“Diamond wheezers” is a newspaper pun used today in connection with the conviction of the final three men on trial for the Hatton Garden raid last Easter.
But as well as being a rather neat tabloid tag for a gang of ageing criminals who committed an audacious crime, could this label also apply to Jeremy Corbyn for audaciously winning the leadership of his party?
Corbyn is a similar age to the “Bad Grampas”. So what chance does he have of pulling off a votes heist and stealing an election?
On page 37 of last Sunday’s Observer the Labour leader wrote a long article under the headline “Reshuffle? Focus on Tory failings in health, housing and education instead.”
Now Corbyn won’t have written that headline, but it does encapsulate the problem. As reflected in the words he writes below, the Labour leader is saying the media should shut up about his reshuffle and concentrate on the Tories instead.
But the problem here, Jeremy, is that’s your job.
While the Observer article contained much that was true and sensible – including a critique of the ways in which the Conservatives are said to be attempting to fix the electoral system in their favour – it still raised other problems.
On paper Jeremy Corbyn sounds sensible and decent to these mostly sympathetic ears. But there is a gap between those printed words and how we see Labour operating. He might write good copy, but he just doesn’t nail his opponents often enough.
Now Corbyn’s supporters have an answer for this. They believe the BBC and its political editor are determined to stich up their newish leader who has no chance of a fair hearing or decent representation (most national newspapers are traditionally hostile to Labour).
Is this really happening? Plenty of people think so, and followers of the Corbyn cult react furiously at any perceived slight. The trouble is they end up looking petulant. The answer is for Labour find a better way to out its case, not to sulk at every alleged act of misrepresentation.
Corbyn is fantastically popular among his supporters. They really do love their Diamond Wheezer. His greatest achievement has been winning over all those new grassroots supporters. But that ground-level success brings problems too.
Any political party is a knitting together of factions, a union of foes as well as friends. The Labour Party splinters into many factions, as a helpful report in the New Statesman explained last October.
A sibling rivalry exists between these brotherly gangs. Now I shall try not to get too technical or dull here. The different groupings include, in brief, the Blairite gangs Labour First and Progress, the moderate Labour For The Common Good (a sort of Corbyn-sceptic gathering) and the cult-carrying Momentum.
Momentum is the Corbyn-worshipping faction with the grassroots support. According to the New Statesman, it is loved by its members and “decried as the renaissance of 1980s Labour Trotskyites, Militant Tendency, by its detractors”.
What the Momentum gang want is to transform Labour into a “more democratic party”, while opponents fear this will lead to a purging of moderate MPs and the creation of a “party within a party”.
Most voters will see all this, if they see it at all, as a political party squabbling viciously with itself – much as the Tories are likely to do in the run-up to the Europe vote.
As a sympathetic but sceptical observer, I’d say the danger lies in the gap between the Corbyn fanatics, who really do worship their Diamond Wheezer, and the ordinary ranks of those more or less inclined to the left.
It’s marvellous that Corbyn can win over new supporters, especially among the young who are too easily overlooked in our political system. But if the grassroots are much more left-wing than many of the party’s own MPs – and certainly more to the left than many voters – then you have created a problem.
Listen to the friendly hysteria and you seem popular, but victory is still buried deep underground in that election vault. And you need diamond-sharp political tools to get inside that place.