Don’t pretend like you don’t know why people still love Jeremy Corbyn

It’s the ‘centrists’ who scaremonger about the ‘hard left’, but the truth is that the Corbynites are genuinely scared of the centrists – they’re scared of their power, their influence, and the idea that they might crush their democratically elected leader and bring back the status quo forever

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The Independent Online

Lily Allen thinks Tom Watson is a snake: there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. Nevertheless, it’s true – the worlds of a celebrated millionaire pop star and the deputy leader of the Labour Party briefly intersected this week, and subsequently threw up a reptilian reference that perfectly epitomises everything that’s wrong with the state of Labour today. In a party torn apart by “snakes”, “Trots”, “communist entryists” and “Blairite scum”, it’s hard to know what anyone’s going to be revealed as next.

Attacking Tony Blair and Gordon Brown “is not the way to enhance our brand,” Watson announced last night at the Labour conference in an instance of what I can only describe as pure shit-stirring. Raking over the legacies of Blair and Brown is a downright nonsensical tactic at this moment in time, when a new leader has only just been (re-)elected and a general election is almost certainly on the horizon, so all I can assume is that he said it for a laugh – snakey or otherwise, that’s deliberately destructive.

Want to alienate the hundreds of thousands of Labour members and supporters who voted Corbyn back again even further? Start banging on about how we need to be more positive about Tony Blair weeks after the release of the Chilcot report. Want to rile them up a bit more on top of that? Talk about Labour as if it’s an advertising agency, refer to it explicitly as a “brand”, and tell Corbynites they need to start getting on board with one of the leaders they feel betrayed a fundamental principle of the Labour Party by leading us into a questionable war with Iraq because it will “enhance” said brand. Strangely enough, that’s not what young people – disproportionately affected by austerity, shut out of the housing market, ignored by the incumbent government and slaving away in unpaid internships until they can earn rock-bottom salaries – want or need to hear.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the one true saviour of left-wing politics and the western world, obviously. But I voted for him in the leadership election the first time round because he was discernibly different to candidates who were saying Labour should be a “pro-business” party that didn’t have a problem with tax credits cuts, and then I voted for him again because Owen Smith proved himself to be a misogynist. According to a lot of self-important keyboard warrior brocialists, I should have given him a free pass because he would stop the encroaching “hard left” from taking over Labour.

But when did the enthusiastic bunch of young people who helped establish Momentum and signed up for a “kinder, gentler politics” suddenly become routinely referred to as the “hard left”? By the tone of some “centrist” Labour MPs and media outlets, you’d think the Corbyn voters had actually signed up for a “violent, Stalinist” politics predicated upon the ideals of compulsory bricks through windows and enthusiastic encouragement of online abuse. The truth is rather different, of course – and it’s time the PLP stopped putting their fingers in their ears and la-la-la-ing every time someone suggests that the huge support base for Corbyn might be down to real, justified grievances rather than a freak occurrence no one could have predicted.

Don’t pretend like you don’t know why people – the ordinary, non-abusive, let-down-by-the-system people who make up the vast majority of his supporters – still love Jeremy Corbyn. Don’t pretend like you don’t see why someone who stuck with his principles, even to the detriment of his career, is more inspiring than a man who played the game to get to the top by 40. Last year, Corbyn was the only Labour leadership candidate to vote against the Tories’ Welfare Bill which brought in a series of brutal cuts against people with disabilities and the working poor. This year, he still was. If that’s the “hard left” versus the “centrist” position in politics nowadays, then who on earth wants to be centrist? And if the most inspiring thing to have truly come out of Labour in the last year, according to “centrists”, was Hilary Benn’s “rousing” speech on why we should bomb Syria, then what sensible person with even a passing knowledge of history is going to clamour to join their club?

It’s the “centrists” who scaremonger about the “hard left”, but the truth is that the Corbynites are genuinely scared of the centrists – they’re scared of their power, their influence, their establishment backgrounds and the idea that they might crush their democratically elected leader and bring back the status quo forever. It’s not fair and it’s not right to dismiss their fears after the actions of the PLP in the last few months.

Corbyn doesn't clap after Watson heckle is met with applause

Rebuilding the Labour Party is necessary for people whose lives, rather than just their careers, are deeply affected by Labour infighting and the continuing dominance of the Conservatives. It looks like Corbyn, McDonnell and their ilk are opening themselves up to the possibility of open communication and compromise. If they really want to prove themselves to a membership which has lost its appetite for “business as usual” politics, the so-called centrists have to stop stereotyping Momentum et al, and meet them halfway.