Euan McColm: Labour meltdown couldn’t have happened to a nicer man

Corbyn waits to deliver a speech on the findings of the Labour anti-Semitism inquiry last week. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA
Corbyn waits to deliver a speech on the findings of the Labour anti-Semitism inquiry last week. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA
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THE decency of Jeremy Corbyn is a canard that encourages blind loyalty and enables him to crush those who want to rescue his party from oblivion, writes Euan McColm

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, like members of any cult, are utterly convinced of their leader’s integrity. Those who blindly follow him insist he is a man of the highest principles. To Corbynistas, his refusal to face the current reality that his leadership is an unmitigated disaster is a strength, proof that he operates on a higher political plane, reserved only for the truly righteous.

He and his closest confidantes are living out a fantasy of revolution modelled on the worst of the historical hard-left. For this, they deserve our contempt

Even those in the Labour Party who have spent the last week pleading with Corbyn to go feel compelled, when demanding his resignation, to point out that he is decent. He’s tried his best, they say, and, even though he’s failed, he’s a good man.

But Corbyn is not a decent man. His supporters are deluded; his detractors diplomatic. The leader of the opposition has revealed himself to be a particularly nasty piece of work.

His supporters – at best, fools – may wish to tell themselves that Corbyn is the victim of a hostile media, that “Blairite” plotters have prevented his message from cutting through to the wider electorate, that those Labour members who don’t subscribe to the preposterous notion that he might ever win a general election are secretly Tories, but the truth is that he is a deeply unpleasant man and all but the blindly loyal can see the evidence.

Last Monday, in the House of Commons, Corbyn made one of the most – perhaps the most – disgusting speeches I have ever heard delivered by a supposedly serious politician.

The previous 36 hours had not, I concede, been especially comfortable for the leader of the opposition. In the early hours of last Sunday morning, Corbyn sacked his shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn. Benn had called his leader to inform him that he no longer had confidence in him (as if he ever had) and Corbyn reacted in the only way he could.

What followed, throughout Sunday and into Monday, was a series of resignations from the shadow cabinet. Frontbencher after frontbencher pleaded with Corbyn to see sense and go.

And so when it came time for Corbyn to speak on Monday, in response to the Prime Minister’s remarks about the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU, there was considerable pressure on him. The leader of the opposition did not simply have to reply to David Cameron, he had to do so in such a way that he shored up his position.

That’s when Jeremy Corbyn, decent Jeremy Corbyn, invoked the death of Labour MP Jo Cox. Some might interpret this as a genuine call for restraint, but I don’t.

Here, from the Hansard record of the debate, is what Corbyn said: “As political leaders, we have a duty to calm our language and our tone, especially after the shocking events of 10 days ago.

“Our country is divided, and the country will thank neither the government benches in front of me nor the Opposition benches behind for indulging in internal factional manoeuvring at this time.”

One’s initial shock that Corbyn might stoop so low as to use this tragedy to quell rebellion over his desperate ineptitude gave way to the realisation that, in his politics, anything goes.

A number of Labour MPs have, in recent days, reported receiving death threats after speaking out about Corbyn’s failing leadership. This should hardly surprise anyone, given the Labour leader’s fondness for the mob. Give Corbyn a rabble and he and his closest allies will whip them into a frenzy.

After his shameless use of Jo Cox’s death on Monday, Corbyn addressed a gathering of several thousand supporters outside the House of Commons. The warm-up act was shadow chancellor John McDonnell – a man who once said IRA terrorists should be honoured.

Given the tragic events to which Corbyn had earlier referred, it was especially shocking to hear McDonnell encourage protests against Labour MPs on whose loyalty he can no longer depend.

Oh, yes, of course McDonnell said that the protests would be peaceful. People who turned up at an MP’s office to demonstrate would simply be exercising a cherished right. But McDonnell, a political thug, knows the intimidating power of the angry Corbynistas in full, threatening throat.

Corbyn, as he clings to his position in the face of a succession of polls showing he will never be prime minister, resembles the bitter office loser who finally gets the upper hand. He has scores to settle, slights to address. He’s in charge now and he’s going to show all those people who didn’t take him seriously that he’s not going to be pushed around any more.

Corbyn, McDonnell, and Labour’s hopeless director of communications, Seumas Milne, have created a culture of intimidation and fear. Labour moderates are not simply concerned about matters of deselection or demotion but about personal safety.

And still his supporters say Corbyn’s a decent man. They tell us that he is shaking up politics for the better, injecting a healing dose of integrity into the diseased body politic.

When, on Thursday, a Corbynista began berating a Jewish Labour MP during the launch of a report into how the party was going to deal with anti-Semitism, the party leader sat there, impassively, letting it happen.

And when he did speak, it was to compare Israel to Islamic State.

And still they say he’s a decent man. Still they say he’s a man of principle.

Corbyn is an egomaniac who – it’s now clear – sees intimidation as a legitimate political tool. He and his closest confidantes are living out a fantasy of revolution, seemingly modelled on the worst of the historical hard-left. For this, they deserve our contempt.

Corbyn answers questions about his fitness to lead by pointing out he has a mandate from more than half of Labour members. And, it is true, he does.

But did those supporters mandate Jeremy Corbyn to destroy their party? I’m not so sure they did. Hell mend them when he does and they realise what they’ve done.