Euan McColm: Labour will rue the day if it doesn’t get shot of Corbyn
During the Corbyn years, from 2015-19, anti-Jewish conspiracies flourished in Labour. Among his most enthusiastic supporters were those on the crank left whose obsessions with Israel provided the fertiliser for antisemitic tropes to flourish.
The Corbyn Paradox was that, had he truly been on a mission to stamp out this age-old hatred, he would have had to expel himself from the party.
Die-hard Corbynistas continue to insist he is a man of uncommon decency and honour whose failure to win either of the general elections which fell under his watch points to efforts to undermine him. But that defence, with its notions of powerful “elites” conspiring to destroy him, is a classic of the antisemitic form. Throughout history, those who hate Jews have peddled the myth of shadowy cabals, controlling everything from international finance to the mainstream media.
When Sir Keir Starmer succeeded Corbyn as Labour leader in April, the first thing he did was address this terrible cancer that had spread through his party. He was sorry, he told Jews, about the “pain and hurt” the Labour Party had caused “in recent years”. Starmer had seen “first-hand” the “unacceptable and unimaginable levels of grief and distress” felt by many in the Jewish community and wished to reiterate his pledge to “tear out this poison by its roots”.
This was a message not only to Jews but a warning to those Labour members and politicians who, during the Corbyn regime, felt emboldened to incite hatred against this minority.
Last week, the Labour Party apologised and paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages to former staff members who had participated in an edition of BBC One’s Panorama which exposed the extent to which antisemitism had spread during the Corbyn years. The journalist behind the programme, John Ware, also received compensation and an apology for defamatory statements about his professionalism made by senior members of the squalid team Corbyn had assembled around himself.
Here, it appeared, was evidence Starmer saw this was a real problem and that he was committed to tackling it.
It didn’t take Corbyn long to react.
The former Labour leader railed against the decision to settle claims by victims of antisemitism. This, he said, was a political rather than a legal decision. In fact, said Corbyn, the advice from lawyers to the Labour Party was that these cases were winnable.
He cannot, it seems clear, help himself. As Starmer tried to put right what went so terribly wrong, Corbyn clung to the lie that he and the party he once led were victims.
As I write this, Corbyn remains a member of the Labour Party. This is an outrage that can no longer stand.
In political terms, Corbyn’s outburst amounted to a serious attempt to undermine his successor, In moral terms, it showed just how blind – or, worse, indifferent – this inadequate man is to the antisemitism that continues to pose an existential threat to the Labour Party.
If Starmer truly is committed to fighting antisemitism, then he should remove the whip from Corbyn. He should do everything in his power to destroy the political career of a man who, even now, after everything that has happened in recent years, continues to gaslight anyone who suggests there might be an issue.
Such an act would probably lead to the resignations of a great many party members: those fully committed to the cult of Jeremy continue to see him as a man of unimpeachable morals whose only crime is to be too kind. Starmer should view the prospect of mass resignations as a bonus, It would, after all, save him the trouble of expelling them all.
The alternative is that Starmer takes no action and Corbyn continues to undermine his efforts to build bridges not only with British Jews but with voters of all faiths and none who have turned their backs on the party over antisemitism.
Former political leaders, by and large, leave the stage. They find things with which to busy themselves and leave their successors to get on with doing things their way.
Those who do not adhere to this convention are frequently problematic.
Look, for example, at Alex Salmond, now supported by a faction in the SNP that wishes to undermine Nicola Sturgeon. When, three years ago, Salmond signed a contract with the Russian state propaganda channel, RT, Sturgeon said “the choice of channel would not have been my choice”. This was pitifully weak. Instead, Sturgeon should have condemned her predecessor outright and seen to it that he was expelled from the SNP.
Instead, even when the Kremlin ordered the murder in 2018 of the former spy Sergei Skripal on British soil, Sturgeon let things pass. Sturgeon’s moral failings over this grave matter – let us not forget the death of Dawn Sturgess, a troubled woman who came into contact with the novichok used in the failed bid to assassinate Skripal – helped legitimise Salmond’s decision to take money from Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime.
Salmond may have resigned from the SNP before his recent court case during which he was cleared of a number of sexual assaults, but he remains a hero to many in the party. As he and his supporters agitate against Sturgeon, the First Minister may rue her decision not to do all she could to end him as a political force.
Men like Salmond and Corbyn are so driven by ego that they will never accept criticism. They see those who disagree with them as malign and feel no discomfort in putting self-interest before the legitimate concerns of others.
Keir Starmer should learn from Nicola Sturgeon’s experience. If he does not do everything in his power to destroy the political career of Jeremy Corbyn, he will live to regret it.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.