The often used comparison between Jeremy Corbyn and a geography supply-teacher clearly strikes a chord. In large part of course that's down to his appearance and manner - the bike, the dress sense, the way he gives the skunk-eye to those unruly kids on the opposition benches - but it's an image that chimes for a rather more important reason; nobody believes he's here to stay.
In fact in recent weeks I’d suggest he’s been more like a boxer (in attitude, if not in appearance). Not a boxer who's bravely taking the fight to the opposition, more like a boxer who's decided to throw the fight and doesn’t care how obviously he does it. Cameron barely has to show his pasty knuckles before Jeremy helpfully throws his grizzled chin towards them.
I won't waste time here detailing the series of prat-falls that the Corbyn-led Labour party has taken in this last week. Suffice to say that Corbyn, aided and abetted by loyal allies John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone, has overseen what John McTernan describes as "Labour's worst week ever". If you need convincing of quite how bad the last week has been, of quite how poor Corbyn's political instincts are, I recommend you read that article.
Instead of dwelling on the series of tactical missteps that Corbyn has made, I'd rather use this blog to contemplate the lessons that the Labour Party has to be learning from this painful experience, to ask what characteristics the next leader of the Party will need to possess.
Clearly the overwhelming majority of Labour's voting members believed that Corbyn was the right man for the job. There's no doubt that he's an admirably principled politician and I'm not personally bothered by his dress sense or even his depressingly anti-charismatic manner. What bothers me - what should surely bother anybody who believes that Labour values should be represented in government - is his lack of instinctive leadership skill. If that's a concept that Labour's voting members didn't understand or appreciate before electing Corbyn, it's one they surely must now.
To be clear: I'm not arguing for somebody who has instinctive leadership skills instead of strong principles, I'm arguing that the Party has to rally round someone who has both.
Whether in business or politics: successful leaders lead.
If you think that sounds like a glib truism, consider this extract from the speech Corbyn made today (21/11/2015)
Every week I’ve been asking people for their suggestions of what I could raise with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions - and thousands of people send in their own questions.
Over the summer, the parliamentary party got a decision badly wrong. We abstained on the welfare bill. Would we have made that mistake if we had asked you, our members, what we should have done?
Why not give members the chance to take part in indicative online ballots on policy in between annual conferences - and give our grassroots members and supporters a real say?
We want to see this democratic revolution extend into our party.. opening up decision-making.. to the hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters that have joined us since May.
Some will read those words and think it's great that he's listening and trying to create a more democratic decision making process; I read them and despair. These are the words of a man abdicating his responsibility to lead. I want my Party leader to pin the government down at PMQ's with incisive and politically astute questions, not to read out letters. I want my Party leader to listen to their party and then to lead them - to take bold decisions, to be willing to change members' minds rather than just attempt to read them. A leader's job is to do much more than just divine the opinions of those they lead, their job is to do more than just act as a conduit for the aggregated opinions of those their followers.
This matters not just in terms of how Corbyn leads the Labour Party, it matters because the Party needs people to believe he would be capable of leading the country.
In a representative democracy the people delegate decision making power to politicians; that's how we actually get things done. We appoint our representatives, expect them to ensure they are well informed (in a way that only somebody for whom it's a full-time job could) and place our trust in their judgement. We delegate responsibility to our elected representatives, we don't expect them to swing round and delegate back to us, we expect them to get on with business. Elections are where we pause and pass judgement on whether they have served us well or let us down. I get the impression that were Corbyn PM he would happily run daily referendums rather than take decision making responsibility himself. That approach wouldn't be a triumph of democracy, it would paralyse the function of government.
I'm exaggerating of course, but think about it. Would Steve Jobs have revolutionised the way we use technology if he'd taken a more democratic approach to decision making? Would the Chief Executive of any business be successful if their corporate strategy was determined by polling their employees?
I've never been a fan of Thatcher's political convictions, but she was undoubtedly a politician who got things done. When asked whether she believed in consensus she famously replied: "Yes, but it should be a consensus behind my convictions". I'm pretty sure from Attlee and Churchill through Thatcher and Blair you'd find politicians who got things done shared some of that attitude. It's about having conviction, trusting your instincts and being willing to lead.
Which is where we return to the problem with Jeremy. There's no doubt he has conviction, but there's considerable doubt as to whether he trusts his own political instincts. From "would you press the button" to "shoot to kill", his faltering responses betray the fact that he knows his convictions are out of kilter with majority public opinion. As for willingness to lead - well you just have to read that extract from today's speech to know the answer to that. He doesn't want to take responsibility for difficult decisions; he's throwing the fight.
So if not Corbyn - and it's surely not - who is the person who has both the conviction and instinctive leadership skill required to get the Labour Party back on track? I don't know, but I do know that sensible party members had better work out who it is pretty quickly and rally round them.