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The end of Project Corbyn

Supporter of Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miners' Gala, June 2019

Written by George Galloway, originally published on RT.

Full disclosure: I have known the departing Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader whose five year term ended at the weekend, for 40 years, nearly 30 of those as a close colleague in parliament.

In almost all of my speeches in parliament available on YouTube, Corbyn is sitting by my side. 

And I was, without a close competitor, his most supportive ally in the national media. My defences of him obtaining millions of viewers and earning my former employer TalkRadio a substantial fine from the state regulator Ofcom for the “lack of balance” in my spirited rejection of his critics. But that was then and this is now.

In the decades in which he was at my side I never rated Corbyn highly, as a thinker – I literally never saw him read a book,  a writer – I am not aware of anything he has ever written, an orator, or even as a companion – there was too much of the student squat about him for my tastes. It was unthinkable that he would ever be a leader.

That he became one was an historical accident. He drew the short straw as the routine leftist candidate to carry the flag of the vaguely Trotskyite Campaign Group because, well, it was his turn to take the beating. When he asked me  – when he looked far from certain to qualify as a candidate – “Am I doing the right thing?” in the Trades Union Congress building in Gt Russell St in the summer of 2015, I replied: If you get on the ballot-paper you will win.” He laughed, and so did all the other witnesses to the conversation.

Ironically, the very reasons he did get on the ballot paper were the reasons in the end which made his departure such a whimper, such a crushing defeat.

He managed to get people to nominate him precisely because he was seen as no threat at all to the established order. His personal character  – “hail fellow, well met – ensured that he had few personal, as opposed to political, enemies amongst our fellow MPs. His right-hand man and eventually shadow chancellor, the Trotskyite John McDonnell, for example, could not have got on the ballot paper, being roundly hated. Nobody hated Corbyn, then.

So why was I sure he would win and publicly predicted so in the national media?

Because, as Shakespeare said, there is a tide in the affairs of men, which, if taken at the flood leads on to fortune. The tide was out on austerity and on centrism in the Labour movement. If Corbyn could go forward, full-throated, as the Bernie Sanders-type outsider, he could ride that wave, I was certain.

The Blairites were hated, and not just over the war, or even just their authorship of the crash and their quiescence in making the people pay for the crimes of the bankers. They were hated because Labour under them had ceased to be Labour at all, but rather a peculiar fusion of Clintonism and Blairism, a desiccated calculating machine rather than a movement. Soulless, heartless and stranded on the rocks of history.

Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign of 2015 was a miracle to behold. He surfed a wave he was himself generating, which in turn built the wave ever higher. And he swept his centrist opponents away in a landslide victory.

Here he should have taken the advice of one of his worst enemies, Blair’s former Political Secretary John McTernan, who writing this week gives advice to Corbyn’s successor Sir Keir Starmer – former public prosecutor and leading opponent of Brexit. McTernan’s ‘Rules for ruling’ include the first three rules: 1. Act immediately, 2. Act ruthlessly, 3. Punish the losers.

Corbyn, against similar advice given by me and others, did precisely the opposite. He failed to act either immediately or at all ruthlessly and far from punishing the losers, he protected and even promoted them. Then he tacked towards them, then he ran away from them, then he capitulated to them. Then they devoured him and his whole project.

Corbyn shunned his friends and exalted his enemies even as they wielded the knife – a veritable pack of Brutuses into his back. Starmer is a case in point, though there are many others. Sir Keir publicly resigned from Corbyn’s team of shadow ministers with dozens of others and backed a coup against the leader in 2016 in a manoeuvre designed to kill. When the coup failed to kill the king  – Corbyn was re-elected by an increased majority of the party’s by then 500,000 members (the biggest party in Europe) – instead of adopting the McTernan rules for ruling, Corbyn PROMOTED Starmer into what would become the most critical of offices, shadow Brexit secretary. He promoted many of the other backstabbers too.

With his renewed and enhanced mandate Corbyn could have done anything that he wanted to do with the Labour party. Instead, he tossed like a cork on the ocean, quite adrift. And now he and his project are sunk, soon without a trace.

This is the more inexplicable because in between times Corbyn achieved the greatest increase in the Labour vote in modern history, in June of 2017. In an election, needlessly called by Theresa May and in which she thought she would crush him without mercy, Corbyn put in the performance of a lifetime, a barnstorming, exhilarating, left-populist surge which came within just 2,000 or so votes (in the right constituencies) of putting a left-wing socialist into 10 Downing Street for the very first time. 

Even in this, his finest hour, he failed to use his mandate, this time from the electorate, to crush the incipient rebellion behind him (and increasingly all around him). Instead of mobilising his support amongst the membership against the MPs who hated him, Corbyn continued to act against the membership on behalf of the MPs. The last straw was when he failed to lift a finger to help his closest ally, the then MP Chris Williamson, expelled on fake charges of ‘antisemitism’. At that point the writing was on the wall.

Any summary of the brief and ultimately inglorious leadership of Jeremy Corbyn would have to put his failure down to three main issues: antisemitism, appeasement and attitude to Brexit. 

To describe Corbyn as an anti-Semite is a monstrous lie. It arises as a false conflation of opposition to Israel with a hatred of Jews. Frankly, if you invented a fake religion and invited Jeremy Corbyn to patronise it, he’d turn up in its garb and mumble its mumbo-jumbo in sincere respect. There is NO minority cause Corbyn hasn’t lent his support to, including a life-long defence of Jews, their customs, their places of worship and their rights. Corbyn defended Jewish radio, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish slaughterhouse practices, the rights of the orthodox Hasidians in his own constituency. His mother fought the British fascists at Cable Street in 1936. 

But he failed to make a stand from the start of this false conflation, which was weaponised with a cynicism and, indeed, hatred that will fuel PhDs and books for decades to come. And, it must be said, he failed to act decisively against the tiny number of actual antisemites who were uncovered in the party’s ranks. It is inexplicable (given the ruthlessness with which he abandoned the likes of Williamson and his lifetime friend, former London mayor Ken Livingstone) that he did not ruthlessly expel them forthwith.

Antisemitism IS a thing, and not the old kind which infested the political right in the 20th century (and still does). There is a new kind of antisemitism which sees the Rothschilds under every hedgerow, which thinks the bankers are the root of all our troubles. And that the bankers are Jews. Somehow, Corbyn never quite got that, and together with his lifetime support for the Palestinian people he became an easy target for an international campaign to destroy him.

The appeasement of his Blairite ramp, the enemy within, I have dealt with above.

Corbyn might in the end have survived all of the above tribulations if he had only stuck to his guns over Brexit. If he had continued with the line that Labour accepted the result of the Referendum to leave the EU, no ifs, no buts, the Red Wall guarding the Labour heartlands of the Midlands and the north might have stood. That he did not do so, illustrates the overarching reason why his revolution failed. Labour has become a party of the university-educated urban liberal middle class, which thinks Swarfega is a Balearic island, and is entranced with personal sexual racial identity politics. It no longer speaks the same language as its working-class base on and behind the Red Wall. It can scarcely now even pretend to understand them. Everyone who opposes liberalism must be an ‘ist’ or a ‘phobe’.

The decent, patriotic, socially conservative, potentially economically radical masses who chose Brexit were entirely alien to today’s Labour party, its left as well as its right. Corbyn had always run with the left side of such liberalism. He should have read the books.

Sir Keir Starmer is now in charge, the Blairites are back on top. You can be sure the new regime will not be slow to follow John McTernan’s advice.

Republished with thanks from RT.