Examining and Debunking Some of the More Popular Jeremy Corbyn Myths
Recently, Dustin wrote a post about the rising fascist fire in the US and the attendant despair and sense of hopelessness that comes with it. It hit me quite strongly. That sense of a world already terribly unjust and cruel now turning inexorably towards a truly fearsome tipping point, and of there seemingly being no way of preventing it, resonated with me.
It spoke to me so strongly partly because we find ourselves in a not dissimilar situation on this side of the pond. Thankfully, it is not quite as bad as the US. As with many things at this point in history we are the empire’s little henchman playing catch-up—even, it seems, with nascent fascism. But the combination of a forty years of neoliberal economics, a decade of hard-right Tory rule, the more recent rise of the Brexit Party, and the unelected, Trump-appeasing, climate change-denying premiership of Boris Johnson, as well as the threat of a far-right reactionary Brexit, means that the differences are fewer in number than the similarities.
But just as we both seem to be drowning in despair on both sides of the Atlantic, so too can we see signs of hope manifesting in the dark waters if we look closely enough. In the US a generation of really rather remarkable young socialists and progressives—many of them women of color—are rising. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley among others are all challenging the mainstream Democratic consensus, bringing swathes of the party more to the left. Moreover, despite the catastrophic presidency of Donald Trump, genuinely progressive and viable challengers to his rule like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are fighting to challenge his regressive record.
In the UK, a revived and vivified Left inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is attempting to bring the first substantive change to the country’s political direction in decades. Both within the party and without, the traditional power centres of the land are being challenged for the first time in over a generation. Because of this seismic shift in power relations however, it is likely that the impression you may have of things may well be quite different from the reality. That disconnect is part of the reason—maybe, actually, the main part—why I decided to write this piece. With climate collapse looming, politically, we are at an existential tipping point, a juncture at which one path leads down into absolute devastation and the other to a rare chance of hope, and the differences between the two are being muddied by a desperate yet still mighty establishment.
Regarding the UK, it might prove useful at this point to paint a brief picture of the aforementioned power centres, to bring ourselves up to speed on the state of things as they are, before we turn to my main subject: Jeremy Corbyn, the challenge he represents to the status quo, and the claims made against him.
So, the UK.
As is the case with most countries, Britain is defined by the relationship between those who have power, and those who do not. Britain’s Establishment, such as it is, has been woven into the fabric of the country over centuries, embedded deeply via ancient institutions designed to serve the powers that be. Elite schools take kids from the ‘right’ families, grooming them to become the next generation of masters—turning out MPs, diplomats, lawyers, judges, bankers, consultants. The country’s organs of state and media control—and, increasingly, the arts—thus largely remain under the control of a tiny, privileged sliver of its population, reflecting the values and beliefs of that sliver.
In his 2014 book, ‘The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It’, journalist Owen Jones described the nature of Britain’s ruling class like so:
As well as a shared mentality, the Establishment is cemented by financial links and a ‘revolving door’ culture: that is, powerful individuals gliding between the political, corporate and media worlds - or who manage to inhabit these various worlds at the same time. The terms of political debate are in large part dictated by a media controlled by a small number of exceptionally rich owners, while think tanks and political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and corporate interests.
A cursory glance at the state of the country and the distribution of power therein tells this story explicitly. Consider the following cross-section of society as it exists in the UK:
— Half of English land—perhaps the most valuable national commodity of all—is owned by less than 1% of the population. As per The Guardian:
The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners - typically members of the aristocracy and corporations - have control of half of the country.
The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across England’s population, each person would have just over half an acre - an area roughly half the size of Parliament Square in central London.
Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.
— Speaking of the aristocracy, a new report suggests that:
Britain’s aristocrats have enjoyed a dramatic surge in their wealth in the last 30 years - and have seen their riches double in the last decade.
That’s just the aristocrats, mind you. When you examine the new rich, a similar picture emerges. Bankers, for example. According to the Guardian, as of 2019:
More than 3,500 bankers in the UK are paid more than €1m (£850,000) a year, according to pay and bonus details published by the European Banking Authority.
How does that look compared to the rest of Europe? Again from the same report:
The UK was home to 73% of all millionaire bankers across Europe
— According to the Tax Justice Network, when you consider its network of dependencies and offshore territories, the UK is the single biggest enabler of lost tax revenues in the world. Global tax evasion is one of the most significant distorting agents on democracy. It is near-silent, oft-invisible, and it exerts a truly cataclysmic force on the world’s power balance.
— The UK remains one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet according to a 2018 study it is the fifth most unequal country in Europe. As per The Guardian:
More than a fifth of the population live on incomes below the poverty line after housing costs are taken into account, even though most of these households are in work. Nearly one in three children live in poverty and the use of food banks is rising.
While the foundations for this were laid decades ago, this disparity has accelerated dramatically under the last decade of Tory austerity, with the UN recently comparing Conservative policies to ‘the creation of 19th-century workhouses’, further warning that ‘unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.’ All this while the Tories bring in tat cuts that ‘overwhelmingly benefit the rich.’
Disability welfare devastated; punitive, humiliating welfare policies enacted; a wide-ranging pillage of social programs and local funding; racist deportations of citizens. There are numbers aplenty but the one most often pointed to are the figures from the British Medical Journal that show the human cost of Tory barbarism: 120,000 extra deaths due to austerity measures.
— There are 650 MPs who sit in the UK Parliament. According to figures from 2017, almost a fifth of those—123—are also landlords who earn extra income from renting out accommodation. Of the three main parties, the proportion of their MPs who are landlords stands as follows:
Liberal Democrats: 25%
Legislation that has attempted to tackle Britain’s awful housing market—especially as it affects the poorest and otherwise structurally disadvantaged—by stripping some of the profit motive from housing and power away from landlords has often failed or stalled.
— The Sutton Trust is a well-regarded charity that monitors social mobility in the UK. In measuring the preponderance of elite education in the halls of power it found that while only 7% of the UK’s population is privately educated, the proportion of MPs who went to fee-paying schools sits at 29%. Moreover, while this is a quite incredible skew, this figure is the lowest ever recorded. In other words that is as good as it’s ever gotten. Notably, those numbers were taken after the general election of 2017 in which a rejuvenated, Corbyn-led Labour party delivered a staggering upset to Tory expectations—with a number of seats being taken by young, progressive, working class Labour MPs. 45% of Conservative MPs were privately educated when that data was taken, while for Labour MPs the figure was 15%.
— In terms of class representation in the media, of the UK’s ‘top 100’ journalists the proportion that went to private school stands at 51%. This again from The Sutton Trust, and a reminder that for the general population the figure is 7%.
