Brendan O’Neill

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t destroying Labour: backstabbing is

Jeremy Corbyn isn't destroying Labour: backstabbing is
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First things first: there is no force in Heaven or on Earth that could induce me to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his sad brand of sixth-former state socialism. In fact, as someone who believes in freedom and growth, the idea of ever giving my beloved ballot to the illiberal, eco-miserabilist Labour Party, regardless of who’s leading it, fills me with horror. Or is it mirth? It’s one or the other.

And yet, despite my Corbynphobia, and my humane desire to see dying Labourism put out of its misery, I increasingly find myself shaking my head in something like fury at Corbyn’s Labour critics. They accuse him of destroying their party. Which is both chronologically and factually wrong.

Labour has been destroying itself for years, long before Corbyn became leader, back when he was just every North London media muppet’s favourite teetotal, cigarette-banning secular vicar masquerading as a Marxist. And today, if anyone’s putting the final nail into Labour’s coffin, it’s not Corbyn — it’s his Labour haters, the schemers and Chukas and commentators desperately trying to depose a leader that their party democratically elected barely three months ago.

These people’s sub-Shakespearean skulduggery against Corbyn, their cheap, panto version of the backstabbing of Caesar, will have a far more corrosive impact on Labour in the long run than Corbyn’s airy, forgettable drivel and policy proposals ever could.

One of the most unseemly sights in British politics this year has been the lip-licking glee with which Corbynphobes within Labour have seized the Syria moment over the past week to try to do in their boss.

What should be a serious moral debate about whether or not to bomb Raqqa has been reduced by the likes of Chuka Umunna to an opportunity to elbow aside the Corbynites.

Yes, such is the Corbynphobes’ cynicism that they'll even use an unspeakably horrendous war to try to settle petty internal party scores. They clamber up the rubble of other people’s tragedies in order to cast down scathing one-liners at the leader they hate.

Umunna slammed Corbyn’s opposition to airstrikes on Syria—a politician who opposes military action? String him up!—and suggested that only a politician who can keep the British people safe should lead Labour. I wonder who he has in mind? ‘If you cannot keep the people safe… that is a disqualification from office’, he said. ‘My desire [is] to keep the people that I represent safe.’ Ah, I see; he had himself in mind.

Umunna’s use and abuse of the barbarism of Syria to try to energise the Blairite side in that sad, hackneyed battle for Labour's soul (LOL: what soul?) is, to my mind, a far greater reason for 'disqualification from office' than Corbyn's anti-bombing stance.

We know that Corbyn is serious about opposing airstrikes on Raqqa. He's been opposing Western militarism for decades. But when it comes to Umunna and the other Labour politicians who cannot say 'We support bombing Syria' without also saying 'Corbyn is failing on this issue', it's impossible to work out how serious they are. Do they want to save Syria from Isis, or Labour from Corbyn? Is it al-Baghdadi they want to topple, or Corbyn? I think it's mostly the latter. They've polluted the debate on Syria with their obsessive Corbynphobia.

Also, can we take a minute to marvel at Umunna's new and sudden zeal to be party leader? This is the man who bottled out of the actual leadership contest after three days because a journalist knocked on his mum's door. Now he uses his media connections and the controversy over war to try to do what he was unwilling or incapable of doing a few months back: determine who should be leader of Labour. Cowardice, thy name is Chuka.

This must also be said of all those bitter Labour hacks spilling ink and tears over the ascendancy of the Corbynites; those who bash out columns demanding that Labour 'get rid' of Corbyn and send him 'back to obscurity'.

Where were these people when the leadership contest was happening? Why didn't they fight harder, more convincingly, for their preferred vision of Labour? They now try to do with bitching and knife-wielding and whispering campaigns what they utterly failed to do through party democracy. The cynicism is staggering.

As I said, it really is of no interest to me what happens to Labour in the future. It's been on life support for years, so it might be time to switch off the machine and think about doing some new and better.

But to those who do care about the future of Labour, please know this: those seeking to usurp your party's democracy and substitute a court-like coup for the party's will are a far bigger problem for you than Corbyn's socialist-lite blather. His words will soon be forgotten; the promotion of the idea that the party's democratic desires are less important than what a small clique of aloof media and political people consider to be 'right' will not be. Their illiberal precedent will last longer than Corbyn's daft pronouncements.