Shows like Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches have sought to create a perception, in the eyes of the public, that there exists a culture of chaos and fear inside the Labour Party, while laying the blame for this squarely at door of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. To call their evidence flimsy, would be an understatement. In truth their ‘undercover expose’ found absolutely nothing, but somehow they managed to make activists seem sinister, by using peculiar camera angles and eerie music.
In 21st century Britain we have the spectacle of journalistic ‘entryists’ infiltrating what are completely open and transparent meetings and uncovering such horrors as ‘Trotskyist creches’, or as many of us would call them, creches. We have been informed that activists on the left have been campaigning to replace people who don’t represent their views, by recruiting new members and convincing them to vote for left-wing candidates instead.
None of this is actually news. In fact there’s a more accurate term for this sort of thing; they call it democracy. After all, if its not democratic for members to organise themselves in order to ensure they are represented by people who share their views, then how does the N.E.C. deal with ‘Saving Labour’s’ campaign to recruit thousands to their cause, in order to ensure a victory for Owen Smith? Or is this only undemocratic when the left do it?
Of course there’s a reason why the ‘moderate tendency’ within the party cry plots and takeovers every time their positions are under threat; its because this is actually how they took control of Labour back in the 1990’s. In case you were under the impression that the massed rank and file dreamt up the concept of ‘New Labour’ and the resultant lurch to the right, let me put you straight. This whole project was cooked up by a small group of determined individuals operating out of Labour’s headquarters at Millbank Tower.
As a consequence over time membership plummeted, allowing this wing of the party to exert ever greater control. In the same period conference was reduced to little more than an annual rally, decisions about policy and the selection of prospective parliamentary candidates have been increasingly the preserve of the centre and a powerful bureaucracy has emerged that now sees its self as the first and last word on all matters. What’s more it behaves in ways that suggests it has an absolute right to be in control.
This sense of entitlement, coupled with the belief that somehow the market on truth has been cornered, is both delusional and extremely dangerous. To suggest that opponents are living in the past, while at the same time aggressively advocating a doctrine that is now thirty years old, is indeed odd. But its is deeply worrying when it leads to the stifling of debate, closing down meetings and silencing alternative viewpoints. In doing so, they demostrate that the title ‘moderate’ when applied to them, is an epic misnomer.
Ordinary members and in particular new recruits, many of them young and enthusiastic, have been treated appallingly. Instead of being warmly welcomed, they have been smeared and treated with derision. They should have been viewed as the foundations of a future General Election victory, instead every attempt has been made, including through the courts, to exclude them from the democratic process.
Recently Owen Smith’s campaign team have been boasting that the vote will be much closer than anticipated; despite polls that suggests Corbyn is on course for an even bigger victory than he achieved a year ago. What could explain such hubris? Could it be anything to do with the unprecedented purge of Jeremy’s supporters?
Of course if you are a Smith supporter, or an opponent of Labour, you may not care about any of this. You really should though, and here’s why. The tumult inside the UK Labour Party is an illustration of how narrow the political discourse in our country has become. It shows what can happen to anyone who puts forward an alternative perspective, and it’s not pretty.
When you strip away the hyperbole, the lies and the distortions, what have Corbyn and his allies actually done to merit such attacks? Surely opponents claims of incompetence can no longer be taken seriously, when they are made by the perpetrators of a gaffe riddled coup. How can we give credence to questions of electability, when his detractors have handed the city of Bristol to the Tories, as a result of a purge of Corbyn supporting councillors.
Furthermore, how hollow do accusations of misogyny seem, when weighed against the fact that two thirds of female Labour members support the current leader, while his opponent talks of smashing women ‘back on their heels’ and shutting up female opponents with gobstoppers.
In fact once you discount all of this nonsense, you are left with one extremely unpalatable truth. Far from being a threat to our security and prosperity, Corbyn is simply guilty of challenging the perceived wisdom of the permanent political class. He is a threat to their status and power, and they have shown that they will stop at nothing to undermine and destabilise his leadership.
Today it is Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn in the firing line, but what if tomorrow the illusive centre ground of British politics shifts a little further to the right? What happens if you find yourself out on a left-wing limb? Consider groups like the junior doctors, once held in high esteem, now pilloried and demonised as Marxists and trouble-makers, hell-bent on overthrowing the government. Could that be you one day? If we don’t stand up for democratic principles in the Labour Party now, it could well be.
The subversion of democracy, even when it seeks to damage those we disagree with, harms all of us. Whether you support Jeremy Corbyn or not, if you believe in the values of fairness and justice, you should be outraged at the behaviour of the ‘moderate tendency’ and their delusional sense of entitlement.