Nick Cohen

Labour’s centrists have held up the white flag of surrender

Labour’s centrists have held up the white flag of surrender
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Smart political operators are often the stupidest people. In conventional Westminster terms, it was smart of Labour’s Chuka Umunna to say last night that everyone in Labour should work with Jeremy Corbyn.

Received wisdom expects us to applaud Umunna as he bows his head to conventional pieties and says Labour should get down with the kids, 'celebrate' the Corbyn-supporting yoof, 'embrace' them and 'harness' their energy to revitalise Labour.

We are expected to nod sagely as political journalists tell us that Umunna is calculating that 'if Corbyn, the clear frontrunner, is to fail, Umunna’s wing of the party must not have done anything to make it responsible'.

Clever move, we are meant to mutter. This guy knows it is best to keep your head down, and not go looking for trouble. A Corbyn-led Labour party will be a disaster, of course: a coalition of the cranky and the malignant. When it falls apart, you can see why Umunna and his colleagues don’t want to be blamed for disaster.

You can go on like this for some time. Until, that is, you stop and think for – oh, I don’t know - 30 seconds, a minute max, and realise that Umunna’s strategy cannot work.

Chuka, baby, don’t you get it? The far left will blame you whatever you do, if they don’t purge you first. The excuses are already prepared. However loyal Labour politicians are, however toothless and servile, failure will be their fault (and the media’s fault, I should add). The far left never takes responsibility for its defeats. It can never admit that its ideas are wrong and alliances with Islamists and Putinists repellent. The failure of the true faith is always the fault of the heretics, and never of the godly.

How is Umunna going to maintain the illusion that Labour is a happy family? Can he not see the wolfish smile on the lips of John Humphrys as he contemplates the happy prospect of interviewing hideously compromised Labour politicians?

'Now, Mr Umunna do you support your leader when he says….'

Umunna himself admits that he has a few disagreements with Labour’s leader apparent: on Britain’s membership of Nato, Britain’s membership of the EU, unilateral nuclear disarmament, the tax regime for business and other trifles. Will he, will others, ignore fundamental political differences in the name of 'solidarity'? Does he, do others, think that they won’t be laughed to scorn if they do?

But the biggest objection to maintaining the lie of party unity is that it does nothing to address the concerns of those who are stampeding towards the exits. Many millions will abandon Labour for the same reasons they abandoned it at the election. If voters did not think that Ed Miliband was a credible prime minister, they are hardly likely to think that Corbyn is a better candidate. If they refused to trust the economic programme of the formidably learned Ed Balls, what will they make of shadow chancellor Diane Abbott?

Some of us are going to leave, however, not because the far left is left-wing, but because it is a dangerous and often filthy reactionary force. If you need me to explain, consider that left-wingers are always denouncing the Tories and Ukip supporters as racists/sexists/homophobes, occasionally with justice. Then they elect as their leader a man David Cameron or even Nigel Farage would expel from their parties for:

  • Appearing on the propaganda stations of Iran, a theocracy that oppresses women, homosexuals, trade unionists and the Sunni and Kurdish religious and ethnic minorities, and appearing on the stations of Russia, an imperial power, which shows no more respect for international borders than it does for gay rights. When I discuss these matters, Corbyn supporters huff that their man is 'engaging'. To date they have been unable to provide me with one example of Corbyn raising his tremulous voice to protest about the human rights abuses of his gruesome hosts.
    • Welcoming and campaigning for a variety of Arab and white anti-Semites, including outright fascists who deny the holocaust. These gentlemen not only want to kill Jews but to oppress every progressive force in the Middle East, from feminists to free thinkers. Once again his supporters play the engagement card. Once again they have failed to produce one scrap of evidence that Corbyn has challenged the prejudices of his allies. It seems racism does not matter if its targets are Jews. Feminism does not cover women with brown skins. Warmongering is acceptable if the mongers in question are killing British troops.
    • In other words, in the affairs of the world, Labour under Corbyn will be well to the right of the Tories. Thousands will leave for that reason alone, not least because they will find the hypocrisy too great to stomach. They may be going already. Rob Ford of Manchester University tells me that there is evidence of a 'sharp recovery' in Liberal Democrat support.

      People could be persuaded to stick with Labour if politicians like Umunna were prepared to argue for social democracy and take on Corbyn, not only because he is unelectable but because he is immoral. No such argument seems likely. Umunna appears to think that you can win the battle of ideas by hiding in your trench, and hoping that someone else will do the fighting for you.

      He is in for a rude shock. Indeed the shock may be so great it could finish the Labour party.