Most of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics describe him as a nice man unsuited to the demands of leading a modern political party.
But the allotment lover who struck a chord in the Labour leadership contest with those sick of politics as usual by men in sharp suits has only ever been half the story. Disturbing incidents in recent days show our leader can no longer avoid being judged by the company he keeps.
As the demands grow from all parts of the Labour family for Jeremy to step down, it is time for some hard truths about the people clinging to him, even though airing them may lead them to push for my suspension from the party for which I have campaigned since I was a boy.
People need to speak out. The current crisis that is threatening the very existence of our 100-year-old movement can only be understood, once you consider those begging Jeremy to stay. These people are desperate to keep their grip on the centre, no matter what the cost to communities who desperately need a Labour government to stand up for them.
So many crucial posts in Jeremy’s operation are filled by people who have given deeply troubling signs they do not have the Labour’s best interests at heart. Rather, several have arrived fresh from actively campaigning against Labour candidates at the last general election. Even Momentum national organiser James Schneider, who is seen as the acceptable face of that dubious organisation, voted for the Greens rather than Labour MP Andy Slaughter in Hammersmith just last year. Others are wedded to politics as militant struggle, inimical to a party that exists to be a credible opposition and future government.
This week I caused a scene in the corridor outside a stormy meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, when I objected to the nonsense peddled to journalists by Jeremy’s spokesman Seumas Milne. It was unfortunate that there was an audience for the argument that followed between me and Kevin Slocombe, a decent and respected figure who has had to serve as Milne’s sidekick. But these selective and distorted attacks on MPs have gone unchallenged for too long.
Milne was flanked at the meeting by Andrew Fisher, who celebrated on social media when Ed Balls was beaten by a Tory last year.
Then there was the sickening, unbelievable sight of Jeremy laughing and joking with the man whose anti-Semitic trope had just led his Labour colleague Ruth Smeeth to leave Shami Chakrabati’s report on Labour’s anti-semitism problem in tears.
It is not just those in the back room who are acting in a way that may tip Labour into the abyss. Some of Jeremy’s allies in parliament are behaving in a deeply irresponsible manner at a time when tensions are running high. Many Labour MPs are receiving threats against them for daring to voice concern about their leader. In a more sane environment, John McDonnell – the man who once praised the IRA’s strategy of “ballot, bullet and bomb” – would face expulsion for risking inciting violent reprisals against colleagues with his claim that the PLP was “a lynch mob without a rope”. Instead, he remains the shadow chancellor.
Labour is the party of the national minimum wage, of the NHS, of record education spending, of equal rights, of Hardie, Attlee, Bevan and Wilson. Jeremy has himself always been a Labour man. He must remember that and break free from the unsavoury elements around him. He should do the decent thing before our great party is destroyed.