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How Labour betrayed their supporters Corbynistas forget the central principal of parliamentary democracy: to persuade your enemy to become your friend

Jeremy Corbyn, a hero in a tiny room. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

December 12, 2019   4 mins

If Labour fail, there will be no penance for their betrayal of their supporters. They will blame the media, the Conservatives, internal saboteurs, Centrists and bad fairies. They will blame the Jews, although they will call them Zionists.

Labour runs on rage, which is why I dislike Corbyn: he is a raging man, but he tries to hide it. If you want to know who he really is, watch him shout at journalists and tell photographers they will behave better under Socialism. Was it a joke? If he lies about his rage — and he does — what else does he lie about? If rage attracts activists, it repels voters, because rage, by itself, has never changed a mind. That is not politics. It is psychosis.

I first met Corbynistas in 2016 at the inaugural Momentum conference, ‘The World Transformed’. They discussed, among other things, how to control the Labour Party, how calling Hitler a Zionist wasn’t that offensive if you read fringe historians who explain how the Zionists really did collaborate in Jew murder, and, alongside such sideshows, how they would transform the world. I liked them — they share, as you do in Alcoholics Anonymous, and they don’t mind being vulnerable because vulnerability is their currency; they have plenty of pity for themselves. But I feared them too; they ran on narcissism, victimhood and rage.

I have never been afraid to call myself a journalist anywhere but there. I wasn’t even a Tory. I was a Social Democrat, but that didn’t matter. If you agree with Corbynistas they are the kindest people in the world; they are searching for a family. Their desire to renew the country mirrors their own search for self-renewal: their journey from brokenness.

It is a personal thing, which is why they take things personally. And so, if you don’t agree with them, they hate you, and that is why they are bad campaigners. They define themselves as who they are not; and that is the very opposite of consensus. Corbyn’s Labour offered a haven to everyone left behind — but they forget, in their commune of victimhood, to extend that haven to anyone who had ever been a Tory; to anyone who doubted them; and to the vast majority of British Jews, preferring instead to set them against other minorities in a race for perfect victimhood. In this, Jews failed, and the punishment was awful.

All this came from Corbyn, who was a trade union apparatchik and an MP at the very Left of the party: a hero in tiny rooms. The bunker was always his preferred home; his mistake was that, instead of leaving it on his elevation to the leadership, he drew his whole party inside. He is a man who likes applause: vanity, then.

His world is Manichean: there is good, and evil; exploited and exploiter. Most people are a combination of both, and many voters have supported both parties; but what matters for Labour is whether you support them or not. That is why it took so long for Jackie Walker and Chris Williamson to be expelled, and why Ken Livingstone was allowed to resign and to campaign for Corbyn, when a decent politician would have said he did not want his vote.

Labour did not even, until the campaign, work hard to earn support. Go off and join the Tories, they cried, treating floating voters as plutocratic scum or imbeciles; and many did. I wondered whether the central principle of parliamentary democracy eluded them: the need to persuade your enemy to become your friend. But that is not Corbyn’s way. He loves the purity of the edges; the thrill of hating your enemy, but not conquering him.

Is it inadequacy? He became leader chiefly because he was a reluctant; there is something pagan, and ancient, about Corbynism, despite its promise of progression. The compromises of real power disgusted him, and it showed. If you can’t sing the National Anthem or convince your colleagues, you won’t be prime minister. You will be a noble failure; and I wonder if that, in his deepest self, was what he always wanted.

Tory Conference can be the worst place on earth; but Corbynistas can match any monsters in performative rage and a desire to exclude and punish their enemies. I am not talking about Labour voters, who deserve better than their activists have given them. I am talking about the bourgeois Socialists who drive Labour to the Left so they can, at best, have free university education for their children and at worst, bloodless hands when the Tories win. They are the ones who should have joined the Tories all along; they benefited them enough. I am talking about affluent dead-eyed activists running on the energy of other people’s pain and young media activists gaslighting Jews and their allies for sport. They are journalists no longer, because they lie too much, and they had not a word of pity for a minority that was not vulnerable — or pliant — enough for Corbyn’s Labour.

The anti-Semitism scandal remains the best paradigm of Labour’s immobility and hubris; that is why it is so reported. They were wrong but they didn’t amend themselves. They blamed their opponents for noticing and accused them of their own flaw: racism. Labour could have fixed it with the Chakrabarti Report in 2016, but they saw anti-Semitism as a political, not a moral, problem. They don’t have moral problems, that is for others; and so, their penance was false, and Jews knew it. Everyone knew it, but them.

Labour is not self-aware enough to know itself, so if the project fails, they will blame enemies multiple and accuse two thirds of the country of a distressing false consciousness. There will be nothing else to say.

Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.


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