Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has lurched from one attack to the next, from outside and within, showing the fear of the establishment
Last week comedian Robert Webb posted on Twitter that he was leaving the Labour Party. A staunch opponent of Corbyn since the leadership campaign begun (he previously called him “almost designed by the Tories to win the next election” and “fucking awful”), it came as no real surprise to anyone to see him leaving.
This could be seen as just the next part of Labour’s slow implosion—a parliamentary party that refuses to accept the results of a democratic election and treat their supporters with contempt, a media that has launched an endless stream of smear campaigns against Corbyn and his allies, and a series of high-profile Blairites storming out of the party less than two months after the party changes direction for the first time in over two decades. However, I would argue that what is happening is the very opposite—the constant media storm is not Labour dying, it is the sound of the whole establishment collectively quaking in their boots at the idea of an actual alternative.
Webb has long been an avid fan of Blair’s ‘third way’ politics—there’s an old sketch in That Mitchell and Webb Look where he says he got in a fight for defending Blair, pointing out “he doesn’t have an army anymore!” It is a throwaway line, but one that is telling, and a view that has been confirmed in numerous interviews over the years. But in the run up to the election, Webb wrote a brilliant article in favour of Miliband, urging him to “tax me till I fart.” He spoke about being left wing his whole life and, crucially, about his deep-seated hatred of the Conservatives. This hatred is more than understandable. What is not however is the way it is being used to turn on Corbyn. From the Blairites that have abandoned ship to even the supposedly moderate or left-wing media, Corbyn in their eyes cannot be trusted to fend off and beat the Conservatives.
This idea, however, simply is not true. More people have joined the Labour party since the general election than are in the entire Conservative party, with 40,000 joining in just five days after Corbyn’s election. A huge burst of support like that is not to be disregarded as just “every single person who will vote for him,” or that “the general public will never vote for him,” as Corbyn’s many critics seem keen to say. On a loop. Forever. Instead it shows Corbyn as a manifestation of rising left wing alternatives that have arisen across the West—the latest in a series of parties, movements and leaders who are challenging the neoliberal consensus for the first time in over two decades.
Take Podemos in Spain, only founded in 2014, who are now on over 16 per cent in the latest polls, and are a genuine contender in Spain’s upcoming four-way general election. Or Syriza, who may have capitulated to the Troika but were elected on a clear anti-austerity, left wing mandate, which was proven again in the bailout referendum, showing clear anti-establishment sentiment amongst the Greek populace. Even Bernie Sanders in the US, who is a far more moderate candidate in comparison to Podemos or Syriza, is on over 30 per cent in current polls. Even in the United States, one of the most conservative nations on the planet, there is a genuine, huge, clamouring for change. This change can succeed given a proper chance. Corbyn can succeed, he just needs to be given a chance.
So, essentially, the parliamentary Labour Party need to shut up. In the leadership election Corbyn got over 250,000 votes, a share of 59.5 per cent. Amongst members alone Corbyn got over twice as many votes as Andy Burnham, his nearest rival. To argue that Corbyn won unfairly or that he does not represent the views of the party is ridiculous. The gap in opinions between Labour party members and MPs is ridiculous. The PLP is a gang of Blairites and neoliberals terrified by the idea of a leader who has not just genuine principles and conviction but offers a real alternative to the broken, perpetually collapsing ‘third way’ we seem to be trapped in. They preach doom and failure, that the Labour Party will be cast into the political wilderness like the Liberal Democrats for years. They act with impunity and in doing so are, along with the media, the only genuine threat to Corbyn succeeding. They either need to listen to their members, their leader, and their constituents, or else Corbyn should introduce mandatory deselection.
Finally, the media need to stop their endless, pathetic assault that reached its nadir earlier this month with ‘bowgate’, possibly the most desperate, opportunistic, exploitative attack I have ever seen, using genuine acts of remembrance to try and score cheap shots and make outrage out of nothing. The British press, especially the likes of the Murdoch papers, are so rabidly right wing that it is genuinely undemocratic—they ignore, twist, and even, when they hilariously claimed he wanted to abolish the army, straight up lie about what Corbyn says and does in order to try and bury him and anyone who might tax them a bit more, or hold them to account for hacking into dead people’s mobile phones.
Just think—Ed Miliband was absolutely vilified for being a bit awkward and politically closer to Blair than Thatcher, imagine how terrified the establishment must be of Corbyn. The media must be held to account, challenged on the endless blatant scaremongering and lying, or any alternative to the neoliberal consensus will be crushed in the name of big business.
The more the establishment is challenged, the louder it screams in outrage, and the louder we have to be in return, not just for Corbyn but for democratic politics itself in order to end the petulant, childish nonsense the Blairites and media moguls spout when faced with an actual alternative. So Robert Webb, stop attacking Corbyn and give him a chance—you might be surprised at how far he can get.