As they fail to understand or respect other opinions, is this the beginning of a barren spell for Jeremy Corbyn’s radical left-wing Labour?
• In September, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs that “the Labour Party has always been a broad church and I’m determined it remains so.”
• On Thursday, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Newsnight he will not be friends with Tory MPs because he “can’t forgive them for what they’ve done.”
• On the same day, the Guardian columnist Owen Jones wrote: “Conservative MPs, both leavers and remainers, inflicted this misery on Britain – only defeating Toryism can stop it.”
When Jeremy Corbyn attempted to quell the dissidence of his party in September, he repeated his assertion that the Labour Party is a ‘broad church’ and will remain so. Sadly, Jeremy’s movement has gone from being a broad church to ITV’s Broadchurch – everyone is inwardly suspicious and blaming other people.
The heady days of Corbyn’s rise to the leadership are now distant memories for the Labour movement. But over the course of three years, a ‘kinder, gentler’ politics has mutated into a disturbing ogre of ideological purity. I have been keeping a close eye on the party since I first wrote about Labour in September. But you should never learn how a sausage is made, and in the case of Corbyn’s Labour - it’s bitter tasting rusk.
In the orbit of the Corbyn star, there is a vast network of voices and influencers who have all synchronised to become a clamour of tweeting mimics. The direct impetus for this pinko-panning was a recent Guardian column by Owen Jones, where he bleated against the Conservative MPs working to promote a People’s Vote.
The argument was that those same Tories, such as Anna Soubry and Jo Johnson, enabled austerity and poverty leading to mass inequalities of wealth. Owen also quotes a recent assertion by John McDonnell stating he could not be friends with a Conservative. Of course, the usual Twitter onslaught ensued.
Yes, the Tories voted and enabled austerity. Both Soubry and Johnson voted in favour of cuts to welfare and public services. Jo Johnson in particular voted for spending reductions to welfare benefits 46 times in the past two parliaments. And there is no doubt that austerity has crippled much of the public sector and put many people into desperate situations. For instance, the homelessness charity Shelter published a shocking report on Thursday revealing that 320,000 people are recorded as homeless. Owen Jones is right to be outraged against this moral failure, as should every person who holds a conscience.
Nonetheless, while austerity is a dirge of destitution, Brexit has become the more substantial concern due in part to its time limits. I shan’t expound my anti-Brexit manifesto as the choir is so preached to they have cheese in their ears (Brie or cheddar, you decide!) As an immediate threat to rights, livelihoods, and basic confidence, Brexit is reaching over the population like plague of wasps.
This hostile attitude of many on the Left has developed from a political opposition into a near-paranoid pursuit of ideological purity. Suzanne Moore retorted McDonnell’s act of isolation with an fitting reminder that many Tories aren’t the ‘architects’ of austerity or decline. And Moore is completely right, you cannot isolate from other political persuasions if your goal is to win an election. Unfortunately, many of the socialist influencers flaunted as Labour mouthpieces are providing enough material to avoid voting Labour. Indeed, after the Corbyn tremor turned into internal conflicts and crises, many have stated that they will never vote Labour again. Many Jewish voters have also been rightly incensed with the anti-Semitism scandals that persist with the Labour movement.
The culture surrounding the Labour Party is no longer the progressive and vibrant community that it once claimed to be. There are many backbench MPs and activists who are performing as incredible champions for their constituents and communities. In particular, the work of Jess Philips, Stella Creasy, Wes Streeting, and Conor McGinn are working to introduce legislation and act as a vocal opposition. Alas, the media image of Labour has now been hijacked by many voices on the Left whose diversions are actively expelling supporters.
A number of these voices belong to journalism outlets including Novara Media and The Canary, both who have entangled themselves into an over-salted broth. Contributors from Novara are often booked onto current affairs programmes such as Politics Live or Newsnight. Arguably the most renowned of Novara are Aaron Bastani and Ash Sarkar (of literal communist fame), whose opinions are regularly used to support the Corbyn movement. Personally, I believe their politics is a prophetic mixture of Gramscian socialism and mindboggling anarcho-liberalism. But every time I read or watch a Novara take on politics, I usually feel more confused after I have endured it. Think of it like a bizarre socialist flip of Jordan Peterson. Who also confuses me.
Social media is also a devastated battlefield for Labour’s purity politics. Having keyboard warriors is a definite asset for modern political optics, however in Labour’s position (which changes every Wednesday), the optics are of a horde-like following of insulting and rude activists.
On Friday, university Labour societies in London announced they would not help with campaigning for the Westminster constituency branch over its decision to invite Chris Williamson for a speech. The reason was Williamson’s regular platforming with expelled anti-Semites, and strong criticism of anti-Semitism accusations in the party.
The pile-on began, with George ‘Cat in the Hat’ Galloway launching into a rebuttal that (predictably) mentioned Palestine and Israel. Many followed on with insulting comments such as “loathsome and despicable Blairites”, suggestions of a financial conspiracy, and multiple references to Mossad and the Zionist lobby. I was watching the developments and could not believe the complacency of those attacking. Libel and slander cases were raised, and Aaron Bastani added his voice calling the university societies “time wasters”. Though luckily, the UCL society soldiered through the hate and emerged as having the moral high ground. Good for them, some integrity never goes amiss.
This was just one of the many incidents of Twitter mania that regularly occurs. Labour’s social media supporters are happy to use ‘Blairite’ or ‘centrist’ as an insult but fail to understand or respect past decisions and their impacts. Tony Blair is seen as an ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’ figure and anyone not fully in line with Corbyn’s decisions are difficulties.
The party of the many? It will get fewer every day if the fanatics keep on. Could you honestly see Corbyn’s Labour Party winning an election? If they did, I reckon Rachael Swindon would be whipped into the Cabinet Office faster than you can say “Trotskyite coup”. Up the workers, I guess?🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)