Corbyn must be shown the door if Labour is to see a revival - Euan McColm
Among the countless entertaining delusions afflicting supporters of Jeremy Corbyn is their belief that, after leading Labour to a catastrophic defeat in last December’s general election, he should have remained in his post.
The fully-committed Corbynista could never – and still can’t – see that he was a liability. When people turned away from their party, they would refuse to entertain the possibility that the leader was to blame. Instead, the failures of Corbyn were the fault of others – of the media, of disloyal “centrist” colleagues, of “the Establishment”.
At its darkest, this blame game saw Corbyn supporters point their fingers at Jews. Even as the cancer of anti-Semitism spread through the Labour Party, one could depend on some members to insist the problem was being exaggerated and distorted by the “Israel lobby”.
Given that the MP for Islington North had spent much of his political career sharing platforms with, and offering succour to, numerous virulent anti-Semites, none of this was especially surprising. A long-standing member of the crank hard-left, Corbyn inhabited a world where conspiracy theories flourish – and a great many of those theories are simply recooked versions of the old lie that we are all merely puppets, acting under the control of some shadowy Jewish cabal.
Having won the Labour leadership contest in 2015, Corbyn attracted members of the political fringes, and a lot of terribly naive people, to the party – and we know how that played out.
When the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into anti-Semitism in Labour, it marked a new low for a mainstream political party.
And so we might have expected a degree of humility from Corbyn and his supporters when the EHRC published its findings on Thursday. Instead, we got more of the same old crap they’ve been peddling for years. The problem, said Corbyn, had been exaggerated for political reasons.
When this attempt to minimise the extent of anti-Semitism – something the EHRC report expressly warned against – Corbyn was suspended by Labour and had the party whip removed. HIs successor, Sir Keir Starmer, insisted he had not personally taken these decisions but that he supported them.
Now, Corbyn and the fools who cling to the idea that he is a man of great compassion and wisdom and not a stupid crank are ready to fight back. The usual suspects, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, and the general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, demanded sanctions against the ex-leader be removed, saying a divided party would be punished in the polls and the suspension of Corbyn would cost Labour dear.
Meanwhile, the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs issued a statement firmly opposing the decision to suspend Corbyn. They would work tirelessly for his reinstatement.
Laura Pidcock, the former Labour MP who lost North West Durham to the Tories last year, tweeted that she would be working alongside “hundreds of thousands of people” for Corbyn to be let back in to the Labour Party. To call those who cling to the listing hull of HMS Corbyn “idiots” is an insult to idiots.
Starmer should relish the fight with those “hundreds of thousands of people”. Voters across swathes of the north of England and the Midlands who abandoned the party to back the Tories last year do not care for Corbyn. They saw him as a liability; a man who could not be trusted to put their interests first.
Starmer’s mission is not to placate McCluskey but to show voters that he is a plausible candidate to become the next Prime Minister of the UK. Those with most to lose in any Labour Party civil war are MPs who overstep the mark in their support for Corbyn. They risk the charge that they are undermining the party, which may well lead to them joining the former leader in suspension.
Many of these politicians are people who would struggle to get decent jobs in the real world and I suspect self-preservation will trump principle when it comes to the crunch. If any of them do decide to challenge Starmer on this issue, either through threat or disruptive action, he should finish their careers.
Corbyn and his supporters often spoke about a new, kinder politics but politics is, necessarily, a rough old game and Starmer should not shy away from the hard tackles.
When Starmer responded to the EHRC report on Thursday, he said anyone who suggested accusations of anti-Semitism were exaggerated or factional were “part of the problem”. This was the elephant trap into which Corbyn plunged himself.
Unless Corbyn now admits that his response to the EHRC was completely wrong then it is difficult to see how he makes his way back into the party.
If Starmer’s Labour wobbles and does lift Corbyn’s suspension, the crank left – the ragbag of former Socialist Worker Party hacks and other extremists – which has done it so much damage in recent years will be emboldened. They will feel vindicated and they will do all they can to undermine the leader from the inside.
Starmer was at pains on Friday to insist that he was not preparing a purge. Well, he should be. There is nothing to be won by giving succour to the hard left. Corbyn is yesterday’s man, a relic of the political past and no asset to Labour. If Starmer wants to make his party a viable political force once more, Corbyn should be the first of many to be shown the door.