Friday, 28 August 2015

Corbyn, Segregation and a Sense of Perspective

In keeping with the new theme of this blog, this is as good a time as any to discuss the way that many in the media and elsewhere have responded to Jeremy Corbyn and just about anything he has done, said or stood near. The most recent example of this is his unstoppable desire to "segregate" women on trains, triggering an overwhelming "backlash". From an outside perspective, it's hard to see this as anything but absurd because the text in question is as follows:

Consultation on public transport: Some women have raised with Jeremy that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself. However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.

There's nothing in there that looks like Jeremy Corbyn imposing segregation on women, given that it does little more than refer to a planned consultation. What's interesting then is not just that political opponents have used this to attack him (which would happen in any context), but that people are so willing to believe it, throwing around a word as uncomfortably charged as "segregation". While there is a legitimate debate to be had on how the existence of safe spaces for women and other oppressed groups interacts with a culture of victim blaming, that does not seem to be the driving force. Instead, it seems to be the case that many people believe that Corbyn's ideas are ridiculous, implausible and impractical, and any usual level of skepticism is left behind when another example of that appears.

This isn't about saying that Corbyn's ideas are in fact perfect, but pointing out that very different standards are applied to his policies from those of "sensible" candidates. The very same women-only train carriage idea was in fact floated last year by the Conservative Minister for Transport Claire Perry, and there was nothing like the current furor.

My own opinions on Corbyn, his policies, his ideals and his prospects will appear on this blog in due course, but it's important to remember how easy it is to lose perspective in politics, and it would be nice if a politician could express some of the mainstream social democratic ideas that Jeremy Corbyn has without everyone deciding the world is about to end.

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