6 November 2015

Andrew Fisher’s suspension is a humiliation for Jeremy Corbyn


Well, this is embarrassing. Just two weeks into the job, Labour’s new policy chief has been suspended for endorsing another party.

Under the mildly bizarre rules which govern the Labour party, one of the few hanging offences for a member or official is endorsing a competing candidate at an election. In Fisher’s case, it was calling for voters to back Class War in Croydon South instead of Emily Benn (granddaughter of Tony).

Though he could also have been done for his extended campaign of online abuse directed against any Labour MP to the right of, well, Jeremy Corbyn – for example celebrating Ed Balls’ departure or instructing Simon Danczuk, Liam Byrne, Liz Kendall, Jim Murphy et al to eff off and join the Tories. Oh, and calling Labour’s front bench “the most abject collection of absolute shite”. Or pretty much anything else, really.

Three immediate thoughts. First, this is obviously a colossal embarrassment for Corbyn – Fisher and his tweets will now be all over the front pages as the disciplinary proceedings rumble on. If Labour’s NEC exonerates him – which it may well do, since it now has a Corbynite majority – it can be brandished by Corbyn’s opponents both inside the party and out.

Second, this exposes – as if it needed further exposing – how utterly shambolic the Corbyn operation is. The most basic rule of politics is that before hiring someone, you should check their credentials: in particular, go back through their social media accounts and check there’s nothing nasty lurking in the woodshed. But in Fisher’s case, it didn’t happen – because he was a comrade.

Third, this may only be the start. Because Corbyn has surrounded himself with people like Seumas Milne and Andrew Fisher and James Meadway – ideological fellow travellers who have disagreed with the Labour Party in spectacular fashion over the years (here, for example, is Meadway’s charge sheet). Even Corbyn himself tweeted his congratulations to George Galloway when he won Bradford West in 2012. Technically speaking, shouldn’t he be in the dock alongside Fisher?

What we’re seeing, in other words, is yet more proof that the Corbyn surge was partly powered by – and certainly organised by – those who had viewed Labour under Blair, Brown and even Miliband as not a home, but an enemy. And some of them, such as Fisher, were pretty, well, militant about saying so.

Corbyn himself is, by all accounts, a thoroughly decent soul. But he’s surrounded himself with figures from the hardest of the hard left. By hiring these people to man his office, Corbyn was sticking to his ideological guns – but he was making himself even more of a target for those of his parliamentary colleagues who have neither forgiven nor forgotten. They may not – yet – be able to topple their leader. But they’ll settle for tearing his private office apart.

Robert Colvile was comment editor at the Telegraph and UK news director at BuzzFeed. He now writes on politics and technology.