— As for foreign policy, the UK’s role in some of the most barbarous acts taking place in the world right now cannot be ignored. According to The Guardian, Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen has so far wrought the following:
60,000 Yemenis are conservatively estimated to have been killed since 2016, the majority from Saudi-UAE coalition bombing. In addition, the man-made humanitarian crisis caused primarily by the blockade imposed by the coalition has led to an estimated 85,000 infant children dying from starvation or preventable disease. The UN warns that 14 million lives are at risk in what could become the world’s worst famine in 100 years.
Regarding Britain’s role in this, the reality is damming. The country plays a vital role in the slaughter. Again from the same piece in The Guardian:
Under an arms deal signed by the New Labour government, Britain has provided the Saudis with a fleet of Typhoon military jets as well as the constant supply of ammunition, components, training and technical support required to keep those jets operational. This creates a high degree of Saudi dependence on continued British support.
A British former technician, stationed in Saudi Arabia until recently, told Channel 4 that if this support was withdrawn then “in seven to 14 days there wouldn’t be a jet in the sky” over Yemen. A former Saudi Air Force officer stated flatly that his compatriots “can’t keep the Typhoon in the air without the British”, and that, although US-supplied jets also play an indispensable role, the British Typhoon is so crucial that “without the Typhoon they will stop the war”.
This imperial attitude has been a nigh-on unshakeable consensus, with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour (until the rise of the decidely anti-interventionist Corbyn) all supporting Western wars abroad, as well as those useful tyrants we deem our allies and who fill the coffers of our arms companies.
The picture painted of the country is a dramatic one.
It’s a portrait of a state run in the interests of a tiny elite, at the cost to the vast majority of the population.
And that’s without even getting into how race, gender, disability, and other demographic markers intersect with the glaring power imbalances just described. We could be here all day otherwise.
It’s at this point that we return to Jeremy Corbyn. Why have I taken so much time to build up this rather depressing picture? Put simply: Because Corbyn is the first leader of a major political party in decades with not only the conviction and moral courage needed to try change that picture for the better, but with a mass popular movement behind him that just might make that change possible. And it’s precisely because of this that an array of powerful forces have been working to make sure that that never happens. To see a snapshot like the one above is to see starkly what is at stake, for both sides.
Jeremy Corbyn is, of course, a Labour MP. He has served in the Commons since 1983, representing his Islington North constituency, where his record has made him a remarkably popular MP (increasingly so, as his constituents have seen the results of his work: He won by a margin of 15.3% in his first election, and by 60.5% in his most recent).
As the Labour Party moved ever rightward in the intervening years and decades, MPs like Corbyn found themselves more and more marginalised in the House of Commons, often being reduced to lonely voices crying out in defiance from the backbenches against regressive taxation, cuts to public services, military intervention, anti-LGBTQI+ policies, racist border measures, authoritarian state surveillance, and all manner of legislation that otherwise found broad support from both sides of the aisle in the House of Commons.
Then, a miracle occurred. In late 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. I will not recount the incredibly singular story and series of lucky incidences and huge swells of popular support that led to an outspoken socialist MP suddenly becoming the leader of a party long-since cut adrift from its leftwing roots. I already told that winding tale here.
What matters here is that Corbyn suddenly found himself holding the reins of the party, and a mass popular movement not seen in Britain in decades rose simultaneously to meet him. With an uncanny political acuity often denied them by a mainstream press, the public sensed that here, in a country hollowed out by a generation of neoliberal economics and brought to brink of starvation by austerity, there suddenly was hope for real change.
This wasn’t an impulsive, whiplash reaction to a recent political decision either, but a long simmering despair finally transformed by a galvanising hope. Tory (and Lib Dem-enabled) cuts post-2010 had viciously savaged the country, yes, but Tony Blair’s New Labour had scarcely been better. A few decent policies aside, New Labour’s record is one of NHS privatisation, of the outsourcing of other public services to private providers at huge cost to the taxpayer, of catastrophic, blood-soaked military interventions abroad, of punitive welfare policies, of racist and authoritarian home office and border policies, and of cabinet ministers coming and going between government and private consultant gigs. Rather than some sudden political rebellion, it could be argued that the Corbyn fightback was the long belated answer to the despair first injected into British society by Margaret Thatcher and subsequently spread by successive governments of both political camps. Indeed it was Thatcher herself who famously once said, in response to the query of what she considered her greatest success: ‘Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds’.
At the height of Tony Blair mania, before it became clear what kind politics New Labour would actually represent, the Labour Party had around 300,000 members. As the truth behind the slick PR front began to show, these figures started to slide, reaching a nadir of somewhere around 160,000 during Gordon Brown’s era. The numbers picked up slightly during the Miliband days, hitting around 200,000. Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance propelled the numbers to over 500,000. Voting numbers reflected this pattern. As I described before:
Between 1997 and 2010, the Labour Party won three general elections under Tony Blair, but at the same time lost five million votes. Whole swathes of the country, sickened and disillusioned by its desertion of its core values, gradually abandoned it; allowing the Conservative Party to win the election in 2010 — though without an outright majority. Luckily for them, an opportunistic Liberal Democrat Party allowed them to form a coalition, which meant they could assume power and subsequently begin to enact a suite of punitive, ideologically-driven, and economically illiterate austerity policies. For years, even as economists turned against it, and later even otherwise regressive governments and the IMF abandoned it, the Cameron government forged relentlessly ahead with the austerity agenda. Destroying local services; gutting welfare programs; and beginning the final push for the privatization of the National Health Service — the aggressive attacks against the poorest and most disadvantaged in British society could have been seen as almost comical in their scope were they not deleteriously and brutally affecting the lives of millions.
It’s in this context—of popular, grassroots rebellion in the face of a ‘consensus politics’ —that one must consider Jeremy Corbyn. For the most part, politics in Britain for the past few decades has been a managerial sport of sorts. A game for technocratic capitalists to play, enriching themselves from the public coffers while robbing the country blind. The two (or three, if you count the Lib Dems) major parties had their cosmetic differences, and they differed on social issues here and there, but overwhelmingly they all subscribed to the mythic ‘Third Way’—a chimeric fusing of ‘centre-right’ economics and ‘centre-left’ social outlook—championed by the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
We won’t go over Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ nonsense or the hollowness of centrism again. Suffice it to say that this style of politics has proven fundamentally undemocratic—it is arrogant, patrician, and based on the assumption that a professional class of politicians knows what’s best, and that the common folk shouldn’t concern themselves with the fussy details and grind of politics. Leave that to the experts, say the experts. Voter apathy and disengagement has been one of the most tragic outcomes of this ideology, leading to people like Emmanuel Macron in France and indeed Donald Trump in the States. Corbyn—a grassroots campaigner with mass popular appeal and a direct link to the body politic—represents a decisive break from this ideology.
