There is a picture today in the online version of The Observer. It shows Jeremy Corbyn peeping out of a dark doorway, looking furtive. The headline is “Brexit/ Corbyn told: change course before it’s too late”
You don’t need to read the story to know where The Observer’s sympathies lie. The newspaper and its daily sister, The Guardian, probably the two most left-leaning mainstream newspapers in Britain, have never liked Corbyn, ever since his election as leader by the party. Not to mention his second election as leader by the party. Not to mention his showing as party leader in the last British general election.
The Observer/Guardian doesn’t like Corbyn on two counts: Brexit and anti-semitism. Or so they say. On the matter of Brexit, Corbyn has hung back from the wishes of the great majority of his party members to have a second EU referendum. Corbyn has foot-dragged on this, partly because he is fearful of the electoral wrath of Leave voters and partly because he believes being in the EU would make it harder for him to create the kind of socialist country he believes in. Personally, I think he should opt for a second referendum, and quickly, but I can see why he’d want to avoid being ham-strung should he make it to No 10.
As to the anti-semitic thing, when I hear the cries of horror, I can’t help thinking of Barry McElduff. He was filmed with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head and as a result his political career was shot down in flames. This despite the fact that politicians and people of all stripes in West Tyrone and beyond know perfectly well that Barry is the polar opposite of sectarian. The opportunity to destroy him arose and was grasped by his opponents. Unfair? You bet. But that’s politics.
All his life, Corbyn has been the embodiment of anti-sectarianism, anti-racism, anti any form of prejudice or bigotry. But he’s been equally loud in his denunciation of the excesses of the state of Israel, particularly in its treatment of the Palestinians. Does criticism of Israel make him anti-Semitic? Of course not. Do those opposed to him care if his attitude to Jews and his attitude to Israel are conflated? Of course not. What’s more, the Labour MPs who defected from their party last week know this. But they also know that their chances of being de-selected next time round are high. So why not jump ship and hope you create a storm that will rip the roof off Jeremy Corbyn’s house?
We’re forever reading of the new power of social media and the waning powers of print journalism. There’s truth in that view. But never over-estimate the strength of social media or under-estimate the muscle of the printed word.