough visual clues from lip positions to differentiate the two words.

    The position of the lips when saying Peeeeple is a very different from the shape when saying wooooman. Say the words looking in the mirror and separate the syllables.

    He said ‘people’. But if you want him to say woman you’ll conclude that that is what he said.

    Perhaps it helps to have been sitting next to a speech therapist when watching who immediately said he said ‘people’.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Dec '18 - 5:33pm

    Well I’ve learnt an enormous amount from you Joe over the years – still feel in your debt.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Dec '18 - 7:30pm

    Fiddling while Rome burns.

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