26,000 people left the Labour Party last year, here’s why I was one of them.
From the very off I saw little but bitter intransigence and quiet malice in the figure of Jeremy Corbyn. Early on in the leadership election he had a very testy exchange with Krishnan Guru-Murphy where his anger more than flashed quite unreasonably. It was clear he was a man uncomfortable with being challenged on his long held world view. There are a great many reasons people don’t like to be challenged, from being an alpha control freak to being so nervous that any confrontation at all seems like an unwinnable battle. I think the Labour leader dislikes being challenged for two reasons. Firstly, because he has been used to unbridled sycophancy from the unquestioning protest movement he addresses so often. Secondly because he has not particularly engaged, intellectually or publicly, with the rapidly changing world around him for 4 decades. To misquote John Lennon, political life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Early on it occurred to me that Corbyn was a man who never changes his mind, therefore he was highly unlikely to be able to change minds in even vaguely the numbers the Labour party needs to. It transpired that this character flaw would remain steadfastly true except for the most unappetising of reasons.
There are two hugely significant areas where Jeremy Corbyn’s cynicism overcame his decades long convictions. This paean of the amorphous Stop the War coalition had a clear opportunity to potentially prevent military strikes by the British army in Syria, something he openly opposed. However it would have a dealt an unequally fatal blow to his leadership had he brought to bear his principles to try to prevent further fatalities in Syria at British hands.
On the eve of the vote I remember clearly getting an email, signed by Jeremy Corbyn, that the Labour party sent to every member. It asked for our thoughts and advice on whether the Syria bombing should go ahead. I was actually quite flabbergasted, how the fuck should I know whether we should strike or not? As an ordinary member of the public I was and indeed am almost utterly uniformed on such matters when compared to the leadership of her majesty’s opposition. In questions of war, it is far better that leaders lead based on informed reason rather than uniformed public opinion and sentiment. It seems both a cowardly and a foolish approach to take; indeed one that has led to a great deal more war than peace.
That evening my apathy toward Jeremy Corbyn became antipathy. The serial rebel had finally changed his mind for the most tawdry of reasons. Had many of the rebellions over the years been a cynical career move too?
The second time Jeremy Corbyn betrayed his long held and long stated views was over the most totemic political issue of my life time, Brexit. Not for nothing were there many who suspected that he voted to leave. He was pathetically tame in the referendum campaign and brought 0% of the passion and enthusiasm that he has brought to numerous rallies and political events over the years. Watch him talk about the now utterly failed economic experiments in South America and the brilliance of the Castro regime and he has a joy and vigour in his voice completely lacking in his hostage style answers during the referendum campaign. He campaigned in a faint praise that might just have tilted a close result.
Along with pretty much everyone I know, it was at this point that I thought Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership really should come to a close. Despite 80% of his shadow cabinet resigning in agreement that he should go, Mr. Corbyn clung on like a lone gnarled tree after a hurricane. An impressive feat but an unappealing and depressing sight.
This was followed by perhaps the most tragic leadership election I can remember. Angela Eagle’s flat attempt was dead on arrival, drowned out of the competition by the tidal waves of the concurrent Tory leadership election. Owen Smith was an equally damp squib. No one had ever heard of him and it soon became quite clear why: he was a featherweight, a glib dullard, whose chances were justifiably bleak from the off.
It was after this that I entirely switched off from the Labour Party. I notice the surface of course but I no longer really engage in any manner with what they are doing or saying; the lousy double act of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell is too boring to even get angry about any more. The latter has the unconvincing smile and faux reasonability of a b-movie murderer dentist. All he convinces me of, when when I happen to catch him in the background on the tv or radio, is his own palpable inauthenticity.
I notice the embarrassing parlour game of political watchers or manoeuvring supporters mentioning every single Labour MP who talks as a future Labour leader. Complete non-entities are touted every week in a manner that reminds me of my refereeing a game of pass the parcel at my niece’s birthday party last year. Everyone got a go at unwrapping it so as not to cause tantrums. I have nothing personally against the merry-go-round of touted future leaders but the offerings are all utterly mediocre.
Why exactly was Owen Smith the only MP who ran against Corbyn? What is it about Clive Lewis, elected only in 2015, that makes him a front runner for the leadership? Or Lisa Nandy? Why on earth did Robert Peston crown labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey as another supposed contender on his show this week?
I honestly mean no disrespect. These are all likeable people and may grow into excellent politicians over the next decade but none of them would have stood a hope in hell were they not existing in the political wilderness that is the current Labour party.
The other reason I left the Labour party was the vicious streak that ran right through the top team and worked seemingly symbiotically with a proportion of Corbyn’s supporters online. Following his victory, a hideous campaign of horrific online abuse — trolling seems almost too light hearted a word — surged. Bricks were thrown through windows. Women and men were threatened with rape, violence and murder. More than one Jewish MP reported a rise in anti-semitic abuse, both towards them and in their constituencies. In answer to this, Jeremy Corbyn basically did sod all, a profoundly shameful response. Worse, much worse, was that he seemed to take a quiet thrill in this army of violently rhetorical bullies who roamed online to help rid him of any turbulent priests.
This worryingly Trumpian development was the final straw for this former Labour voter.