Furthermore, many of Corbyn’s allies and the movement around him have used the leftward shift to push for further democratisation of the Labout Party itself, campaigning among other things for something called ‘mandatory reselection’—essentially a method of primary-ing sitting MPs. Currently it is incredibly difficult to remove a sitting Labour MP once they are in post. Many are ‘parachuted in’ to safe seats with minimal input from the people who live in those constituencies. They may lose a by-election to an MP from a rival political party, but it is nigh-on impossible for a rival MP from the same party to challenge their seat. This has led to a cushy, complacent, entitled, and often corrupt ‘job for life’ attitude amongst a number of Labour MPs. Sensing a threat to their careers, many of them now oppose Corbyn and his movement.
You may now begin to see just why it is often said that there is no political leader in modern British history who has been subjected to the amount of lies, distortions, and outright slander as Jeremy Corbyn. I have quoted this empirical study from the London School of Economics about the media’s treatment of Corbyn liberally before, and I will do so here again because it gets so succinctly to the heart of things:
Our analysis shows that Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected as party leader, with a strong mandate. This process of delegitimisation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism.
All this raises, in our view, a number of pressing ethical questions regarding the role of the media in a democracy. Certainly, democracies need their media to challenge power and offer robust debate, but when this transgresses into an antagonism that undermines legitimate political voices that dare to contest the current status quo, then it is not democracy that is served.
This has only gotten worse as time has gone on and as Corbyn’s Labour has inched closer to power.
It is worth examining this dynamic in more detail.
Why it is that this man, who for decades of his parliamentary career was derided as a soft-hearted hippie; a caricature of a bygone age; an irrelevance; a teetotaling, bicycle riding, allotment-tender; why is he now variously being portrayed as—depending on the week—a national security threat, a racist, a feeble old man, a spy, a traitor, or god knows what else. Why is it this man who seems to rile up the British Establishment more than anyone or anything else? Why has he been subjected to the most vicious, sustained disinformation campaign in modern British history?
Put simply: Jeremy Corbyn—and a Labour Party under his leadership—is the first real threat to the status quo in decades. And for that, he must be destroyed.
Reflect again upon that picture of Britain. A country of bank bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy and punitive welfare policies; of a tiny, privileged elite having a direct path from comfortable birth to private school to power; of aggressive, neo-colonial foreign policy; of austerity and shocking wealth disparity; of minimal social mobility; of racist border policies and of regressive LGBTQI+ attitudes; of a carbon-heavy and grossly financialised economic sector.
The establishment wants to keep things that way. The status quo benefits them handsomely. It gives them a life of such comfort, security, and decadence that most of us can never even dream of. Wars have been fought over much less.
Jeremy Corbyn has spent his political life trying to dismantle that status quo, attempting to build a more just and equitable one in its place. For most of that political life he was confined to the backbenches, and so had influence that was only on a level that was easily controllable. He kept chipping away at the titanic edifice of the status quo, but the damage done could be tolerated. Now, as he leads the main opposition party—which has swollen its ranks to become the largest left wing party in Western Europe as a result of his leadership and which stands on the precipice of government—he is a grave threat. To the establishment, that means war.
I have a reputation here as being somewhat of a Jeremy Corbyn fanboy. Which I guess is a not entirely unfair characterisation. Yet I think it distorts and deeply cheapens the nature of things. It’s a shallow-sounding, derogatory term designed to minimise and dismiss. To be a ‘fanboy’ for someone implies that your affection or respect is a frivolous thing, or out of proportion. My admiration for Corbyn is anything but. It is based on substance, values, and consistency of track record. I have a stake in this country. It is my home. I care about the people who live in it. I want them to have a good life, and I despise callous and greedy elites who seek to enrich themselves at the cost of everyone else and the planet we live on. What’s more I care about people in all countries, and nothing sickens me more than when I see them sacrificed them on the altar of imperial aggression. So when someone against all odds comes along who offers hope in that direction, and who you can actually believe in, you damn better believe it’s gonna inspire passion.
When the media talk of politicians, it seems they often want to focus on what they’ve said. Often just what they’ve said most recently. And it’s understandable to an extent. Words have power. Just look at how people are often swayed by, for example, US Presidential debates. Percentage points of approval shift seismically one way or the other based on the rhetorical flourishes of public performers. Yet actions have infinitely more weight than words, and this semi-obsession with rhetoric above all else seems harmful to the democratic process, to say the least. Policies, voting records, and a history of campaigning—those are the yardsticks by which politicians should above all else be measured. And in fact those are the things that voters very often respond to most strongly. Jeremy Corbyn’s dramatic upset of the expectations of the General Election of 2017 did not come on the back of a fancy speech. It came about because voters responded to his record. To the decades of activism and voting that spoke for themselves.
As an example, here is disabled activist Francesca Martinez, describing why Corbyn’s decades of action speak loudly to her about what kind of person and politician he is:
'When my disabled friends were holding tiny demo's all over trying to cling onto their basic human rights only 2 MP's turned up again & again, and those 2 people where Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell'-@chessmartinez— Ben (@BenJolly9) June 15, 2019
The Peoples PM & Chancellor right therepic.twitter.com/fouMX3MAuL
Corbyn’s record on disabled rights is echoed right across the board, from his campaigning and voting against racism, sexism, and war; and for inclusiveness, peace, human rights, and equality. He doesn’t just vote the right way; he spends his life’s energies to be there, on the ground, on the picker line, on the frontlines, with the people who need him. The phrase ‘right side of history’ is bandied about a lot these days, yet there are few people indeed in the UK Parliament who so neatly encapsulate that description as Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed most politicians deserve the scorn that is so often attached to that word. Jeremy Corbyn is one of the rare breed that sees himself as a servant of the people, and his record backs his worldview up.
As this rather rare positive piece on Corbyn in The Guardian puts it:
Time after time, the Labour party’s ‘worst leader in history’ has called it right. When he had a full head of hair and weighed a pound or two less, he was out on the streets marching (and being arrested) for the end of apartheid in South Africa and the release of Nelson Mandela, who was then branded a terrorist. I know because, like thousands of others, I saw him there. We didn’t see the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher. And maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but I didn’t see Tony Blair either.
