21 July 2018

The left’s dangerous monopoly on virtue


Very few people knew who Ash Sarkar was until last week, when the far-left journalist and Corbyn media outrider called Piers Morgan an idiot on breakfast television.  Frustrated by Morgan’s presumption that she was an Obama supporter, Sarkar said: “I’m a communist, you idiot!” Worried the message hadn’t got through, she repeated: “I’m literally a communist!”

Sarkar is “literally a communist and literally our hero” fawned that notoriously radical rag, Elle Magazine. Elle’s comrades over at Teen Vogue got similarly excited, conducting an astonishingly congratulatory interview with Sarkar about this month’s must-have ideology.

The reaction to Sarkar’s admission is as unsurprising as it is troubling. An advocate for an ideology that has ended in immiserating, dehumanising totalitarianism whenever and wherever it has been tried is treated as a quirky but ultimately inoffensive social campaigner: as sure a sign as any that the left’s monopoly on good intentions is as secure as ever.

There is a double standard at work here so obvious it barely needs to be pointed out. The far-right equivalents of Sarkar are correctly seen as malevolent. Those on the far left, however, are rarely accused of anything more than naivety. But it takes more than naiveté to look at communism’s blood-soaked record and think, “Let’s have another go.”

More generally, the motives of those on the right are questioned endlessly while those on the left are assumed to be benign. In party political terms, the Conservatives are seen as competent but not particularly kind. Labour, on the other hand, are seen even by many of their opponents as misguided but fundamentally decent.

If an unshakable confidence in one’s own virtue is why Sarkar felt comfortable declaring herself a communist on national television, it is also why Jeremy Corbyn refuses to take seriously his party’s anti-Semitism problem.

This week Labour’s NEC chose not to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that, as Dave Rich pointed out for CapX, is accepted by every major Jewish organisation in the UK. Labour have taken the widely used International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition and – among other modifications – added a requirement of proof of “anti-Semitic intent” that makes it very unlikely anyone in a party with “anti-racism” as a core belief will be found to be anti-Semitic. This disgraceful fudge will save those close to the Labour leader worried that their past writings and speeches have fallen foul of the IHRA definition. It is also an unforgivable betrayal of Britain’s Jews.

You’d have thought a politician who puts such stock in his own anti-racist campaigning might be more worried about anti-Semitism in his own ranks. Yet the Labour leader is so ensconced in his bubble of self-satisfaction, so sure that his conscience is clear, that he cannot contemplate the idea of racists among his supporters, however clear-cut the evidence.

When someone dares to pop that bubble, the reaction can be ugly. Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who has described herself as a secular Jew, was so angry at Corbyn’s betrayal that she accused him of being “an anti-Semite and a racist”.  “Action will be taken” was the sinister response from the office of the Labour leader.

So persistent and profound is Corbyn’s failure on anti-Semitism that we must at least ask whether his own biases are part of the explanation. But the failure to deal with anti-Semitism is not some strange quirk – it is the result of the same mentality that allows leftwingers to throw their lot in with some of the more brutal regimes in human history, but still claim to be the good guys. But we are now surely some way past the point at which the Left deserves any presumption of decency.

Oliver Wiseman is Editor of CapX