Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

Why I left

Left-wing thought has shifted towards movements it would once have denounced as racist, imperialist and fascistic. It is insupportable

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[/audioplayer]‘Tory, Tory, Tory. You’re a Tory.’ The level of hatred directed by the Corbyn left at Labour people who have fought Tories all their lives is as menacing as it is ridiculous. If you are a woman, you face misogyny. Kate Godfrey, the centrist Labour candidate in Stafford, told the Times she had received death threats and pornographic hate mail after challenging her local left. If you are a man, you are condemned in language not heard since the fall of Marxist Leninism. ‘This pathetic small-minded jealousy of the anti-democratic bourgeois shows them up for the reactionary neocons they really are,’ a Guardian commenter told its columnist Rafael Behr after he had criticised Corbyn.

Not that they are careful about anything, or that they will take advice from me, but the left should be careful of what it wishes for. Its accusations won’t seem ridiculous soon. The one prophesy I can make with certainty amid today’s chaos is that many on the left will head for the right. When they arrive, they will be greeted with bogus explanations for their ‘betrayal’.

Conservatives will talk as if there is a right-wing gene which, like male-pattern baldness, manifests itself with age. The US leftist-turned-neocon Irving Kristol set the pattern for the pattern-baldness theory of politics when he opined that a conservative is a liberal who has been ‘mugged by reality’. He did not understand that the effects of reality’s many muggings are never predictable, or that facts of life are not always, as Margaret Thatcher claimed, conservative. If they were, we would still have feudalism.

The standard explanation from left-wingers is equally self-serving. Turncoats are like prostitutes, they say, who sell their virtue for money. They are pure; those who disagree with them are corrupt; and that is all there is to it.

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