Friday, 14 July 2017

Those who think the Corbyn leadership can change are dreaming. Appeasement will only strengthen the hard left’s hand

Last week Luciana Berger, prominent centrist, Jewish MP and Corbyn critic, underwent a coup on her local party’s Executive Committee, with nine out of ten places going to Momentum members.

Shortly afterwards, one of said members, Roy Bentham, demanded a pledge of allegiance to the leadership from her, the implication being that, if she did not start to be behave herself as a good Corbynite, she would soon face deselection: “Luciana needs to get on board quite quickly now…she will have to be answerable to us. We would like her to come out publicly like other MPs have done and apologise for not supporting him in the past.”

We could look at this story in two ways. First, the way that the local party and, ultimately, Berger herself have spun it: that it was an exaggerated story from the Liverpool local press, stirring up trouble. There was a tweet to that effect from Berger, disassociating herself from the Sunday Times tweet on the story, and a statement that the party was doing well under Corbyn. The local CLP also distanced itself from the remarks made by Bentham.

The second way is this: exactly what the Times said in its leader (£). In short, whatever the local party or MP might claim, there will definitely be a move to oust Berger, at least unless she toes the Corbynite line from now on. It is not hard to see that this is the right interpretation, whether Berger wants to accept it or not. One has to ask why Momentum would bother to take control a local party and then leave in place an MP who has views diametrically opposed to the Momentumites.

One might also reasonably ask the question, why mention the fact here that Berger is Jewish? The answer is, sadly, because it matters in some quarters of the Labour party nowadays, especially for some (although surely not all) members of Momentum.

There are four female, Jewish MPs in the PLP. All have experienced considerable and documented anti-Semitic abuse in recent months. While some comes, inevitably, from the far right, much comes also from the far left, particularly the Palestine-supporting, BDS (sanctions against Israel) crowd. But it also seems that the vitriol is particularly reserved for women, where the misogynism of the far left is already a well-known phenomenon (cf. the Comrade Delta rape case in the Socialist Workers Party).

Jackie Walker, former national Vice Chair of Momentum before her suspension for alleged anti-Semitism, this week attended the PalExpo event, where she took videos of some of the most unpleasant speakers and posted them online (hat-tip to John Paul Pagano, who blogged about this here). While Momentum undoubtedly contains some decent folk who are simply and naively besotted with Corbyn, it also contains some rather nastier elements, like Walker.

So not only has Berger taken a somewhat anti-Corbyn stance in the past, she is a “Zionist”, as the far left euphemises Jewishness these days. And hence, against the core principles of most Momentumites from the word “go” (pro-Corbyn, anti-Israel). Does she really believe they will just stand by and let her be?

I understand Berger’s inclination to play down the story. It is not helpful for her personally. However, if she truly believes they will not one day come for her, she has to be as naïve as the younger Corbynites, who are happy not to delve too deeply into the Dear Leader’s past. And one has to ask how constructive it is, for the PLP as a whole, that those who are attacked simply pretend that nothing is happening. Indeed, the Berger statement ended up being largely what had been demanded by Bentham, short of an explicit apology, whether that was intentional or not.

Another vignette of the last few days is the revelation of Corbyn spokesman Seumas Milne’s apparent dalliance with Jennifer Robinson, lawyer to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. The disturbing story here, of course, is not the tabloid titillation value of Milne’s alleged infidelity, it is the fact that the Labour leadership obviously has close links to Wikileaks.

Since the Russian meddling in the US elections, aided and abetted by Wikileaks, it has become impossible to believe – if indeed it ever were possible – that organisation’s hype as doughty defenders of democracy and freedom of information. It is clear that they are happy to hurt anyone as long as it is the Western Establishment and also by now crashingly obvious that they do not, ever, criticise the Putin regime.

Like the equally foolish and vain Edward Snowden, also exiled from the West, to think of Assange nowadays as anything more than a “useful idiot” for that regime – and for the Trump administration it clearly supports – is simply not tenable.

So, it seems that Corbyn, his inner circle and his core Momentum supporters (those who were from the hard left all along, not the recent joiners) are exactly as they were five, ten or thirty years ago. They’re nothing if not consistent. They hang out with dictator apologists and genocide deniers. They actively move for the takeover of the party and the crushing of the centrists.

Those who think that a “mellowed” Corbyn can now kiss and make up with the rest of the PLP are simply ostrich-like fantasists, desperate to believe in an way out of the party sinking into full civil war, or a split. They take the party’s better-than-expected defeat in June as a ray of hope, that everyone can pull together and take out the admittedly useless Tories. But they are wrong. Labour is merely papering ineffectually over the cracks and the public is not so easily fooled.

No, not only would “one more heave” probably not have worked under John Smith, as optimists on the party’s left, reluctant to give credence to Blair’s landslide, often assert that it would have, had he lived; it certainly will not work now. The party is divided and damaged almost beyond repair, and a stable state for it still lies a long way off.

If we want to reach for an example of how Corbyn is unchanged, we need not look very far. Last night, on the 22nd anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, Corbyn – lest we forget, a man who did not believe genocide ever happened in Kosovo – decided to have dinner with Marcus Papadopoulos, a renowned Srebrenica-denier and Assad apologist.

Do we honestly believe that a man who devoted his life to nuclear disarmament and dismantling NATO has suddenly changed his views? Or that he would not pursue a relationship with Russia frankly dangerous to Britain?

Of course not. The reason for these viewpoints not making it into Labour’s recent manifesto was not because his views have in any way softened, but merely because Corbyn was not strong enough to push them through in the face of PLP resistance. This weakness, if he gets his way with the PLP, will not always be the case.

Wait until Conference, when the rule changes come. Or the next one, if they fail this time. And the deselections in local parties. Sooner or later, if acquiesced to, Corbyn will succeed in shaping the PLP in his own image. At that point, Labour will be over as a serious party.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

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