Has Jeremy Corbyn failed his party and his country? Watching and listening to the critical shot and shell being directed his way, you’d probably nod your head so vigorously it’d be in danger of falling off.
What is it about Corbyn that makes him, in the views of his critics, such a hopeless leader of his party? For many, the answer is “How long have you got?”
Take this latest brouhaha with the Labour MP Chris Williamson. Apparently Williamson was guilty of saying he thought his party was too apologetic about anti-semitism. For this he was suspended from the party, then brought back, then suspended again when there was an outcry from Labour MPs and peers. Corbyn was noted as a close colleague of Williamson.
This strikes me as lynch-party justice. As far as I know, Williamson didn’t say “I hate all Jews”. If he had he would deserve to be kicked out of the party and maybe arrested as well. He didn’t say he believed anti-semitism was a trivial matter, or that it should be covered up. He said he thought the Labour party was too apologetic in its response to anti-Semitism charges.
Maybe he was right about that. Maybe he wasn’t. But if the Labour party is a democratic organization, he is surely entitled to express an opinion?
At the root of all this lies the problem of what constitutes ant-Semitism. For some, it’s to be critical of the state of Israel, a Jewish state. But lots of us could be and are totally and without reservation against many of the actions of Israel. They stink particularly in their treatment of Palestinians. Not to mention the hypocrisy of the US’s steady supply of weaponry to a country that has defied the UN time and again. So if Williamson was critical of Israel, I think he should be praised, not drummed out of the party in disgrace.
Perhaps the clearest path would be for Labour to produce a paper defining anti-Semitism and showing what procedures they have in place for dealing with anti-Semitic remarks by party members or MPs. That done, it should ask to see the Tory party’s paper defining Islamophobia and showing what procedures they have for dealing with anti-Muslim comments. [ Hint: they could start at the top, looking at the mocking comments of their leader-in-waiting Boris Johnson, who thinks Muslim women look like pillar boxes or bank robbbers.]
The fact is, the amount of vituperation fired at Corbyn has been extraordinary, probably because he looks like someone with plans for greater equality in British society. The most recent assault comes from civil servants who have claimed medical reports show Corbyn is neither physically nor mentally capable of running Britain. So were these reports true? Probably not. Will those in the civil service who leaked the reports be punished or sacked? Not in a hundred years.
The only person I can think of who compares with Jeremy Corbyn in terms of media vilification is Gerry Adams. The Sinn Féin president rode out the many charges and retired calmly when he was ready. Many of the verbal assaults on him came from disgruntled former republicans and hacks with delusions of adequacy.
Corbyn’s woes are added to by the fact that the shot and shell are coming, in many instances, from within his party, particularly from MPs, who fear de-selection in the coming British general election. The mainstream media present this deselection danger as a vindictive witch-hunt against those who continually denounce Corbyn. I’d always thought local constituencies were entitled to choose the person they think would best discharge the role of MP. Those with a record of attacking Labour’s duly-elected leader most certainly deserve the boot, and the sooner the better.
Corbyn’s staff, instead of being overly apologetic, as Chris Williamson has suggested, should produce a list of the charges against him, the sources of these charges and how valid the charges are. This complete, they should then produce a list of moral failures within the Conservative party and ask for a reaction or retraction. In short, those faithful to the party leader should get their coat off and become active. They’ve been reactive – apologetically re-active – quite long enough.