Our Deputy Political Editor, Daniel Reast, on why he thinks it is high time for Jeremy Corbyn to go.
With the announcement yesterday of a formal inquiry conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Labour Party is in a state of disarray. MPs, councillors, and members have already left the party over a basket of problems. Only one thing can fully signal Labour’s commitment to equality – Corbyn must go.
When a former Labour MP is issued death threats to her and her new-born child; when one MP is delivered a letter saying she ‘should be shoved right back in the ovens’; when members are accused of treachery, labelled ‘Blairite scum’, and harassed to the point of leaving their political home – there is no honour in such a party.
The crisis in Labour has been snowballing into a moral failure that threatens the heart of the nearly 120-year old party. Anti-Semitism has formed the major part of this crisis, with Jewish members subjected to prejudice and wilful ignorance. Last year, an unprecedented rally in Parliament Square took members of the Jewish community to a place they never believed they’d see; a protest against the Opposition and its leadership, not the government, nor any state policy.
Criticism and weakness over Brexit, international affairs, and party infrastructure has also contributed to a clear degradation in Labour’s ethics. And the one person who must bare the ultimate responsibility for this crisis is Jeremy Corbyn.
I had a cautious but optimistic sense of hope when Corbyn was first elected. Young people were flocking to his doctrines and principles, in a similar vein to that of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who was running for President concurrently to Corbyn’s leadership campaign. The memes at the time compared Corbyn and Sanders to the character Obi-Wan Kenobi as played by Alec Guinness in the first Star Wars film. However, it has been proved that neither man has the force to lead a country, and in Corbyn’s case his own party.
But the strangest attribute to Corbyn’s leadership is his duality of presence. He is both nowhere and everywhere in equal measure. Members and politicians are quick to claim they are campaigning to get Jeremy into Number 10. But when you read or watch the news, he’s not there. It’s always a member of his Shadow Cabinet, a spokesman (who is always former Communist Seumas Milne), or one of his journalist outriders from outlets such as Novara. Owen Jones from the Guardian is also a well-known apologist for Corbyn’s politics.
How can one man be so ubiquitous without actually doing anything? It’s true that as Labour leader he has been subjected to more pressure than usual, especially in his early years as leader. However, this attention has proved that Corbyn’s politics are laced with anti-Semitic tropes and old Marxist theory. Many of Corbyn’s circle have identified as Marxists or Trotskyists in previous lives, including John McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. There’s something unnerving when voices like Andrew Murray or Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey are backing Jeremy Corbyn with such undevoted loyalty, even amid such a disgraceful scandal.
But it is anti-Semitism that shall be Corbyn’s biggest contributor to his downfall. Videos and speeches have revealed that his past political activities have blurred the lines between activism and racism. In 2012, he defended a mural on Facebook and failed to register the deeply anti-Semitic tropes displayed. The Jewish Leadership Council condemned his apology, issued upon criticism in 2018.
The influence of anti-Israel politics led to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism being ‘revised’ to exclude examples of what constitutes such racism. This garnered a wide condemnation from across politics. To hear Jennie Formby (General Secretary and Corbyn ally) defend an action which attempted to amend what anti-Semitism means, decided on by non-Jewish members of Labour, was a disgrace. As of September last year, the IHRA definition has been fully adopted – though this incident revealed that Corbyn’s Labour was actively misinterpreting anti-Semitism for political principle.
It only gets worse. A disciplinary disaster is happening. With a loosely adopted understanding of what anti-Semitism means, the infrastructure within the Labour Party has failed to act accordingly whenever such racism is shown. Where members should have been expelled or suspended with investigation, they have been cautioned and slapped on the wrist. In the case of Jackie Walker, an investigation into anti-Semitic comments about Jewish involvement in the Atlantic slave trade led to no action being taken. She was defended by Jon Lansman, the chair of Momentum, who criticised the media for its ‘lynch mob’ mentality. Walker was then suspended after comments at the 2016 party conference, suggesting that Holocaust Memorial Day was limited in scope and should be extended to other holocausts and genocides. Such comments downplayed the significance of the Holocaust, leading to suspension.
Rachel Riley is just one celebrity who has fallen foul of the Corbynite masses on Twitter, leading along with others including actress Tracy Ann Oberman and actor Eddie Marsan. Riley and Oberman have now joined forces to prepare legal action against anti-Semitic abuse on Twitter.
Corbyn has asserted in the past that Labour is a ‘broad church’ of principles. This is true for any political party, though in Corbyn’s case doubly so. As his leadership was cemented, the loud and revanchist Left grew to our current situation where the party is being officially investigated for discrimination. A tragic and disappointing turn of events.
It is disappointing because Labour is supposed to be good. A compassionate and moral party that has human beings at the top of its list. Corbyn’s politics has scraped the barrel and produced a culture of anti-Semitism and conspiracy. For those that found Labour through the Blair years, and grew into political awareness as Gordon Brown was scapegoated for a global financial crisis, this current chaos is even more debilitating.
Anti-Semitism will be Corbyn’s pitfall; a viper’s bite to his kind and gentle politics. But for the history books, it will be Brexit that produces venom. It is a well-known fact that Corbyn and his clique of chattering ideologues are anti-EU. While Corbyn says he voted to Remain, my cynicism suggests he didn’t. Though Corbyn cannot be solely blamed for Labour’s intransigence with Brexit, his position as a Marxist Messiah has easily swayed the party narrative.
The EHRC investigation may be a final straw for many members. We may see MPs admit that their party has transformed into a hideous troll, forcing them to resign the whip and sail for sunnier climes. When Luciana Berger slipped up on her introduction at the Independent Group’s inaugural press conference, though there were laughs, there were certainly tears.
There can be only one single redeeming action to turn this crisis around. A moment where dignity and respect could triumph over a futile continuation of leadership. Jeremy Corbyn must resign. He could announce his resignation, step down with a solemn apology, and retreat to the backbenches. It would mean Labour could heal with a consociationalism that allows MPs and members to work together, instead of fall apart.
Regrettably, I expect his Lordship may sit on his crimson throne for a while longer, as his kingdom falls further to bedlam.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)