The Labour Leadership Contest Brings Out the Worst in Almost Everyone

66e21bd6-8b71-4ebd-8da1-1c10a5276b29-2060x1236Tories, Blairites and the media (right-wing and otherwise) are getting their knickers in a twist about the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn might win the Labour leadership contest.

Under the inspiring headline “Corbyn too clapped out for election race”, The Sun suggests that the man it refers to as a “firebrand pensioner” looks more like a “refugee from a … picket line” than a leader and is a “torchbearer for the loony left”. The Telegraph, on the other hand, went with “pseudo-Marxist grammar-school boy” as its epithet of choice.

Red scare anyone?

Another Sun article headed “Trots for Corb-win” (witty!) announced that “hard-left activists are infiltrating Labour” in a bid to get Corbyn elected. The Mail echoes this with the similar claim that what it calls even-more-extreme “hard-left militant tendency activists” (what the hell?) are “using a loophole” to infiltrate Labour.

Funnily enough, there was no such protest when The Telegraph called on Tories to sign up as Labour supporters and vote for Corbyn on the grounds that this would be a disaster for the party. However, the newspaper changed its mind on realizing he might actually go on to lead the opposition as this would – horrors! – “shift the entire political debate to the left”.

What of those who are fighting for the “centre” ground?

According to The Telegraph, “Shadow cabinet sources” have suggested that “Corbyn would never be allowed to remain” as leader for the 2020 election. (Not exactly what you’d call “democratic”, but hey…). Of course, these “top Labour MPs” who are calling for a coup remain unnamed.

However, famously ‘centrist’ Tony Blair had no problem offering his two pennies worth, mocking those who say their ‘political heart’ wants to support Corbyn by telling them to: “Get a transplant”.

Going further, former Blair adviser John McTernan went ballistic on BBC 2’s Newsnight and accused MPs who had nominated Jeremy Corbyn to ‘open up the debate’ of being “morons”. Asked if this applied to her, Margaret Beckett put up her hand on Radio 4′s World at One: “I am one of them”. But, she added, “at no point did I intend to vote for Jeremy – nice as he is.”

David Blunkett, in the role of Wise Elder Statesman (we jest), called Corbyn “the candidate of the Old Left” in The Mirror and argued that his language about austerity would be out of date by 2020 (whatever that means!).

Mixed feelings on the “left”

 One ‘grandee’ wasn’t having any of it. John Prescott came out swinging at Blair et al. when asked on The Today Programme if a Corbyn win would be a disaster for Labour: “Let’s get real, calm down, it’s the party’s decision; not MPs … Tony, on the doorstep it was Iraq that stopped a lot of people voting for us.”

Guardian columnists veered all over the wide spectrum of views called ‘left’. A concerned Polly Toynbee warned that “emerging splits over Jeremy Corbyn” could drag the party back to the “bitter” 1980s (a time akin to Armageddon, it would seem). “This is summer madness,” she wrote, although she doesn’t believe the majority of Labour members would “take leave of their senses”.

There has been plenty of patronizing finger-wagging too. Depicting Corbyn as a man of “vivid positions and beige jackets (both circa 1983 in their vintage)”, Jonathon Friedland tut-tutted that “for a lot of those taking part” choosing a party leader is “not about winning power or even making a change in society. It is about identity”. And while Andrew Rawnsley claims to understand that “the Piped Piper of Islington can sound like a refreshingly idealistic change from the robotic mantras of besuited career politicians” to younger audiences, he also termed it, “a terrible delusion”. His sympathies obviously lay with “alarmed” senior Labour figures “who would like to see their party back in government some time before they die”.

 On the other hand, Owen Jones chided Blairites for their attacks on the party’s left wing. By abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill they had been “perversely in denial over their record on child poverty and public services”, but the truth is that “it is the left that is championing New Labour’s legacy”. Harking back to headier days, Zoe Williams pointed out that “while Corbyn’s grassroots popularity has rattled his colleagues, he offered his own version of the hope that swept Labour to victory in 1997”.

The woman question

Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper complained that she’s not doing well in the leadership polls because of sexism, while Anne Perkins asked in the Guardian, “How bad must it get before Labour elects a woman?”, as though Liz Kendall should be given a chance at power just because she’s female, despite being to the right of many in the Tory party.

But who was it that said: “The time for timid measures is over. Women deserve fair pay, fair chances and unflinching support in the face of violence and abuse”? It was Jeremy Corbyn, probably the most feminist among the contenders! He’s also put forward an ambitious proposal entitled ‘Working with Women’ and intends that half his Shadow Cabinet be female.

What’s not to love!


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