In 2015, anti-war socialist Jeremy Corbyn caused a stunning shock when, as a 500-1 shot, he became elected as Labour Party leader. Corbyn’s campaign engendered great enthusiasm among those desperate for Labour to make a clean break with elite-friendly pro-war neoliberal Blairism.
by Neil Clark
In the 2017 general election Corbyn defied the odds, and the smug inside the tent pundits again, with Labour achieving its biggest increase in its share of the vote since 1945.
Corbyn seemed to be on an unstoppable path to Number 10. But since then momentum has been lost. Literally.
Let’s call out the elephant in the room. The pro-Israel lobby in Labour and outside of it has never been reconciled to having a pro-Palestinian peace activist as party leader and potential Prime Minister.
They have done everything possible to destroy Corbyn personally and professionally, with charges of ’anti-Semitism’ the weapon of choice. But Corbyn hasn’t done himself any favours by failing to fight back forcefully against the smears.
Rather shamefully he allowed his old comrade and lifelong anti-racist Ken Livingstone to be thrown under the bus, simply for stating a historical truth.
He hasn’t come out publicly in support of another old comrade George Galloway being able to rejoin the party from which he was unjustly expelled for his fierce opposition to the illegal Iraq War, which led to the deaths of 1m people. No one has been a more loyal supporter of Corbyn these past four years than Galloway, but the loyalty has not been reciprocated.
After the 2017 election Corbyn had a great opportunity to move against his enemies and reward his supporters but he failed to do so. He has sought to placate his opponents within the PLP at every term - even appointing Blairites to the Shadow Cabinet. This policy of appeasement has been a disastrous mistake.
I wonder if Corbyn has ever seen the film ‘Rush’ about the enthralling battle for the F1 championship in 1976 between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. In it Hunt is asked by a journalist how he managed to drive so fast. ‘Big Balls’ was Hunt’s reply.
Voters admire politicians — and indeed people generally, who’ve got big balls.
Mrs Thatcher gained a lot of working-class votes not because of any great enthusiasm for her policies, but because she came across as a strong leader who didn’t flip-flop.
That was admired, even by her ideological adversaries.
To this day in France, there is enormous nostalgia for Charles de Gaulle, who never buckled. Similarly, Austrians greatly miss Bruno Kreisky.
Corbyn, by failing to fight his enemies, and allowing himself to be cowed into silence on important foreign policy issues he was once so vocal on, has demoralised his supporters. Labour is down to 30% in the polls, 10% down from what it achieved in the general election.
The situation is hardly helped by the latest concession to the so-called ‘centrists’: Corbyn coming out in support for a 2nd referendum on Brexit. This could do the party great electoral harm, bearing in mind the 13 key Tory marginals Labour must win at the next election are all strong (60%+) ‘Leave’ seats and that the six seats Labour lost in 2017 were all pro-Brexit.
In his defence, you could say that Corbyn has been let down by his allies. His strongest support, from what I hear, has come not from anyone in the Shadow Cabinet or the PLP, but from his Strategy and communications director Seumas Milne.
Corbyn’s pro-Israel deputy Tom Watson, has been an utter disgrace. He has undermined Corbyn’s leadership at every turn, only last week denouncing moves to select Labour candidates to stand against ‘Independent Group’ defectors as ‘spiteful’.
Which brings us back to Mrs Thatcher. She famously acknowledged ‘Every Prime Minister needs a Willie’. She wasn’t referring (heaven forbid) to private parts of the anatomy, but her very loyal Deputy Willie Whitelaw. Ideologically Whitelaw came from a different faction in the Conservative Party than Thatcher (he was a One Nation Tory and she was from the ‘New Right‘), but he backed his leader to the hilt. Corbyn desperately needs a Willie. In fact several Willies. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Momentum boss Jon Lansman, both seem to have accepted the false Friends of Israel narrative that anti-Semitism is a big problem in Labour. Momentum — under Lansman’s ownership-has turned out to be a block on radicalism.
The situation in Labour is depressing, but Corbyn still has a chance IF he fights back.
He needs to stop going on the back-foot on anti-Semitism — which has involved only a tiny proportion of Labour’s vast 500,000+ membership- and instead go on the offensive against the Israel lobby and their support for a racist state. He needs to expose the foreign policy agenda of those out to destroy him and remind people of the calamitous wars the Blairites supported and the way they greatly increased the terrorist threat to British citizens. He needs to end his boycott of lawfully-operating Russian media (he was a regular guest on RT before he became leader), and start making speeches about Palestine again. He needs to call for an ally in the PLP to challenge the serially disloyal Tom Watson for Deputy Leader. He needs to make it clear that if there is a 2nd referendum he would campaign for a ‘Lexit’ out of respect to the 17.4m who voted Leave in the first referendum.
He needs to respond to McCarthyite calls for the socialist Labour MP for Derby North Chris Williamson to be suspended (for hosting an event for Jewish Voice for Labour!), by restoring Chris to the Shadow Cabinet.
In short he has to go back to being the Jeremy Corbyn he was before he became leader in 2015. Radical, daring and unafraid of speaking truth to power.
Show us you’ve got big balls Jeremy, before it's too late and Britain’s best chance of real positive change for the many and not the few, has been destroyed by the wreckers.
Alas, reports that have just come in that Corbyn’s office has called on Chris Williamson asking him to apologise and withdraw comments he made about Labour being too apologetic about the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, indicates that a fight-back is not going to happen.