When the scandal of systematic miscarriages of justice involving innocent Irishmen and women was at its height in the 1980s, desperate families approached senior members of the Labour opposition for help in reopening the cases. They were rebuffed. Anti-Irish sentiment was rife, and there were no votes for responsible politicians in helping Irish prisoners against the police and judiciary. Who took up their cases? Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell (not forgetting Chris Mullin’s powerful work on behalf of the Birmingham Six). Corbyn and McDonnell had the courage - and it took courage back then - to campaign and organise. But that’s what leaders do.
On ID cards, on extended detentions, on equal pay and gender quality, on protection for workers and trade union rights, on anti-racism initiatives, on tax avoidance by the super rich, on the bedroom tax, on the recent welfare reform bill (Owen Smith? He abstained), on PFI - a massive, shameless scam perpetrated by financial institutions already as rich as Croesus, aided and abetted by government, that has brought the NHS to its knees - Corbyn and McDonnell called it right.
Jeremy Hunt, Micheal Gove, Boris Johnson and others….— EL4C (@EL4JC) June 15, 2019
Sit down, shut up and watch this, you clowns. pic.twitter.com/zeo7HVVA7T
And yet the amount of times I’ve gotten pushback on this. For the past few years I’ve been confronted with many smart, well-informed people casting doubt on Corbyn’s character, or his leadership, or his record, or all three. I don’t begrudge them for it. Many of them do so in good faith, based on what they have heard and keep hearing. They’ll think, ‘Well how can there be so much wrong information out there?’ ‘No smoke without fire’ is an incredibly powerful sentiment after all.
But this is perhaps one of the most shameful episodes in modern British politics—and there is plenty of competition—that a man as fundamentally decent and with such a powerful, undeniable record of doing good, has been endlessly characterised as some sort of demagogue, or fool, or racist. On a personal level, my mind boggles when people claim these things with a straight face. The chasm of morality and action that exists between Corbyn and most of his contemporaries is mind-boggling.
Nevertheless, some of the pushback I get on Corbyn is founded on genuine concerns, and delivered in good faith. So let’s talk about those concerns. There is a lot of disinformation to get through. My goal is not to harangue, but to inform, as I know that sometimes getting to the truth of things in political matters in the modern media can be like sifting through cloudy river water to find splinters of gold.
Challenging accepted narratives is tiring. That is in fact how the system wins—by creating reality through repetition, and wearing down those who try to maintain truth. You get told enough times that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Jeremy Corbyn are unelectable for example, you will start to believe it. The establishment has all the power and resources, so of course it is a titanic struggle to stand up to it and scream the truth; it’s a struggle that can wear you down emotionally as well as physically, and make you buckle and yearn for a break.
One of our wonderful commenters, Amanda Johnson, said this in Dustin’s post on political despair:
So yes, take a break. But don’t use it as an excuse to drop out completely. Because for a lot of us, we don’t get to take a break. Straight up, this is the fight of our lives every. Single. DAY.
And of course, that’s exactly it. That sums it up. There are plenty of us—people who look like me, to put it crudely yet accurately—who, if we so chose to do so, could always put our fingers in our ears, shrink our world, and go about our business. We have always had the option to do this. But it’s precisely because we have that option that it’s vital that we don’t choose it. Amanda’s point is directly related to why I decided to write this piece. Corbyn’s message—the change to the status quo represented by his leadership, offers a glimpse of hope to millions of people who desperately need it. A Corbyn Prime Ministership would save and improve millions of lives. So it shouldn’t matter how tiring it might get, or how dispiriting; it would be an act of egregious privilege for me to ever shut up about this, and to stop trying to fight the tidal wave of disinformation about him.
So let’s tackle some of the most common claims made against Corbyn. Before anything else let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I am biased. Of course I am. 100% biased. This does not mean I am blind, however. Jeremy Corbyn is not some perfect human being or politician. But I believe in Corbyn and his vision. Politically, in many ways I would go even further than him. Yet in my lifetime and more no politician in this country has represented such hope and such a chance for something I consider better, necessary. I am biased towards Corbyn because I am biased towards his politics, towards socialism. Some people may not be. Which is fair enough, we are all biased. Despite this I will try to paint as balanced a picture as I can, and to assume good faith. Oh and if you find yourself noticing numerous references to the media, that’s because we cannot escape a key point of politics (and which you may have noticed makes up a recurring theme in my pieces): The media creates the reality it wants to see, and that reality is not being created to serve our interests.
Claim No.1: Jeremy Corbyn is ineffectual as a leader.
This has been one of the most common refrains since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader in 2015. It is repeated so much in media circles that—like many Corbyn claims—it has become almost axiomatic, yet—again, like so many claims against Corbyn—I find the reasoning behind it sparse, and ignorant of context at best, nonsensical and malicious at worst.
The form this claim often takes is contrasting how apparently poorly Corbyn’s Labour does in polls, as compared to how it would be doing if a different leader was in charge. There is rarely a name put forward as to an alternative. Sometimes MPs like Owen Smith are mentioned, or Yvette Cooper, or—quite often—the Blair era is referenced.
The narrative seems to be setting up the popular and pervasive dichotomy so beloved of a lot of mainstream media these days, that between ‘fringe, populist’ Corbyn, and a more ‘sensible, centrist’ alternative. It’s a convenient and neat picture that nevertheless ignores the fact that a) Corbyn trounced the more ‘sensible, centrist’ candidates in the leadership election that brought him to his current role (getting 59.5% of the vote as compared to the candidate in second place who got 19.0%)—as well as in subsequent coup attempts—and b) Corbyn’s leadership is directly responsible for the mass swelling of party membership and the dramatic upset of the election of 2017. As we have already discussed, the ‘centrism’ and ideological vacuity of New Labour led directly to a desertion of the party by members and voters, and to an apathy that brought us David Cameron and company. It was only a vivified Labour, under Corbyn, that reversed this trend.
To Corbyn’s critics—flying in the face of the undeniable fact that there would be no Corbynism without Corbyn—none of this is good enough. They will often claim that another leader could have done the same, or even better, and that this theoretical leader would now be doing better against the Conservatives. Journalists take turns with right-wing Labour MPs at sniping at the Labour leader. In this environment, hyperbole lies heavy in the air, and baseless figures manifest out of the ether.
Polls in 1997 under Tony Blairs Labour:— Ben (@BenJolly9) June 26, 2019
Where was the 30pt lead back then, Dan? https://t.co/z6Rxogykyg
Despite that needless and calculated hyperbole, it is true that in the early and middle years New Labour did often find themselves comfortably ahead of the Tories in polls. Yet it’s important to remember that 1997 was the year of peak Blair and the politics that he represented. Like much of the West, Britain was riding high on the easy credit bubble of the 90’s. The middle classes were swelling. Recessions were proclaimed a thing of the past as a dramatic economic bubble was said to be a sign of infinite growth. The hollowing out and financialisation of our economies and the signs of the crash that would come could be ignored by the application of cosmetic comforts. As Nobel Prize-winning eonomist Joseph Stiglitz put it in his book ‘The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World’s Most Prosperous Decade’:
[M]uch of the wealth that had been seemingly created in the Roaring Nineties was nothing more than a phantasm, [it] was “stolen” property, acquired through misleading accounting and tax scams, in an economy where corporate governance had failed, and failed badly.
