Saturday, 29 July 2017

Cult of personality? The writing's on the wall.

Nothing makes Corbynistas more angry than the suggestion there are cult-like qualities to their movement and their veneration of the man they affectionately label ‘JC’. This accusation is viewed as such a slur, in fact, that on some social media channels moderated by the far left, anyone using the term ‘cult’ is deemed to be abusive and is in danger of finding themselves banned.

The evidence – specifically a cult of personality - is, however, now so strong as to be incontrovertible.

The madness reached some kind of apogee this week with the unveiling of a mural of Corbyn on his home turf of Islington.  

Let’s be clear. Murals celebrating political figures are not a part of British culture, unless of course you count the streets of West Belfast, where the Labour Leader has built up a strong network of contacts over the years. I’m sure they are de rigueur in parts of Gaza City, where the veteran socialist MP counts yet more friends.

It’s difficult to establish who is the more idiotic. The people responsible for the curation of this hideous blight on the north London landscape? Or Corbyn himself – so puffed up and full of his self-importance that he actually went along to some kind of ceremony to install it. 

This is, of course, just part of a much wider story.

Online, we find toe-curling memes celebrating Corbyn’s blessed humanity and philanthropy. If Mother Teresa were alive today, she’d be shocked to find that she’d been overtaken by the sage of N4 who has been on the ‘right side of history’ more often than he’s waded his way through crowds of Trotskyist newspaper sellers to address rallies of the faithful.

And what about the merchandise? It’s possible to buy semi-official Jezuit memorabilia from his Momentum fan club, but ironically there are other outlets online who seem to recognise an opportunity for free enterprise.

My Facebook feed is full of t-shirts celebrating the Jezster by appropriating the logos and slogans of commercial brands such as Converse and Carlsberg. I can only assume that the intellectual property lawyers have bigger fish to fry, but a few ‘cease and desist’ letters probably wouldn’t go amiss.

His image hangs proudly in the streets. His words, insights and aphorisms are shared among devotees. And there are mugs everywhere. Both literally and metaphorically.

We have no reference points in British politics for the peculiar psychological baggage that now surrounds the Corbyn leadership. The only parallels can be found in religion, celebrity culture or the stifling sentimentality that surrounds members of the Royal family. 

The weird, slightly feverish atmosphere this summer at times reminded me of the madness which descended in the wake of Princess Diana’s death 20 years ago. A bizarre association, it’s true, but the one which honestly comes to mind.

Jeremy Corbyn is obviously no Princess Diana. And he’s no Joseph Stalin either. But no decent, trustworthy and reputable politician would tolerate a personality cult developing around them. They would understand the dangers and would make sure their supporters knew that the memes, merch and murals had to stop. Corbyn doesn’t only tacitly accept it, but he turns up to unveil his own picture.

Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev issued a warning to the left over 60 years ago. In February 1956, he said: ‘The cult of the individual brought about rude violation of party democracy, sterile administration, deviations of all sorts, cover-ups of shortcomings, and varnishings of reality. Our nation bore forth many flatterers and specialists in false optimism and deceit.’

Now, at least in that brief moment, he was someone on the right side of history.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Why I was right about Jeremy Corbyn

It’s always embarrassing when you warn a friend about someone, only to discover they don’t share your concerns.

That Manager in HR who’s an absolute nightmare. You tell your colleague not to get involved in that project with her, but they can’t see the harm. She appears to be very nice!

The bloke who groped the girl in accounts three years ago at the Christmas Party. You warn that he’s really not great boyf material. But all that’s just a rumour and it was before your friend joined the company. You really ought to stop badmouthing people and give them a chance.

Although it hurts to be told you’re wrong in the short term, the chances are you suck it up. Because you know that in due course, the truth will come out and that it will be you who’ll be having the last laugh.

At the moment, all the warnings about Corbyn and McDonnell from the moderate wing of the Labour Party seem to have been ignored by the general public. Traditional Labour voters turned out at the election last month and so did younger people in numbers not seen since the early 1990s.

The bedrock party supporters were aghast at Theresa May’s kamikaze act during the campaign and figured that the Labour leadership could hardly be worse. And seeing as Jez had little chance of winning, what harm could there be in backing him as a protest against the Tories’ incompetence and extremism?

Young voters liked the idea of denting the Tories too and thought that maybe they could reverse the imposition of Brexit by the gerontocracy in 2016.

So the result left people like me with serious egg on our faces.

I’d assumed – along with many others – that Labour heartland voters would baulk at voting for Corbyn, given all that is known about him. I hadn’t counted on the most disastrous and incompetent campaign by the Conservative Party in modern political history.  I had also under-estimated the extent to which the Lib Dem Remoaner schtick would fail to cut through.

I’d assumed – along with many others – that it was unlikely the youth vote would turn out in significant numbers. That’s a mistake I can live with, as it’s profoundly healthy for democracy that it did.

But I’m trying not to let my embarrassment cloud my judgment.

Far too many people, when they discovered Corbyn had done much better than predicted, decided to hitch a ride on his bandwagon. Suddenly he goes from being a walking disaster to being the ‘absolute boy’. Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party humiliate themselves by singing football chants in his name to the tune of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.

We saw the same phenomenon in the USA with Trump, of course. There is always a surprisingly large group of people in society whose instinct is to follow the herd. They were iffy about jumping naked into freezing cold lake, but all their friends are doing it. So Harriet Harman starts spouting nonsense about Jez being the heir to Blair.

But I really do know exactly what the politics of Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott are all about.


Because I was there the first time.

In the early 80s, as a young teenager, I was reasonably sympathetic to their views. By the latter part of the decade, I had become a lot more sceptical. And that’s because I had seen the hard left’s antics at first hand in campaigning organisations, the National Union of Students and the Labour Party.

So now, when I reflect on my humiliation in misjudging the recent election, I still have a wry smile on my face. Because leopards don’t change their spots and the truth about the extremist cabal at the heart of Labour will reveal itself as sure as night follows day.

We’ve already seen glimpses of it in the weeks following the poll.

John McDonnell’s description of the Grenfell Tower tragedy as ‘murder’ and his encouragement of a million people to take to the streets to reverse the result of an election he just lost. Jeremy Corbyn’s sacking of shadow cabinet members for their temerity to oppose his support of hard Brexit. Corbynistas rejecting any rapprochement with moderates in favour of deselection contests.

In the election campaign, my feeling is that younger people saw the criticisms of Corbyn’s earlier statements and actions as being ancient history. His links with Irish republicanism, for example, meant little to those who hadn’t lived through the IRA bombing campaigns. I get that. Boring old men like me talk about stuff which provokes a response of ‘meh’.

But what will happen is that people will learn all over again. It’s inefficient and exasperating and prevents the Labour Party from re-establishing itself as a mainstream force for a longer period than is comfortable. But the learning process will happen.

People will ask why it is that McDonnell clings to the idea that the UK must leave the single market. Didn’t they vote Labour to stop that kind of thing? And they will discover, one way or another, that he has always opposed the European Union, which he sees as an obstacle to his leftist economic policies.

And when Assad commits another atrocity in Syria and Corbyn opposes any action, people will scratch their heads. Doesn’t the absolute boy care about the suffering of the Syrian people? And then it will come out that actually he has opposed every military intervention by British troops ever proposed, including action to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Eventually, the HR Manager reveals her true colours and stabs your friend in the back during a meeting. Before long, another Christmas rolls around and there’s a further unsavoury incident at the office party. And the light begins to dawn. Yes, you were right all along.