I have to confess, I quite like Jeremy Corbyn.
He strikes me as a genuine, principled well-meaning guy. (God forbid he ever becomes Prime Minister, mind.) In particular I like him because he’s a maverick, and I like mavericks. Those who are prepared come out and say what they believe is the truth, however controversial and uncomfortable for the establishment – that the Emperor really does have no clothes.
The people I really hate are the plastic media-polished yes-people of the Blairite left – those who pretend to represent the disadvantaged in society while weaving a veneer of politically correct language to justify the actions of the same old power-hungry ultra-wealthy elite.
I’ve met Jeremy Corbyn. He was my MP when I was a Labour activist in Islington North around the turn of the millennium. He seemed like a nice bloke. I often used to see him riding his bike past my flat. Islington council was a hotbed of ambitious New Labour councillors at the time, including Mary Creagh, who was far more obsequious towards him then, plus the woman who oddly seemed to follow me to Cardiff to become my AM. Perhaps after Thursday she’ll be putting her second home in Wales on the market and returning to London Luvvie-Land (if the Lib Dem candidate’s desperate campaign of daily leaflets pays off.)
What has been notable over the past 12 months has been the barefaced spitting hatred directed towards Corbyn by the bulk of parliamentary Labour Party, despite his popularity among the rank and file. Interestingly this comes to a head, not around wasting taxpayers’ money, censorious victim identity politics or the contradictions between liberal and Muslim values, but always on the most hawkish and status quo-defending issues.
I was a leftie, and a Labour Party activist, for a number of years. Indeed “some of my best friends” are still lefties. I believe this has bestowed to me an understanding of what average left-of-centre people, and Labour Party members, think – and they tend to be anti-war, anti-nukes and anti-militaristic.
So what changes when these people become Labour MPs?
When all those New Labour MPs backed Bliar in bombing Iraq, despite it being blatantly obvious even to the average voter watching from my living room that the war was based on a lie – the act which caused me to leave the Labour Party in disgust – I assumed that those MPs were doing it for the selfish sake of their careers. Logical but cynical. Today Labour MPs defy their leader and seemingly jeopardise their careers to support war.
Perhaps they expect Corbyn to be deposed imminently and defying him will count as brownie points in his favour.
Perhaps they are wined and dined by defence contractors.
Perhaps they are taken aside by MI5 and told that now they are MPs they have a responsibility to Great Britain and her traditional role in world politics.
Perhaps they’re scared of what the Daily Mail will say about them (even though newspaper circulations are plummeting and I don’t know anyone under 50 who buys a daily newspaper).
Perhaps someone takes them aside and reminds them that they wouldn’t want their sexual secrets emblazoned across the front pages.
Perhaps they’re not the same as your average leftie or Labour Party member in the first place, having been born into moneyed families, come up through elite educational institutions and fast-tracked through a career in politicised organisations.
Perhaps it’s that, at £75K pa, MPs paid may be paid a fantastic amount compared to your average Sun reader, but not compared to the corporate bosses, news editors and media stars they rub shoulders with. They therefore look for additional sources of income – newspaper columns, advisor roles and comfortable jobs when they leave politics. They need to ingratiate themselves with their new paymasters. Some points of view go down well. Others don’t.
So I’ve been looking to Corbyn to make a stand. To his credit he opposed air strikes against Syria, despite losing the vote and suffering mass rebellions in among his own MPs and cabinet. I found myself fully agreeing with him that most countries in the world get by without nuclear weapons and haven’t been invaded yet. The £130bn the Trident replacement would cost us could far better be spent on hospitals, mitigating austerity, paying down the deficit, etc.
These recent battles seem to have knocked stuffing out of him though.
Despite being a lifelong Eurosceptic, Jeremy Corbyn has recently come out proclaiming ‘the Socialist case for staying in the EU’. One suspects he can’t face months of the kind of hostility from his own MPs that he faced over Syria. This is one area where Corbyn is at odds with most lefties (at least the young trendy middle class ones) mind. At least we can comfort ourselves that Labour’s campaigning for the Remain side is likely to be half-hearted. Even 38 Degrees can’t make their mind up which side of the fence to come down on.
Then there’s the whole fraught business that has recently blown up about over alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In a matter of days we had the Naz Shah affair, followed by Ken Livingstone’s attempt to take the heat out of the situation by raising the subject of Hitler and Zionist collaboration with the Nazis.
Jeremy Corbyn has been a longstanding Pro-Palestinian campaigner and critic of Israel. Indeed he has shared platforms with some rather dodgy characters, some of whom he describes as his friends. Going by the events of recent days though, he doesn’t seem to have the stomach for this particular fight.
I’m getting into dodgy and sensitive ground here. It would take a long digression to detail all the arguments on the one hand about the treatment of the Palestinian people, and on the other hand Israel’s right to defend itself from Islamic terrorism. Being anti-Jewish and criticising Israel are two different things and there seems to be a deliberate to attempt to claim that they’re the same thing.
Much as we may like to think of terrorism as simply insane, evil and irrational, it takes a grievance to motivate people. For many across the Muslim world that grievance is Israel and what has been done to the Palestinian people. We need to understand that powerful Israel-supporting lobbies influence US, and from there Western foreign policy and as a result terrorist reaction, deaths of our servicemen and everyday security measures. If we think that is a reasonable price to pay for a country we want to support, OK, but we need to acknowledge it.
Corbyn has few friends in the establishment if he is to fight causes such as this. Even the BBC switches tracks away from its normally leftist agenda to close ranks and support the hawkish establishment when it comes to trans-Atlantic foreign policy and militarism (which makes them even less worthy of respect in my view). This is the same BBC who will never mention the word ‘Muslim’ in its reports of a resurgence in anti-Jewish attacks, letting its audience assume they’re down to the same old evil white ‘far right’.
I can only start to imagine the pressure Jeremy Corbyn is under.
If the Labour party suffers big losses on Thursday, the Blairite MPs will use it as a pretext to blame Corbyn – I suspect that was their plan all along. In reality it will be the Blairites who have intentionally damaged party. Like in the 1980s – much as the you can mock Foot and the 1983 Labour manifesto being ‘the longest suicide note history’, the killer blow was delivered by the Labour right with the ‘Gang of Four’ walking out in a blaze of publicity to form the breakaway SDP.
Personally I will revel in seeing Labour lose at the polls. Corbyn may have outlived his useful purpose though.