It’s been yet another enthralling week in British politics. It seems as though can’t turn on the TV without some breaking news story hitting screens and it keeps people like me glued to my phone, constantly refreshing every newsfeed I have to see what the latest developments are in the newest soap opera in town: Westminster.
This week saw the resignation of nine MPs from the Labour Party, all of whom cited concerns over the party leadership’s handling of allegations of anti-Semitism and abuse and bullying, and its distinct lack of clarity on its Brexit policy. Eight of those MPs defected to the newly-formed Independent Group, whose self-proclaimed mission is to change politics for the better. They were joined later in the week by three MPs from the Conservative Party (which I’ll discuss in another piece), which leads any sane person to think: if MPs from the two main political parties of the last century, sworn enemies of each other, have come together to fight against the tide of UK politics, then something serious has gone wrong in their respective political homes.
And it so clearly has. The Labour Party is completely broken and I believe it is entirely the fault of Jeremy Corbyn.
Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to discover I’ve never been overly keen on Corbyn. That being said, I happen to think he’s an incredibly principled man who, on the whole, genuinely has the best interests of ordinary people at heart. Unfortunately, good intentions and a solid CV of campaigning on the ‘right side’ of pressing social issues throughout his tenure as a politician aren’t enough to excuse him of liability when it comes to the current state of the Labour Party.
Let’s take the TIG MPs’ reasons for leaving the Labour Party, and look at them a bit more closely.
Anti-Semitism. Clearly one of the biggest political scandals, certainly of my lifetime, and one that doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of dying down any time soon. Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on anti-Semitism, nor am I really in a position to judge what is or is not considered anti-Semitic, but I’m not attempting to offer my opinion on why I think the party has an issue with anti-Jewish racism or not. The fact of the matter is, as Tom Watson disclosed on the Marr programme this morning, in the last week alone, there have been 50 complaints of anti-Semitic bullying. Jewish MPs have had racist abuse hurled at them online, and the Chief Rabbi raised concerns about the safety of British Jews under a Corbyn-led government, all because of the apparent culture of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
As someone who isn’t Jewish nor an expert on anti-Semitism, that tells me that there is a serious problem in the Labour Party, and it also tells me that because this has been going on for probably well over a year now, the leadership has failed to act comprehensively with this issue. For what reason, I don’t know, but it’s becoming increasingly clear the issue of anti-Semitism in Labour is real, and it’s disturbing that the Official Opposition, the party that wants to form a government, is riddled with this scourge and seems unwilling to do anything about it.
I’m not saying I think Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. I actually don’t think he is. But his apparent complacency throughout this entire crisis (and I think it warrants being called such) is hardly a ringing endorsement of his commitment to stamping out racism in all forms, as he would phrase it.
Then there’s the die-hard Corbyn loyalists, who in the face of MPs leaving their political home after years of service and British Jews (both Labour members and non-members) raising concerns over anti-Semitism, refuse to accept that there’s a problem. Instead, they turn their anger to those raising the concerns and the so-called ‘mainstream media’ for launching an all-out assault against Corbyn’s leadership. They deny any sense of reality and so become part of the problem. Corbyn may not be anti-Semitic, but the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is so clearly being perpetrated in his name. Because of the way Corbyn became leader, with the backing of the militant left-wing extremist (and yes, I do believe they are extremist group) Momentum, he has allowed a culture of almost cult-like mentality to breed and fester in a once great political force.
Which leads me swiftly onto the bullying. Anti-Semitism makes me feel deeply uncomfortable, but the bullying makes me angry. I’ve been subjected to it myself, which in some respect is understandable, considering I don’t support Labour. But the utter vitriol spouted by the Corbyn-faithful against those who disagree with the ‘Dear Leader’ is like something from a fascist dictatorship. Threats of deselection, vile online abuse and harassment are all in store for anyone who is deemed to be a Blairite. Blairite – a term of insult used to describe people who who share the political views of one of the most successful Labour Prime Ministers in history. Confused? Me too.
Those hurling abuse at the MPs who left the party are so utterly blind that they can’t see that they are the reason they left. For a party that claims to pride itself on being a broad church of opinion, a large chunk of the membership have a real issue with accepting people with views that differ to their own. And again. what’s Corbyn’s response? Nothing. He doesn’t recognise the bullying and torment that has caused so many of his members, councillors and now his MPs to desert him. Instead, he uses a political rally in Broxtowe to criticise the media for asking him questions about the bullying and abuse, and not about the issues he wanted to talk about.
The man is in complete denial, and so too are his loyal followers. Emily Thornberry said she would rather die than leave the Labour Party – has it really gotten to the stage where politicians are so blindly devoted to their leader that they cannot ever see the errors in their leadership? As I’m writing this, I’m struggling to put into words the utter bemusement I feel when I think about it.
As I wrote in a previous article about how Corbynism in a perfect example of post-truth politics, the Corbyn faithful refuse to believe anything that goes against him. It doesn’t matter what the evidence is, it doesn’t matter who says it. Corbyn, to them, is infallible.
Then there’s Brexit. There’s not much to say on the topic other than Labour’s policy on Brexit has been an utter shit-show. I get it. They’re divided down the middle: their northern constituencies voted leave, the southern seats to remain. Throughout the whole process, Corbyn has learned the hard lesson that it’s so much easier to be backbencher than it is to lead a party. Now, he has to try and reflect the views of all his voters without alienating any of them. So his tactic has to been to waffle his way around the issue, providing no clarity or substance to what his party’s position actually is, misleading all the leave and remain voters in the process. Remain voters thought he’d come out in favour of a second referendum – he didn’t. Leave voters thought he’d come out in favour of a hard-Brexit – he didn’t. Instead, it’s been left to the incredible Kier Starmer to try and articulate what Labour’s policy is and unfortunately, even he hasn’t been able to convince the leadership to keep to its agreed policy motion from its autumn conference.
I think every voter in the country just want to know whether or not Corbyn is in favour of leaving the EU, or remaining in it. That way, they can decide whether or not to still support him. It’s a simple as that. For a man of whom it’s so often said is full to the brim of integrity and honesty, his handling of Brexit and every major issue that’s plagued the Labour Party under his leadership has shown anything but.
The ex-Labour TIGgers were right to leave their party, and they were right to say that politics is broken. Labour under Corbyn is broken and I don’t know what will fix it.