Forget the rise of Nigel Farage and UKIP. Forget the Scottish National Party sweeping Britain’s May general election north of the border. While those events were earthquakes rocking British politics at the time, they barely register on the Richter scale alongside the election of the virtually unknown, hard-left rabble-rouser Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
To say Corbyn’s political views are out of touch with most of the British public is like saying Donald Trump can be a bit boastful. Ron Radosh and Rick Moran have outlined some of Corbyn’s more outrageous policy positions — including his long history of “palling around with terrorists,” as a great lady once said of another left-winger who came from nowhere to lead his party.
Corbyn has been dogged by controversy since his election. He ran into problems as soon as he started putting together his “shadow” cabinet, when he handed the job of chancellor of the exchequer — a fancy British term for finance minister — to John McDonnell, a man who’s even more pro-IRA than Corbyn and who once “joked” about assassinating Margaret Thatcher.
Corbyn, an avowed champion of women’s issues, also came under fire for not appointing more women to top positions in his team; he who lives by the sword of identity politics dies by it, although he did at least appoint a woman as his agriculture spokesperson — a vegan animal rights activist who wants to end the farming of livestock.
If Corbyn was hoping to win over skeptical British voters, he got off to a less-than-convincing start when he refused to sing the national anthem at a service to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
A couple of days later, he was forced to resign his position as chairman of the hard-left Stop the War Coalition after its website published a poem heaping abuse on Queen Elizabeth.
A top Labour donor has called for moderate MPs to either topple Corbyn in the next year or quit the party and set up a new one, which he’s offered to bankroll.
So far, so disastrous. Corbyn’s victory means that in a matter of weeks, Labour — one of the two parties that have dominated British politics for a century — has gone from a party that was only an engaging leader and an economic downturn away from challenging for power in 2020 to one that’s likely to be out of office for much longer.
And Corbyn’s election is also a catastrophe for Britain’s New Labour-loving, liberal-left establishment. This group is the numerically small but disproportionately influential body of Labour MPs, the BBC, the Guardian newspaper, NGOs and charities, moderate trade unions and professional bodies, and leading figures in the arts who are convinced they have an innate right to run the country. Ironically, the establishment left bears much of the responsibility for Corbyn’s election.
Corbyn’s name only appeared on the ballot paper because more moderate party figures felt the far-left’s “voice should be heard” in the wider debate about Labour’s future direction. The lunatic fringe represented by Corbyn has long been condescended to by the party’s leadership and by the liberal-left establishment in general; they were allowed to join in occasionally to foster the illusion of party unity.
When no one else volunteered, the veteran Corbyn stepped in, scraping together enough nominations from Labour MPs at the last minute. No one, least of all Corbyn himself, thought he had a chance of winning. Things started to go wrong, from the establishment point of view, very quickly thereafter. Once Corbyn started campaigning, he attracted the support of disaffected leftists who’d largely given up on mainstream politics. He drew large crowds to speaking events and persuaded thousands of people, including many young people, to join the Labour Party so they could vote for him.
The supporters Corbyn attracted are a different species entirely to the professional, metropolitan elite liberals of the establishment left. They’re a motley collection of trade union bullies, aging socialists from the “Ban the Bomb” era, and anti-American, anti-capitalist, Israel-hating, eco-fascist, perpetual activists. What they lack in numbers they make up for in self-righteous fury.
A great many of them are the same people who, after the Conservatives came to power in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, spent the next five years leading the “resistance” to David Cameron’s government. They regularly took to the streets of London to smash up banks and Starbucks coffee shops, to battle the police, and to vandalize public buildings and monuments. The defining moment of this movement came when, during one post-election riot, the words “F*** Tory scum” were daubed on a memorial to women who served during World War Two.
While the establishment liberals paid lip service to condemning the thuggery, the extremists served a useful purpose, creating the illusion of widespread social breakdown, popular opposition, and mass uprisings against a heartless and out-of-touch Tory government. Of course, it was the same few thousand activists at every rally and riot.
While they couldn’t possibly condone violence and vandalism, the elites explained more in sorrow than anger, this was the inevitable result of the divisions created by Cameron and his policies of austerity. These passionate young people sort of had a point, they were just going about expressing it in the wrong way and only a Labour government could heal the nation’s wounds.
Labour leader Ed Miliband played to the rabble in the run-up to the May election, thinking he could harness their energy to boost his faltering campaign. Once he was safely in office, he could revert to the elites’ preferred brand of respectable, don’t-frighten-the-horses brand of liberalism. As I wrote in the aftermath of the election, he made “Tory scum” politics respectable again.
It was the left’s good cop/bad cop routine, but it backfired.
The mob wasn’t supposed to get involved in actual party politics, but that’s what happened. The liberal left nurtured a monster it can no longer control. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Ron Radosh made the inevitable comparison between Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. Corbyn’s victory is the equivalent of Sanders being swept into the White House by Occupy Wall Street, Code Pink, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and Planned Parenthood.
Now Labour is stuck with him. Remember, it took Tony Blair 18 years to make the party credible again.
For now, the only people happier than the Corbynistas are Cameron and his Conservative Party. Tory MPs can now look forward to taking a few days’ holiday ahead of the next general election in 2020, when they might otherwise have been fighting for their political lives.