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.
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
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.
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.Reuse content