In addition to this impression of a never-ending boom that would assist them in the polls for a good few years after ‘97, we cannot ignore the role of the media in New Labour’s polling. Not much more needs to be said here about Rupert Murdoch and his media empire’s outsized and cancerous influence on global politics. Whether it’s Fox News in the US, his outlets in his native Australia, or The Sun and The Times in the UK, Murdoch has an uncanny power to define the political landscape in multiple countries.
One of the calculations that Tony Blair made that granted his New Labour such a landslide in ‘97 and such strong showings in the polls later was his appeasement of the rabidly capitalist, racist Murdoch press. His administration actively courted the Murdoch circles, both with their policies, and on a personal level—with many high profile members of the party becoming friendly with those high up in Murdoch’s circles, as well as Murdoch himself. Tony Blair is famously godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. As a result the Murdoch press put their considerable clout behind Blair and New Labour, providing a huge bolstering to poll showings.
Indeed even away from the Murdoch machine, Tony Blair was a darling of the media in general. He remains so to this day, often being trotted out by papers and news programmes still wedded to his neoliberal worldview despite the fact that in any sane world he would at the very least be an eternal pariah just for his role in the destruction and mass slaughter that we visited upon Iraq and the catastrophic effects that would have on the wider region—let alone the damage he wrought to the social fabric of the UK. Remember again the class make up of the media at large, and the billionaire and capitalist interests that own it, and you will see why—in contrast to someone like Blair—Jeremy Corbyn inspires precisely the opposite attitude and treatment from the media.
You then have the MPs of the Labour right, who expend considerable energies undermining their leader, saying that a Corbyn-led Labour party is ‘destined to lose a General Election’, or saying that they are willing to ‘stab him in the front rather than the back’, or announcing that they are setting up their own ‘centre-left’ organisation within the Labour Party (with the help of some Blairite donors) to counter Corbyn’s influence. The list goes on and on and has continued at a steady clip since 2015.
Consider then that despite a) a media landscape almost totally hostile to Corbyn’s Labour, and b) significant sections his own party determined to sabotage him, Labour are still somehow managing to very often stay ahead of the Tories. Now, all talk of polling must always be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. Nevertheless, despite the many issues with the practice, the numbers still do not paint as bad an image as anti-Corbyn media figures would have us believe.
Our weighted poll tracker currently has Labour ahead:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) July 15, 2019
TIG (?): 0.7%
Chgs. in graphic w/ GE2017https://t.co/spVpGNV8oG pic.twitter.com/7c9J9suF8x
Consider this incredibly revealing example of the role that the media plays in public opinion:
In Britain, when an election is called, broadcasting rules come into play that level the informational playing field. Media outlets are forced to give fair coverage to all parties. It makes it much harder to skew the political opinions of the public through weighted coverage and distortions. This remarkable graph shows what the polling looked like in Britain before and after the 2017 election was called when those broadcasting rules came into play and Labour’s policies had to be given a fair showing:
That incredibly swing, facilitated by a media forced to play fair, happened thanks to the direction that Corbyn brought to the Labour Party; the left-wing colleagues that supported him in his vision; the thousands of volunteers and campaign staff he inspired; and the millions that turned out to vote for a party transformed by him. That is not a portrait of an inffectual, weak leader.
Let’s also consider that in the only four years that he has been Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has outlasted two Tory leaders and two Lib Dem leaders. And that the party under his leadership has inflicted defeat after defeat upon the Tory government, including historic and unprecedented ones.
Many of those who express the belief that Corbyn is a bad or ineffectual leader I’m sure do so in good faith. They are people who share his vision of a better Britain, yet are frustrated at the difficulty of achieving that vision. To those people I say: I share your frustration. Yet we must remember that the table is heavily stacked against us, and against Corbyn, to an obscene degree. Be patient, and support the project. Appreciate the achievements made in the face of titanic opposition. Do not let us be divided. We can win. We must. The alternative is too horrific to ponder.
Claim No.2: Jeremy Corbyn has been ‘bad on Brexit’.
Let’s throw up some points here, and note that all of them can exist and be true at the same time:
1. Brexit is one of the biggest messes in modern political history.
2. It is a mess entirely made by the Tories. They called the referendum, they are intent on delivering it.
3. Despite having some more than fair personal reservations about the EU, Corbyn campaigned for Remain in the referendum, as per the official party position, and he did so effectively—travelling restlessly up and down the country convincing two-thirds of the party’s supporters to back Remain in the referendum.
4. Labour has an incredibly diverse and fragile electoral coalition to hold together, with levels support for membership of the EU swaying wildly within that coalition. It has tried to hold this coalition together with its policies on Brexit. It needs this coalition if it wants to get into power and a position in which it can change the country for the better.
5. As a result, at times, the messaging has admittedly been less clear or definitive than it should have. Yet, again it must be said that the balancing act Labour have to do is truly Herculean.
6. The EU has done a bunch of good.
7. The EU has done a lot of bad.
8. The EU is—structurally, and from its inception—a big business, capitalist cartel, and it would provide real barriers to any transformative socialist project in the UK. There has yet to be a single ‘Remain and Reform’ strategy that featured any details on how that reform could happen. Every time the EU has reformed, it has done so away from socialism, and instead further towards neoliberal doctrine.
9. Any high-minded claims the EU makes to the sacrosanct nature of free movement must always be tempered by the racist and deadly entity that is ‘Fortress Europe’—as of last year over 30,000 deaths have been recorded of migrants (mostly migrants of colour) trying to reach Europe (often, it must be said, as a result of Western foreign policy).
10. Corbyn’s Labour have inflicted defeat after defeat after defeat on the Tories’ Brexit. Nevertheless, Parliamentary arithmetic means they do not have the power to just ‘cancel’ Brexit, as many commentators seem to imply. Neither is it so simple as campaigning for a second referendum—as many studies have pointed to there being no significant swing away from the results of the first referendum. Furthermore, time and time again it has been the case that many vocal anti-Brexit Parliamentarians have publicly lambasted Corbyn for his supposedly deficient stance on Brexit, and then voted with the Government and against any Corbyn motions aimed at frustrating Brexit, all the while they and the media put the blame on Corbyn’s Labour.
