Nick Cohen

Would Jeremy Corbyn prefer George Galloway to be Mayor of London?

Would Jeremy Corbyn prefer George Galloway to be Mayor of London?
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If a dirty mind is a perpetual feast, then a filthy mind is an open sewer. You see where the manure is coming from. More to the point, you know where it is going.

When Galloway faced a challenge for the Bradford West seat from the Labour candidate, Naz Shah, he thought the best way to respond was to denounce a woman's tales of abuse. He reduced Shah’s forced marriage at the age 15, to a ‘slander of her own family, community and city’ and an appeal to ‘racist stereotypes'.

When he declared Bradford an ‘Israel free-zone,’ Muslim and white anti-Semites paid attention. And when he began his campaign to be London mayor by saying that the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan had held the Koran ‘in his left hand which wasn’t missed by people who care about these things,'  it seemed to me that he was wading down the sewers once againYou needed an understanding of the minutiae of religious prohibitions, however, to appreciate how low Galloway had sunk into the sludge.

The ‘people’ he probably had in mind were some of the least tolerant Muslims in Britain – including some of Galloway’s core constituency. They ‘care about these things’ as it is just possible for literalist believers to argue that widely ignored hadiths direct the faithful to hold the Koran with the right hand. ‘The Prophet used his right hand in applying perfume, in eating, and used his left hand in the toilet,’ explained one.

Galloway, a non-Muslim, was therefore using the most insubstantial and excremental pretext to accuse Khan, an actual Muslim, of treating the Koran like... well use your imagination.

What do you expect, I hear readers cry. Galloway is fighting the Labour candidate and is pelting him with muck as he has pelted so many others before. Look a little closer, however, and it is hard to tell who the real Labour candidate is. ‘We have been friends for 40 years,’ Galloway said of Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting in East London. ‘I am the Corbyn of this race.’

For once, he was telling the truth.  Both Corbyn and Galloway are perceived by many to be the marionettes of dictatorships. On the state-propaganda channels of Russia and Iran, neither has embarrassed their gruesome hosts with protests against the slaughter in Syria. Both indulge their imperialism – manifested in the Russian invasion of the Ukraine; misogyny – the Iranian subjugation of women; and homophobia – the Russian persecution of and Iranian execution of homosexuals.

They are both members of that seemingly unprincipled left, whose central, indeed only, ideology appears to be against the West whatever it does and, mutatis mutandis, in favour of the West’s enemies whatever they do. Of course they are friends, and allies. They have shared a thousand platforms. Galloway said of Corbyn’s spin doctor Seumas Milne ‘we have spoken almost daily for 30 years’.

Galloway certainly behaves as if he’s the official Corbyn candidate. His main attack on Khan is the attack the far-left makes on every social democratic politician: Khan is a traitor. Galloway showed his roots when he used Lenin’s words to make the charge. He accused Khan of, supporting Corbyn 'like the rope supports the hanging man’ and ‘alienating the Corbynista wave’.

Ken Livingstone does not quite go that far. But the indifference to Khan he displayed in an article in the London Evening Standard astonished Labour politicians. Under the headline ‘London needs to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a better city,’ Livingstone declared his admiration for Corbyn and all his works. Not once did he mention the name of the real Labour candidate for London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The Tory attack on Khan as a Corbyn stooge could not be more dishonest. In the eyes of far left, Khan is now a non-person. He may have stupidly nominated Corbyn for Labour leader. But I am sure he regrets the blunder. He knows that only voter resistance to Corbyn can stop him winning.  Khan has denounced the Labour leadership’s friendships with terrorists, and won supporters in the City and even among London’s frightened Jews, which cannot have gone down well with his party’s leadership. When I asked if Khan was planning campaign events with Corbyn, I was politely told that none were in the diary.

Khan’s supporters dismiss Galloway’s political organisation as little more than a Twitter feed these days. But in their hearts they must be worried. Galloway is capable of winning a substantial vote. He came from nowhere to take parliamentary seats, first in Tower Hamlets and then in Bradford. His supporters are unlikely to make Khan their second preference, after Galloway has spent the campaign attacking Khan's supposed treasons. More to the point Galloway’s prejudices are the prejudices of London’s Corbynites, the people Khan needs to campaign for him.

Khan’s reputation is being smeared because the far left is getting its excuses in early. Consider its position. It is convinced that the masses want its mixture of appeasement abroad and statism at home. Yet it looks as if Corbyn’s Labour will do terribly in Scotland, despite the predictions that a left-wing platform would hurt the SNP, and as badly in Wales and the English regions. If, despite all Sadiq Khan’s advantages, Labour fails to win London I think we can see already that Corbyn will not accept responsibility and decide that he is leading the British left to disaster. ‘Cognitive dissonance’ will prevent it.

People throw the phrase around to describe any failure of accepting reality. But Leon Festinger, the American psychologist who developed the idea, gave it a specific meaning of doubling down on failed ideas, which helps you understand Corbyn and I would say many on the Tory right as well.  In their 1957 book When Prophesy Fails,  Festinger and his colleagues studied an apocalyptic sect in Chicago called the Seekers.  Led by a local housewife, the Seekers believed the world would end on December 21, 1954. They would be saved, however, because aliens would take them away in a spaceship.

When the world did not end, you would expect the unequivocal failure of the prophesy would force believers to rethink. Not at all. Their cognitive dissonance dictated that they must believe all the more fervently. The Seekers, like religious cults throughout history, became even more convinced that they were right. It can take ‘years of the spectacular failure of prophesies to come to pass for the true believers to break with their faith,’ Festinger concluded.

The supporters of Corbyn, like the Eurosceptics,  have invested vast amounts of time and energy in their beliefs. Fellow believers surround them and reinforce their certainties. They will not accept irrefutable evidence that the public does not want what they are offering. They will double down.

If Labour wins in London, it will be a victory for ‘Jeremy’. If Labour loses, it will not be, it cannot be, Jeremy’s fault. It will be Khan’s. They will denounce him for every sin against the faith he has committed: up to and including how and with what hand he wipes his bottom.