JEREMY Corbyn is like a boy playing hide and seek. He has his eyes closed and is counting away. Then he opens them and starts to look around, nothing too energetic mind you, only to discover that most of his friends have gone home and no longer wish to play with him.
At a time when the government is in crisis, when the country faces stormy waters without a chart, the Labour opposition has started falling apart too.
Boris Johnson may well be standing on his Telegraph soapbox this morning proclaiming the need to build bridges following the vote to leave Europe, while talking of “feelings of dismay, and of loss, and of confusion” – a state of affairs which he helped to create in the hope of becoming prime minister.
Johnson proclaims that “the negative consequences are being wildly overdone”. Well maybe but negative consequences are all we have at the moment; and negative consequences seem ready to sink Jeremy Corbyn’s shaky raft.
At the time of writing, and counting, 12 members of the shadow cabinet have resigned, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, whose department removed the first brick from the wall.
With the government rudderless, following David Cameron’s time-lapsed resignation, and with Britain’s former 27 partners in Europe withdrawing to discuss what should happen to us now, the country could do with a strong opposition. Instead it has a ragbag squabble of an opposition falling out among themselves over their leader’s role in the referendum.
At present Corbyn is insisting he will stay and will put himself into any new leadership contest. He always has been in an odd position as leader, voted in on the back of a tidal wave of mostly new supporters, and yet not much admired by many of the MPs he commands. And all of this matched to a public perception that he could never be prime minister. An uneasy combination; and that’s why his leadership appears to be coming apart.
There are more important matters to worry about, so it says something that all attention should be on the seemingly disintegrating opposition this morning.
Can Corbyn survive this storm? Perhaps by a display of political derring-do he will cling on. If so, he will need to appeal to a wider congregation than those new party members whose support landed him the job – a job few if any had pictured him doing.
There always has been a conflict between Corbyn’s vociferous supporters and the sulking bulk of his parliamentary party. Now that volatility has broken out into open warfare.
And this at a time when we need a good opposition to point out the difficulties we face; and to point out the Leave lies peeling away from the wall like slapdash posters.
We had hardly heard the news of the vote on Friday morning before Nigel Farage admitted it had been a mistake for Vote Leave to pledge an extra £350m a week for the NHS. By the end of the day, arch quitter Daniel Hannan MEP scotched another promise, saying that free movement of labour might continue, and with it immigration from Europe.
Two rotten promises in one day. Two discarded pledges. So what if you were sitting there thinking you’d voted to leave for one or perhaps both of those reasons? It all begins to look shabby.
As for Labour, Mr Corbyn has only had a brief time in the role, and the attempted putsch against him could be seen as opportunistic – a lethal lunge from those who’ve never really believed in him.
But then politics is in internecine business. And a practical one too. If Jeremy Corbyn clings on, he will have a diminished pool of talent. His life won’t be easy, but then nothing is for anyone at the moment.