BY SAM WHITE
It’s easy to distinguish the many decent Labour supporters out there—they’re the ones who are alarmed by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn.
The ones who are as disturbed as anyone by the party leadership’s links to the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Who don’t want a leader that always sides with Britain’s opponents in times of conflict. A leader that voted against preventing ISIS fighters returning to Britain, and that has spent his entire political career entangled with a latent thread of vile anti-Semitism.
So what do moderate Labour supporters do, come polling day? Some abstained. Some were pragmatic, put tribalism aside, and selected an alternative. And some held their noses and voted for this profoundly tainted version of their party.
For centrist Labour supporters who’d like nothing more than to see the back of Corbyn, it could be argued that the worst possible result has now come in. That is, that Labour, by the standard of their reduced expectations, performed relatively well.
And that’s bad news for the centre-left. It means that the extremists just cemented their position at the top of the Opposition. They won more seats than either Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband could manage, and increased their vote share by almost 10%, taking back supporters who’d migrated to Ukip as they did so. There was an air of triumphalism about the Labour leadership as they did their post election strutting.
But despite exceeding expectations, the reality is that we may well have hit peak Corbyn, in terms of the returns he can expect to get in elections. Turnout was high. He mobilized the youth vote very effectively. He remained unaffected by a constant stream of revelations about his ghoulish political past (not smears, all truths), and he promised the Socialist utopia, which a section of his audience—heavily conditioned by school and university into anti-Capitalist thinking—have bought into completely.
By contrast, Theresa May was uninspiring. Her campaign was self-defeating, and the Conservative manifesto couldn’t have been more badly received. During electioneering, the overwhelming disruption caused by two horrific terror attacks made May’s ‘strong and stable’ mantra appear platitudinous. In the end, Corbyn performed as well as he conceivably can, the Conservatives were awful, and despite all of this, Labour still ended up 56 seats short of the Tories, and 64 short of an overall majority.
Corbynism lost the election, but you wouldn’t know that from the celebrations that followed the count. Labour and their supporters paraded around in a state of delirium as if they’d won a landslide. There is a certain cultishness about their behaviour, in which all negative information is dismissed as false propaganda (the work of external enemies), and any good news is fed back and amplified, until their feverish hysteria blows up out of all proportion.
In their minds, Labour’s leaders have been vindicated—all those years on the margins and it turns out they were right all along. They’re as wrong as ever, of course, but confirmation bias will reinforce their self belief. The hard left doesn’t loosen its grip once it’s got a hold on power, and their takeover has just been further consolidated. It’s their party now.
Corbyn has spent his entire career on the fringes, rebelling against his own party’s leadership. At times it’s unclear whether he’s a politician or an activist. He speaks and carries himself like a student protester, and has spent the last several decades defined mainly by what he is against, rather than what he would deliver given the opportunity.
And that description of Corbyn also describes what Labour has become under his leadership: a bloated protest movement, ensconced in Parliament, with enough support for those who’ve taken control to resist challenges to their authority, but not enough to secure an election win.
This is not a healthy state of affairs. And what’s further troubling is the debasing effect on political debate which Corbyn’s ascent has had. His supporters have been coerced into a horribly binary way of thinking, whereby anyone who objects to Socialist policy, or who identifies as a conservative, is considered to be below contempt. There’s no gradation, and no room for negotiation. You’re simply with us, or you’re evil.
There has been a resurgence in anti-Semitism, aggression, and insults. You don’t have to look hard on social media to find examples of increasingly misanthropic left wingers piling in to spit bile at anyone who disagrees with their ideas. This mindset has been legitimized by Corbyn and his allies, who spoke of a ‘kinder, gentler politics’, but have enabled anything but. What we actually see is a viciously intolerant pack mentality taking hold. The attitude on the Cobynite left goes something like this:
“We believe in empathy and compassion. And if you don’t agree with us you’re hateful scum.”
And it’s mainstream too. On the day prior to the vote, the award winning Sunday Times columnist Caitlin Moran sent out a tweet in which she declared that anyone who disagrees with her political choices is ‘a c*nt’. Now, I’ve no objection to swearing. Some people are indeed c*nts. But the thing is, they have to have done something particularly bad to deserve being called that. On the hard left though, that’s not the case. Over there, you’re considered the lowest of the low for nothing other than voting Conservative. I don’t believe that Moran is, at heart, of the hard-left, but her party now is, and its extreme perniciousness is seeping out and changing the political tone.
On polling day, some Labour supporters posted videos online of themselves burning stacks of right wing newspapers. That should ring alarm bells. It started with author John Niven (who was taken to task after the election by JK Rowling for his abusiveness toward Theresa May) and the trend caught on, with Corbyn supporters boasting of having cleared their local newsagents of the Sun and the Daily Mail. Just think about that. Burning newspapers because you disagree with the content. Burning newspapers because you want to ensure that other people are only able to read content which you personally have pre-approved. It’s a downright totalitarian mindset. Or in other words, it’s a hard-left mindset, and it’s being normalized.
Food writer Ruby Tandoh boasted of binning newspapers in bulk. But in addition to purging wrongthink media, she took to Twitter to abuse and harangue other famous chefs. She called Jamie Oliver a ‘prick’, and implored Nigella Lawson to voice support for Labour, asking her ‘please speak up?’ After the event that might sound funny, but it wasn’t banter. She was deadly serious and her tone was spiteful as she went about publicly demanding ideological conformity. She used shame and insults as a stick to beat her victims, because shame and insults were all she had, but imagine if a group of people with her mindset obtained state power. What might they do with it?
For all these reasons, it’s difficult to see how any centrist Labour supporter can take real joy from Labour’s gains in the election. Had Labour crashed and burned, the Corbyn diversion would be finally over, and might act as a lesson to all who got swept up in it. Corbyn and his thuggish mob would be consigned back to the political fringes, and the Labour Party could get back to the business of engaging in respectable politics.
But as it stands, the extremists are now more firmly installed than ever, and it’s difficult to see how Labour—a party which used to represent noble principles—can be wrenched back to lucidity any time soon.
The Corbyn movement was a cult before the election, and it’s still a cult now. But they’ve become puffed up and emboldened, and are dangerously convinced of their own moral infallibility. They won’t win any elections, but they’ve successfully hijacked the Labour Party, toxified mainstream debate, and popularised a crudely judgmental, aggressively partisan way of thinking.