11. Brexit was in many ways a racist, xenophobic campaign. It was also the result of a long-simmering and entirely justifiable rage with a capitalist status quo that has completely hollowed out and devastated vast swathes of the country. Brexit represents either a horrific, reactionary, neoliberal bonfire of regulations—if carried out and followed up on by the Tories—or it could lead to a historic opportunity to break with the neoliberal consensus of the EU—if it goes ahead and a Labour government follows. It is a tool. Its effects will depend on who wields it and who will have influence on its after-effects.
Again, I know that some of the people expressing their dissatisfaction with Corbyn with regard to Brexit are doing so out of frustration and good faith. What I find strange to say the least is when people say that they simply cannot support Corbyn because of his ‘stance on Brexit’, as both in his campaigning during the referendum and in his performance in the Commons since then, Corbyn has proven an enemy of the Tories’ Brexit every step of the way.
Claim No.3: Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist, or terrorist sympathiser.
This claim, once inescapable, has disappeared somewhat from mainstream discourse, so I won’t be giving it unnecessary weight be allocating much space to it here. It was always patently ridiculous and I only ever really saw it trotted out in bad faith—which is nor the type of claims I want to address in this piece. What I will say is that the fact that it has largely disappeared is revealing and emblematic of the life-cycle of the slurs and claims made against Jeremy Corbyn, which follow a sort of ‘throw; see if it sticks at least a bit; if it does keep throwing more of it; if not, retire it for now, maybe bring it back later’ loop. It’s fascinating and depressing to watch all at once. Blessedly this claim seems to be at the ‘retire it for now’ stage of its life-cycle. With a possible General Election looming, however, keep your eyes peeled, for we may well yet see it revived.
Claim No.4: ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite, or is too soft on anti-Semitism. The same goes for the Labour Party, which is institutionally anti-Semitic or at least rife with anti-Semites.’
I have left this claim until last. It concerns a rightfully an emotive and highly charged issue, grounded in real and grave concerns about one of the most insidious forms of racism that exists or has ever existed.
I am going to provide some evidence and external analysis that addresses the claim as phrased above. This analysis should be held separate from the experience of individual members. Anecdotal evidence of anti-Semitism, as with any racism, should always be a priori treated with respect, and in good faith. In a political entity such as the Labour Party, which aims to be a progressive and inclusive party for all who share its goals of a socialist future, the ultimate goal should always be that the number of its members who engage in any sort of racism is simply zero. Unfortunately, this is likely impossible, simply because of the numbers involved, as well as the nature of people. The Labour Party has over half a million members, and people will—to an extent—always be people, and exhibit truly abhorrent traits.
Nevertheless, the charges most often brought against Labour these days are that it is ‘rotten’ or ‘rife’ with antisemitism. That that horrible disease infects it on an ‘institutional level’, or that it does not do enough to tackle it. In order to examine claims that use such terms—and what they imply—more is needed. Anecdotal data is important, yet often insufficient. Of course, broader, more rigorous data is not always available. In this case however, it is. So what does the data tell us?
An article in Open Democracy tell us that:
[A] cross-Party Home Affairs Committee examined antisemitism in the UK and reported on its findings in October 2016. The committee acknowledged that there was ‘no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political Party’.
[W]e should remind ourselves of one of the conclusions of a major 2017 study of UK antisemitism undertaken by the respected Jewish community think tank, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), together with the Community Security Trust (CST), the private charity that monitors and combats antisemitism for the organized Jewish community: ‘antisemitism is no more prevalent on the left than in the general population’. A conclusion that echoed the finding of the 2016 Home Affairs Committee report on UK antisemitism quoted above.
Similar figures can be found in reports by organisations such as Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Interestingly, despite providing what seems like a positive impression of Labour, the article quoted above also reports the following:
But in what the Guardian called ‘a damning indictment of the Party and its leader’, the committee claimed that Corbyn’s lack of action ‘risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.’ The Guardian added: ‘it is withering about the Labour leader’s response to antisemitic attacks on his own MPs, and his understanding of modern forms of racism’.
That seems to imply that despite there being no real evidence for anti-Semitism being higher in Labour than any other political party, or more prevalent in the left than the general population, there are still genuine concerns about the Labour Party and its membership.
In February of 2019, an article by Jewish Voice For Labour dived into the figures on complaints of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party:
There were in fact 673 allegations against Labour members reported over the previous 10 months, not all involving recent events. One allegation concerned an 8-year old incident. The number reported seems modest - certainly in relation to the media hysteria last year -especially when we suspect significant trawling of internet by certain groups, trawling that could grossly inflate any numbers obtained simply from spontaneous reporting by victims themselves.
In addition to the 673 there were a further 433 allegations reported to Labour that did not in fact concern Labour members. Such errors of attribution have clearly inflated perceptions of how many genuine Labour members may be antisemitic.
Of these 673 linked to Labour members, 220 (33%) were rejected because there was insufficient evidence.
So in Labour we now have 453 allegations which seem to have been handled correctly and promptly. This represents 0.08% of our 540,000 members. It rather contradicts the myth that in Labour antisemitism is “rampant”, or that it has become a “cess-pit of antisemitism” or “an unsafe place for Jews”.
The article continues, providing context:
How should we interpret this 0.08% figure?
One guide can come from the biggest survey ever undertaken into antisemitism by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. The author, L Daniel Staetsky, found that 30% of some 4,005 responders agreed with one or more of 8 statements considered to be ‘antisemitic’, ranging from stereotypes such as ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ or ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’ to Holocaust denial.
So according to Staetsky’s report, around 30% of our UK society (excluding the far right) could quite easily express at least one antisemitic stereotype, usually without this being motivated by the hatred or hostility towards Jews that is more likely in only 3.6% of the population.
As Labour Party members have been assessed as very slightly to the left of Labour voters we would expect a similar 30%/3.6% prevalence. These figures were as reported in the groups from the very left-wing to centre, where Staetsky found most Labour voters.
According to this and other surveys into antisemitism, Tory voters and members should in fact have a slightly higher prevalence of antisemitism than Labour, so it was already surprising that Labour alone had come under such scrutiny and attack.
Of course not everyone will manifest their prejudices, and not all those that do will be reported. But, even so, and given the probability of internet trawling, the 0.08% prevalence of antisemitic allegations concerning Labour Party members seems low, and certainly does not suggest a widespread problem.
Indeed, this tweet shows a stark picture using YouGov polling data:
That last bit is important.
