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.


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