The March Against Corbyn

The mural by Mear One, approved by Tower Hamlets Council in 2012.

It’s not every day you see a demonstration in Parliament Square against Jeremy Corbyn. Let alone a march where you can find Chuka Umunna, Lord Norman Tebbit and Ian Paisley, Jr. presenting a united front against the Labour leader. What could possibly bring together Blairites and Ulster unionists?

It’s certainly not Corbyn’s fondness for gardening. Ulster unionists will hate Corbyn for his long-held support of a united Ireland. Likewise, the Blairites hate him because for all of his long-held positions.

Yet we’re meant to believe that Umunna, Tebbit and Paisley took to Parliament Square to protest against anti-Jewish prejudice. Still, it’s a pretty strange anti-racist march for a few reasons.

Lord Tebbit is an advocate of the so-called ‘cricket test’ of national loyalty. It’s pretty simple: if you don’t cheer for England no matter your ethnic background, you’re not really British!

“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test,” Tebbit once remarked.

This isn’t the only time Tebbit has felt the need to comment on multiculturalism. I’ll let his words speak for him, rather than lead you on.

“The Muslim religion is so unreformed since it was created that nowhere in the Muslim world has there been any real advance in science, or art, or literature, or technology in the last 500 years,” Tebbit said in 2005.

“If they [Muslim women] wish to cover their faces and isolate themselves from the rest of the community and so thoroughly reject our culture then I cannot imagine why they want to be here at all,” Tebbit said on another occasion. “Perhaps they should just push off back to their own countries.”

Much like Tebbit, the DUP allegedly has a long and established record of its own. For example, the party’s MP Peter Robinson supported a pastor who declared in 2014: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell!”

I think it’s clear why it’s strange to find the Labour right standing with Tories and Ulster unionists against Corbyn. But that last sentence also makes perfect sense. It’s only strange that they now claim to be doing it in the name of anti-racism.

Politics is a blood sport

After all, anti-Semitism is the handmaiden of Islamophobia. It’s no coincidence that the Jewish left has been widely slandered for its support of Corbyn and criticisms of Israel. Jewish Voice for Labour presented a counter-demo to the march against Corbyn. But it was completely ignored.

Meanwhile the protests of a few hundred people, and that’s a maximum estimate, received a great deal of favourable coverage from the mainstream media. By contrast, Jewish critics of the march have had their identities questioned, and even been dubbed ‘Kapos’, by some on the demonstration. This is a disgrace.

Let’s be clear, there has been no sudden upsurge of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. There has been an upsurge in attacks from the media due, to a handful of prominent cases, almost all of which took place before Corbyn became Labour leader in the summer of 2015. But this is not all there is to say.

In fact, the Corbyn leadership has demonstrated it is not afraid to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism against Labour figures, including allies like Ken Livingstone, who have been suspended or even, in some cases, expelled.

Incidentally, many Jewish anti-Zionists have been forced out of the party. Israeli socialist Moshe Machover is one such case. He has since been reinstated as a Labour member.

Many of these cases go back to the Miliband era. Indeed, Naz Shah’s Facebook posts go back to 2014 and Corbyn’s foolish comment on the mural was in 2012. Yet there was no concern about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party until after Corbyn won the leadership. How strange!

The mural story was first raised in November 2015, but it was only just recycled this month by Labour MP Luciana Berger – who was a part of the attempted coup in 2016. The right-wing media soon leapt on it, having just smeared Corbyn as a pro-Russian, Czech spy not long before.

The right has shown time, and time again, that it has no qualm inventing smears when there isn’t enough dirt at hand. However, this is not one of those cases exactly. Corbyn should not have commented on the mural story. He was wrong to suggest it shouldn’t be taken down.

Any person, let alone any politician, should have looked more closely at the image and read the artist’s statement. But this oversight does not convict a man of prejudice. And yet it has been bad enough to compel a couple of hundred people to protest outside Parliament.

All of this is happening just before the UK goes into local elections. Could this be a coincidence? Of course, the left should expect nothing less of its foes. Politics is a blood sport, and it’s time we all accepted it.

Concessions aren’t necessary, but we can admit certain truths. Yes, there is anti-Semitism on the left and among Israel’s critics. Yes, the left needs to confront this problem head-on. No, Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. No, the best way to oppose anti-Semites is not to stand in solidarity with Lord Tebbit.

It’s almost as if people think they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. The truth is people can do just that. The media has so exhausted its capacity for hosing Corbyn with slime, it has had to recycle a story from three years ago. We’ve heard it all before.

Corbyn’s pro-IRA. He’s pro-Assad, pro-Putin, pro-Hamas and pro-Chavez. That’s what we’re meant to believe. We’re meant to believe the same man is ineffectual and unelectable, but also a supporter of terrorism. It’s not believable. And that’s why this smear campaign will fail.

Photograph courtesy of duncan c. Published under a Creative Commons license.