Because it must also be remembered—and as we have already outlined in previous sections—that the Labour Party is not a homogeneous monolith. It currently has 247 MPs in Parliament, over half a million members, and like any political party it has ideological wings, who—despite existing under the same political entity—often disagree wildly on a number of issues. In fact one of the most dramatic political battles happening right now in Britain is between the established Labour right on one side, and the coalition of old school, formerly marginalised left and the energised youth brought onboard by Corbyn’s shift of the party to the left on the other.
As I have detailed extensively before, not only was Corbyn subject to a ceaseless disinformation and delegitimisation campaign from very outset of his leadership by the media, a very similar campaign began immediately from within his own party too. You may remember from my linked post above that Corbyn had only just about squeaked onto the leadership ballot thanks to some right-wing MPs sponsoring him so as to give the appearance of a broad spectrum of opinion being offered. Completely out of touch with the mood of the country and of the party membership, they severely underestimated the fervent desire to see someone with his politics be given a chance for a change. The coup attempts, leaks, attacks, and negative and undermining briefings to the media began almost immediately as a desperate response and have continued to this day. The behaviour of factions of the Labour Party in recent years shows a gallery of MPs apparently far more concerned with attacking the first chance of a socialist government in decades, rather than one of the most right-wing governments in history. It is a depressingly revealing sight.
How does this link in with our discussion of anti-Semitism? Well, it seems that in their efforts at wresting back control of the party the right-wing, anti-Corbyn factions within Labour have been engaging in the most disgusting and cynical weaponisation of anti-Semitism against the new party leadership. With regards to allegations that claim that Corbyn has been too slow to deal with complaints of anti-Semitism in the party, Jon Lansman, the (Jewish) head of Corbyn-backing group Momentum, said:
I recently tweeted - in defence of Laura Murray, recently appointed as Labour’s head of complaints, and her record in tackling antisemitism - that disgruntled ex-staffers, presumably involved in selectively leaking and misrepresenting emails involving her, had themselves frustrated antisemitism cases to make the party and the leadership look bad.
My position now appears to have been vindicated. Emails leaked to Buzzfeed suggest that former compliance unit officials from the Labour right may have delayed action on some of the most extreme and high-profile antisemitism cases, including Holocaust denial, allowing a backlog of cases to build up that would damage the party and Jeremy’s leadership.
Contrary to recent narratives, the emails show that it was Laura Murray and Jeremy’s office pushing for action on cases.
The emails that were leaked by disgruntled Labour right ex-staffers were used to attack a process that they themselves set up.
The authority to take decisions on cases rested with them, not the leader’s office, and the emails leaked to the Sunday Times showed it was those ex-staffers who emailed the leader’s office repeatedly seeking their views - not the leader’s office emailing to insert themselves into decisions. I think this may have been their plan all along: to ask staff in the leader’s office for their views on cases under the guise of addressing the backlog, then to later use the emails to allege leader’s office interference.
In other words, right-wing members of the teams designed to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism had worked to use some historical cases as tools with which to sabotage Corbyn and his team. There are ways to go yet with Labour’s processes and structures, and improvement will be a never-ending process, as it must be, yet despite this, since Corbyn and Jennie Formby—the new general secretary of the Labour Party and Corbyn ally—have been in post, cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party have actually gone down, and the cases that have been brought up have been dealt with better than before. The direction of travel is the correct one. That is not a fact that you will ever hear mentioned in mainstream coverage. You will only ever hear the (often baseless) counter argument or the same anti-Corbyn voices getting amplified. This shockingly bad faith and offensive use of anti-Semitism as a political tool is a pattern, and tactic you see replicated by other people seeking to damage Corbyn and the Labour left, both in political circles and in the media. It represents everything that is rotten with the discourse around the issue.
‘Whataboutism’ has become a much used term in modern political discourse. It refers to a rhetorical smokescreen, or a ‘look over there!’ style distraction in political debate whereby a side under scrutiny attempts to shift the attention to the other side. Sometimes it is an entirely valid objection. At other times, however, cries of ‘whataboutism’ are misguided. When we talk about the media and how it intertwines with politics for example, a comparative study of emphasis, framing, and coverage becomes not just useful, but vital. Think for example of how left-leaning politicians in the States like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get treated by the media, as compared to right-wing politicians, and of what agenda that serves.
If we take just one issue as an example: universal healthcare vs. military intervention. When the former is proposed by a left-leaning politician, the flurry of interrogation begins: How will you pay for it? Is there an appetite for it? What are the pros and cons? Immediately the right-wing status quo is presented as the rational, safe choice, and the left-wing position seen as a potentially dangerous, renegade route. When military intervention is proposed on the other hand, the framing, emphasis, and coverage become entirely different. How exactly will it be done, when it goes ahead? To what extent will we attack (because some level is a priori assumed)?
The issue is replicated across the board. It is not ‘whataboutism’ to point out that the media’s role in this to bolster one side at the expense of the other. So too is it with coverage of ‘anti-Semitism in Labour’ as compared to racism—of all stripes—within the Tory party. Any single instance or accusation of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party gets wall-to-wall coverage in the press and is presented as statistical proof that the organisation—and its leader by inference—are unfit for government at best and actively dangerous at worst. When, on the other hand, a study of the Tory Party membership finds truly shocking levels of—to use just one example—Islamophobia prevalent in its ranks, the framing, emphasis, and coverage is almost cartoonishly different. As Owen Jones put it recently:
Recent polls conducted for Hope Not Hate by YouGov - which has a solid record when looking at party members - is horrifying. It found that 60% of Tory members believe Islam “is generally a threat to western civilisation”, with less than one in five dissenting; that 54% hold it to be “generally a threat to the British way of life”; and 43% do not want a Muslim as prime minister. Two-thirds believe the lie that parts of Britain are under sharia law; another 45% believe in the racist nonsense that there are no-go areas for non-Muslims; and 40% want to limit Britain’s Muslim population. Among the most chilling findings was that 42% believe “having people from a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds” has damaged British society, with just 39% dissenting.
Digest that carefully: more Tory members than not believe that the very presence of minorities has damaged our society. These are far-right beliefs and yet they are mainstream in the party of government.
This should be a national scandal, and yet it is not. It is not splashed on all the front pages; it is not topping news bulletins; it is not the relentless topic of TV pundit debates; it is not leading to disgusted resignations from the Tory party; it is not provoking frenzied warnings that the Tory party is not fit for power. Let me conduct a thought experiment: imagine a poll that found that 60% of Labour members agreed that Judaism is “generally a threat to western civilisation”, or that 43% did not want a Jewish prime minister, or 40% wanted to limit the number of Jews entering Britain. Such findings would quite rightly cause an explosion of outrage, as well as passionate warnings, including from me, that Labour must be kept from winning office.
