29 March 2023

The Corbyn of history: few will lament St Jeremy’s excommunication


Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.

Wracking my brain for a suitable quote to mark the effective end of the former Labour leader’s political career, I realised it had to be TS Eliot, who is – coincidentally, of course – renowned as an antisemite: ‘This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’

There have been few more pathetic recent sights than the man who once had the crowds at Glastonbury chanting his name, angrily sneering at a TV reporter after she dared to ask him if he would be standing again in Islington North after being barred from standing for Labour.

The Corbyn temper is one of the wonders of Westminster. Ask him a question he doesn’t like and out it comes. If he needs to fundraise for his independent candidacy in Islington North he could always try marketing personalised snarls. I’d pay for one.

When Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, he was an obscure figure for most people – other, of course, than the party members who turned to him in a fit of…well, just a fit. He and his acolytes are now back where they started, obscure non-entities with nothing to offer their true believers than stalls on the High Street peddling SWP-manque tracts.

Labour made Corbyn (for its sins) and Labour has now unmade him, his career ended, fittingly, through a vote by the NEC of the party he almost ended.

If you think that Corbyn will somehow have the last laugh and storm to victory as an independent in Islington North…I have a bridge to sell you. Corbyn’s ‘personal following’ amounts to his wife, some friends and a few wannabe media types who thought being a Corbynite would be their entry pass. They might as well have been on Russia Today, along with their hero.

Islington North is a safe Labour seat, and Corbyn’s entire career has been made possible on the coat tails of the party. Now that party has – decades later than it should – decided that he is not fit to represent it, and with a puff it’s all over.

Do I sound gleeful? Because I am. As a British Jew, Corbyn was responsible for a foul few years in which I feared what might happen in my own country. And while Labour is now no longer toxic, the Corbyn legacy elsewhere – such as on social media – remains. He was one of those most responsible for letting the genie of antisemitism out of the bottle, and it’s not going back in.

That fine sociologist David Hirsh, who provided much of the intellectual ballast for those who stood up to Labour antisemitism, has been in light-hearted mood since the NEC vote. Hirsh has been seeking suggestions for who might best be the Labour (and Lib Dem and Conservative) candidates to fight the man who was Labour’s most recent candidate for Prime Minister.

Top of his Labour list is Luciana Berger, driven out of the Labour Party by antisemitism and who has now rejoined. I can’t think of a recent political figure I respect more (although too little credit has been given to those who resigned with her, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna – and to Ian Austin). And certainly there would be a wonderful symmetry if the woman whose life was made hell by the Corbynites was the person to deliver the coup de grace to the man’s career. But what a cruel and unusual punishment it would be for her – forced to traipse around Islington North while a band of Corbyn fanboys (and the odd fangirl) barracked and booed her.

And it will be the party members who have for so many decades loved having the former leader as their constituency MP who will be choosing the Labour candidate. So I’m going out on a limb here: it’s about as likely as me being the candidate.

Let’s just sit back and bask in a rare political morality tale. It is unusual indeed for there to be an unambiguous triumph of good over bad. And few would have expected the author of that triumph to be Sir Keir Starmer – the man who spent years in a key Shadow Cabinet role telling us he had every confidence in the party leader, campaigning to make him PM. But what joy there is in heaven over the one sinner that repenteth.

Good bye, Corbyn and good riddance.

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Stephen Pollard is Editor-at-Large of the Jewish Chronicle.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.