Nick Cohen

The left’s great illusion in praising Labour’s ‘moral clarity’ under Corbyn

The left’s great illusion in praising Labour's ‘moral clarity’ under Corbyn
Text settings

Danny Dorling is one of the warmest and most intelligent left wing intellectuals of our day; an egalitarian, who proposes radical and practical solutions. He is a worthy target, in other words. Oxford University’s professor of Geography has also produced  an essay entitled: ‘Why Corbyn’s moral clarity could propel him to Number 10.’ It is the most cowardly exposition of the left’s great illusion that I have read. More to the point, virtually every supporter of the new Labour leadership will believe it.

He makes two claims: Corbyn and the far left are moral; and they can win power. Allow me to take them in reverse order.

The assertion that Corbyn can win is not only far-fetched it is a balm to soothe niggling consciences. If they did not believe in their eventual victory, wealthy supporters of Labour’s ‘moral’ politics would run into a moral problem of their own.

Volumes have been written on the mystery of ‘working class conservatism,’ the alleged  false consciousness that makes the downtrodden vote against their ‘real’ economic interests. Hardly anyone has the 'moral clarity' to write about why middle and upper-middle class people mysteriously vote for left-wing parties, which would attack their ‘real’ economic interests.

The simple answer, which I largely agree with, is that materialism cannot explain all human motives. Working class conservatives are moved by patriotism, a desire to protect their communities and the love of the familiar. Although wealthy public sector managers can pose as idealistic supporters of the left, while voting to keep the money rolling in, and the SNP dresses up student-loan tax breaks for New Town and Kelvinside as acts of altruism, most members of the liberal middle class are liberal because their ideals matter as much as their bank balances. Nevertheless, there remains an unacknowledged moral question.

By supporting a far left that cannot win an election, wealthy leftists look like hypocrites, ruthlessly advancing their class interest, under a cloak of pious moralising. Consciously or not, comfortable members of the English middle class such as – oh I don’t know, let’s pick a name at random – Danny Dorling, Oxford’s Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, are ensuring the success of Tory politicians who will cut the taxes of the comfortable middle class and the benefits of the poor. They have to pretend Jeremy Corbyn can win to spare themselves that awful moment of moral clarity when they realise they have been ensuring their pockets stay lined.

Thus Dorling insists that Labour can find a path to victory by targeting ‘people who, vote for minor parties and the much larger groups have given up voting or even registering to vote’. Labour militants do not have to engage in the sordid task of winning over conservative voters, or reflect that millions just vote for the politicians they think are vaguely competent, regardless of party.

Let’s indulge him, and go through the minor parties he believes will deliver Corbynism in one country.

Labour is driving voters to Ukip rather than taking them back. Maybe greens will switch to Corbyn, but there aren’t enough of them. The corpse of the Liberal Democrat party is showing twitches of life, and there will be no more votes to be stolen from that grave. Meanwhile, far from targeting the SNP, Scottish Labour has lost voters by moving to its left. So bad is Labour’s position in Scotland, the very policies that Corbyn endorses have allowed the Scottish Conservatives to overtake it.

In the first of many craven statements, Dorling pretends that Labour did not stand on a platform of raising taxes and closing nuclear bases. He simply says that ‘in Scotland where Labour has not yet changed, the party fared badly’ – a sentence which shows he is either a liar or a fool.

Or perhaps he is in the grips of a delusion. The hope that non-voters make up a hidden socialist army, awaiting only a true revolutionary leaders to wake them like lions from their slumber, is a perennial fantasy.

Stephen Bush, a journalist for the New Statesman, undertook a demeaning task far beneath the dignity of Oxford professors and looked at the evidence.

Non-voters are not different from voters, he concluded.  They share the same perceptions and prejudices And in case you think he had been bamboozled by right-wing propagandists, I should add that Bush’s research came from that nest of Zionist, neo-liberal propagandists, the TUC.

I could go on. But I accept that if the Tory right destroys the government, it is just about possible to imagine a political crisis leading to a Corbyn premiership. I don’t think it will happen, but let us stretch our credulity until it is ready to snap, and see a future when the Tories, racked by fratricidal hatred, lose power.

It is not a future anyone should want to live in. What is so scandalous about Dorling and all who agree with him, is the praise for Corbyn’s ‘moral clarity’. The Labour leadership is neither moral nor clear. It’s like an insinuating sneak, who eggs on the world’s bullies, then ducks for cover before he is caught.

Corbyn worked as a presenter for Iranian state television. In other words, he was a willing propagandist of a regime that executes homosexuals, imprisons trade unionists and persecutes religious and ethnic minorities. This would have once disqualified him from membership of ‘the Left’.  Now he represents the ‘moral’ Left.

Corbyn makes excuses for the avowedly orthodox- conservative, privately kleptomaniac and demonstrably imperialist Putin regime  Once support for Putin’s combination of faith, fraud and force would have been anathema to the left. Now it is the ‘moral’ left.

Corbyn defends the most grotesque anti-Semites: fantasists, who believed Jews eat Christian children, and were the diabolical power behind 9/11, the slave trade and every other catastrophe   Once this attempt to destroy Labour’s reputation for anti-fascism and anti-racism would have disqualified Corbyn from the left. Now eminent Oxbridge leftists hail such ‘moral clarity’ as the future of the left.

If it is, it is not a future any moral person should want any part of, however much money they earn.