This not to pit Islamophobia against antisemitism in a grotesque racism Olympics. Rather, it is to say that anti-Muslim racism should be treated with the same seriousness as antisemitism. Anti-racism that is not consistent is not anti-racism at all.
The Tories are about to elect a man who compared Muslim women to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”, and described black people as “piccanninies” with “watermelon smiles”. The most prominent Tory female Muslim politician, Sayeeda Warsi, has described Islamophobia as “very widespread” in the party, existing “right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top”. She has also said she was fearful of Michael Gove becoming prime minister because of his views on Muslims. And let us not forget the Windrush scandal. And yet, what outrage?
Anti-Semitism is a rightfully emotive concern. It led to one of the most horrific episodes in human history. And even one member of the Labour Party expressing anti-Semitic views is too many. Yet it is precisely because of the highly charged nature of the issue that so many right-wing MPs and media outlets opposed to a Corbyn government are so heinously now using it as a political football, and why we must be more wary than ever that the issue does not become a cynical stick with which to beat political enemies, as that risks cheapening the term and damaging the very real and necessary struggle against this most ancient of hatreds.
Just finally on this issue, and to come back to Jeremy Corbyn as an individual, we return to the Open Democracy article linked at the outset of the section. It reminds us that as far as anti-Semitism is concerned, ‘The term only began to be used to characterize the behaviour of the Labour Party towards Jews after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.’ Why might that be? As per an article in the UK media analysis website MediaLens:
In July, we conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search, which found the following hits for UK press articles mentioning:
‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ before May 2015 = 18 hits
‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ after May 2015 = 6,133 hits
None of the 18 mentions before May 2015 included any accusation that Corbyn was antisemitic. And it was not, as some people have claimed, that Corbyn, a leading anti-war MP, was unknown or unworthy of attention. ProQuest found 3,659 hits for ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ before May 2015.
Writing for the Medium website last month, Patrick Elliot described his own research confirming these results. Elliot noted that the first story ever to be published in a UK national newspaper with the words ‘Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ in the same sentence appeared in the Guardian on August 13, 2015, reporting an accusation the previous day in The Jewish Chronicle. The voting process for the Labour leadership election began one day later, on August 14. Elliot wrote:
‘During the three years of Corbyn’s Labour leadership, the association of antisemitism with the Labour Party has been a relentless media narrative. The 2,087 articles published in that time have come at an average of nearly two per day.
‘Yet in more than six and a half years prior to his election, just 178 articles were published associating the Party with antisemitism, at an average of one every fortnight. Is antisemitism 25 times more prevalent in the Party now?’
The conclusion seems inescapable: Bad data, bad faith, and a concerted effort to damage Jeremy Corbyn using a horrendously offensive campaign with anti-Semitism as a political tool.
A snapshot of Corbyn’s record on anti-Semitism:
Those are just a few of the main claims that are most often made against Jeremy Corbyn. I suppose I could’ve kept going, but to be frank: If people are set in their ways at believing something, then there is not much you can do. Another 1,000 words won’t achieve much. I said it above and I’ll say it again: I am not claiming that Corbyn is perfect, nor that he is a saint. It would be a straw man argument to claim that I am. All I intended to do—and I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a long time—was to provide some little counterweight to the ceaseless torrent of propaganda and misinformation that surrounds the Labour leader. It feels at this point almost like a duty to do so.
Because it comes down to this: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the best chance of a real break from a destructive ideological dogma in decades. It is quite possible the only chance for the foreseeable future. Remember again the portrait of the country we considered at the outset. Of a series of chrome penthouse suites occupied by a gilded few overlooking a destitute and scorched landscape suffered by the many. A country in which a tiny elite siphon off the wealth of the people to fund their lavish lifestyles while millions are condemned to misery and despair.
Then consider the manifesto which Corbyn’s Labour Party ran on in 2017, which brought millions out of apathy and despair and to the voting booth. Its vision promised an entirely different reality for the country. A quick reminder of that vision, as per Labour’s 2017 manifesto:
- Scrap student tuition fees
- Re-introduce the 50p rate of tax on the highest earners (above £123,000)
- Nationalisation of England’s nine water companies
- Bring the railways back into public ownership as franchises expire
- Reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail “at the earliest opportunity”
- Income tax rate 45p on £80,000 and above
- Guarantee triple lock for pensioner incomes
- More free childcare, expanding free provisions for two, three and four year old
- End to zero hours contracts
- Moves to charge companies a levy on salaries above £330,000
- Create at least one publicly-owned energy company in every region of the UK, with public control of the transmission and distribution grids.
- Extra tax take in total £48.6bn
- £6.4bn from income tax from the top 5%
- Extra £19.4bn from corporation tax
- £6.5bn from tax avoidance programme
- Create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250bn over 10 years in upgrading the economy
- Deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022
- A National Investment Bank as part of a plan to provide £250bn of lending power over the next decade for infrastructure
- Maximum pay ratios of 20:1 to be rolled out in public sector
- Raise minimum wage to “at least £10 per hour by 2020”
- Ban unpaid internships
- Enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work
- Abolish employment tribunal fees - so that people have access to justice
- Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions
- A ban on fracking
- Build over one million more homes, with at least half for social rent
- Homeowners willbe offered interest free loans to improve their properties
- Guarantee help to buy funding until 2027 and give locals buying their first home “first dibs on new homes built in their area”
- Legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants, and look at giving the Mayor of London power to give London renters “additional security”
- Make 4,000 additional homes available for rough sleepers to end homelessness.
You can read more here if you so wish.
And that was just the start. The party has only built on these ideas since, taking a proactive stance on the most pressing issue of our time—the climate disaster already happening around us—by launching a Green New Deal, amongst many other desperately necessary initiatives. You want to know what a revolution without guillotines or rifles looks like? You’ve just read it. The Labour Party—as defined and transformed by Jeremy Corbyn since 2015—offers nothing so pedestrian as ‘an alternative’. It’s no hyperbole to say that, in Britain at least—in the face of the most right-wing government since the mid-19th century—it is the only chance of salvation. For all its faults, the British Establishment is viciously smart, and intuitive. It knows that when it sees someone like Corbyn, they see an entity that they know cannot be bought, or corrupted. He must instead be destroyed. So don’t fall for the lies or the slander or the attempts at division. This is someone finally speaking for the weak, the marginalised, for the millions who have been denied a voice. He’s speaking for the people, as he always has. This is your movement, and it might be the only in of its kind for a long time. Stand with it.
Image sources (in order of posting): Getty Images, BBC, Parliament, Twitter Tory Fibs