26 March 2018

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has no claim to moral superiority


Believing oneself to be a good person — more good than you, at least — has always been an overdeveloped component of the Labour psyche. As Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, puts it:

“Being right is far less important than being kind.”

What she’s really saying — on social media, everyone can hear you squeam — is “I’m a kind person; it’s the basis of my politics. Yours?”

Were you to respond: “I’d sooner MPs tried to think logically about complex issues and, while baking human decency into their choices, I do think making the right decision is itself a form of kindness, so no, Jess, I can’t agree with your aphorism, which is more suitable for an 11-year-old’s birthday card than it is as a guiding principle for a legislator”, then Jess and her supporters would sigh, and smile ruefully at your, like, old-fashioned approach to things. They would continue to use “How good does this make me feel?” (the sensation they confuse with “kindness”) as the principal metric for decision-making.

Any adult Conservative is used to pointing out to teenage Labour supporters that the benefits of restraint in public spending (“austerity”, as they have it) fall on the younger, not the older generation — it’s your future pensions we’re saving — so that there might be more to “kindness” than screaming about foxes, taking drugs at Glastonbury, and voting Labour. To no avail, of course.

The perpetually-teenage Caitlin Moran summed up the Labour supporter’s approach to morality before last year’s general election, when she tweeted: “voting for Labour = not being a c**t”.

In normal times the pathological need of Labour people to conflate (their) voting choice with moral superiority is irritating. But we’re not in normal times, and their pathology has become dangerous, because it fuels their inability to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.

You’ll have noticed that the Labour leader’s appeal to undecided voters has been undermined by the news that he proclaimed the virtues of anti-Semitic art. The mural praised by Corbyn was an act of undeniable Jew-hatred; you don’t have take my word for this, because the artist himself wrote: “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved #Rothschild or #Warburg etc as the demons they are.” Even Tower Hamlets council thought this was a bit much, and arranged the mural’s erasure.

Enter Saint Jeremy. The Labour leader apparently couldn’t see anything untoward with the painting — an enormous, viciously anti-Semitic painting — and wrote “You’re in good company.” That adjective again.

We’ve had the “Oh Jeremy didn’t notice the hooked noses, the Jews feasting off the backs of the gentiles; the vast anti-Semitic content of the mural escaped his attention, even as he looked at it, considered it, and then wrote his support of it” non-apology apology now. Amazing this ability Corbyn has to overlook the overt anti-Semitism of the people he hangs around with, isn’t it?

“Either he’s an anti-Semite or he’s a fool” isn’t a great look, but I’ve seen some Labour supporters attempting such a defence. How does evil thrive? By good people doing nothing, of course. Talking with “moderate” long-time Labour supporters on Twitter one forms the sensation of cognitive dissonance, of great energy being expended, all to disconnect their individual Labour-voting habits with the collective Labour-voting outcome: Jeremy Corbyn in power.

I’m sorry to repeat the adult-Tory-to-Labour-infant exasperation, but it appears to be required. You can’t support the party that supports Corbyn and claim “I don’t support Corbyn”. There isn’t some alternative Universe, with a Labour Party that he doesn’t control, where your Labour vote safely lands and a man who praises anti-Semitic art doesn’t inch closer to power. There isn’t a box on the ballot paper that says “Labour, but not the anti-Semitic bits.” It says “Labour”.

What of the Labour MPs who oppose Corbyn? They bent over the day after the last general election; the day that “moderate” Labour died. Still they pop up on television, prattling on about their goodness.

If you’re a Labour MP, if you take Corbyn’s whip, if you sit behind him in the House of Commons, then you can roll your eyes when he speaks or tell us how distraught you are on Twitter all you like; it counts for nothing. Your arithmetical function is to combine with other Labour MPs in order to give Jeremy Corbyn a majority in Parliament. No amount of election leaflet drivel or chuntering on about “fighting Tory cuts to save my community/the NHS/insert name of local school here” can wash away the permanent stain of your complicity with wickedness.

How such people sleep at night or meet their reflection’s eye is their own affair and not my problem, thank God. But as the repellent psychodrama of their monstrous party staggers on to its terrifying conclusion, I’d ask them, in the meantime, to shut up about how good they are, how nasty the Conservatives are, how kindness entails a vote for Labour. Tories don’t succour anti-Semitism, comrade. In my book, that makes them better than you.

Graeme Archer is a statistician and writer.