Obviously This Writer does not sympathise with Chris McKeon completely – he self-identifies as Corbyn-sceptic while I support the Labour leader.
He makes a good point – that the Labour Party has already split into two different political groups, characterised by the fact that they refer to each other in terms reserved for opposing organisations.
The article could have benefited from some discussion of how this came about, however.
History shows that Labour suffered a serious shock after Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism-powered Conservatives won the 1979 election. After several years of confusion, the rise of Neil Kinnock signalled a change of direction towards the Right – amplified with the ascendance of Tony Blair in the 1990s.
There was a huge amount of right-wing entryism into Labour at this time – typified by the establishment of the practice of “parachuting” right-wing candidates into “safe” seats to ensure that Blairite-neoliberal policies would be supported in Parliament.
Meanwhile the traditional Left was pushed into the background. Members and voters who upheld the views of the old-style Labour Party were sidelined and either quit the party or stopped voting for it. Membership dwindled and voter support slipped away.
People wanted a party that opposed Conservative neoliberalism – not one that agreed with most of its policies in the belief that this was what made politicians “electable”.
Then a gap appeared in right-wing Labour’s armour. MPs thought it would be “fair” to let a left-wing candidate take part in the 2015 leadership election.
Jeremy Corbyn stormed it.
Of course he did. He represented a section of the party that had been suppressed for decades but had recently been given a voice by the right-wingers’ attempts to shut up the trade unions (whose left-wing leanings were no doubt considered to be more undesirable relics of the old days).
His victory signalled a return to the party for many ex-members who had abandoned it, along with new members who had found a version of politics they could support – more than doubling the size of Labour’s membership and increasing its electability.
And what did the right-wingers who had taken over Labour’s positions of power have to say about that? Did they accept the change with good grace and do their best to help the party in its new direction?
They dug their heels in, hindered Mr Corbyn in as many ways as they could find, accused him of incompetence in matters where no evidence was available, and attacked his supporters for having supported other parties and for holding unacceptable views.
Accusations of anti-Semitism, misogyny and the like have been defeated quite convincingly, although there remain some holdouts who will repeat defeated arguments in the face of all the evidence.
As for support for other parties – Labour had been a right-wing, authoritarian party for many years by the time Mr Corbyn came on the scene. Obviously people with activist leanings had joined other parties in the meantime, but that does not justify excluding them when they came back into the fold.
So we have seen a huge amount of right-wing entryism into a left-wing party, and then when left-wingers returned we have seen a huge amount of unfair accusations from the cuckoos in the nest.
Perhaps a split is inevitable. Perhaps it is because some now inhabiting the Labour Party weren’t really Labour people at all.
The Labour Party is a deeply unpleasant place to be right now.
People who criticise Corbyn have their motives questioned – when JK Rowling came out against the leader, she was accused of being a billionaire worried about extra taxes under Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Smith’s partisans deride their opponents as delusional members of the Cult of Corbyn, whom they mockingly call ‘the Jezziah’. Both sides accuse each other of being liars, aiding the Tories and not being ‘real Labour’.
Non-Corbynite members set up a secret group where they could express their doubts about the party’s leadership ‘without facing attacks of “Blairite” and “go join the Tories”’, in the words of the group’s founders. But while this group has seen measured discussion of the problems facing Labour, it has also acted as an echo chamber amplifying the unpleasantness. There are frequent posts mocking ‘the cult’ along with cartoons of turkeys voting for Christmas overlain with ‘I voted for Jeremy’ banners.
It is a similar story on the ‘Owen 4 Leader’ group, where one member has rewritten Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General’s song, with lyrics describing Corbyn as ‘ineffectual’ and a ‘bottom feeder’.
In fact, both sides are talking about each other in ways that we used to reserve for discussion of other political parties. There is no sense that we all ultimately want the same thing. We are no longer all on the same side.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: