Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
4 August 2016updated 28 Jul 2021 10:26am

Calling Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters a cult? You’re just dismissing them as stupid

Alienating people you might need to win over is a foolish strategy. 

By liam Young

Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said that voting in an election is about taking sides. Labour’s upcoming leadership election is no different. As members and supporters of the Labour party we have to decide whom we side with. When we decide which side we are on it is important to support that side, and no one should be attacked for doing so. 

However, over the last few weeks, those who side with Corbyn have been smeared as being part of a cult. The Guardian published an article that compared Corbynistas to the Manson murders. Corbyn’s opponent, Owen Smith, appeared to indulge these claims of a cult. Our favourite “normal” politician, while live-tweeting his anniversay dinner, decided to tweet: “We’re dancing to The Cult at the moment. Who says irony is dead.” Normal indeed.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

The accusation of cult-like behaviour is used to discredit the movement supporting Jeremy Corbyn and the support that he received. It is an accusation that needs dealing with.

It would be wrong to claim that no cult-like supporters of Corbyn exist. It would also be wrong to claim that no cult-like supporters of David Cameron existed. I saw people wailing online the day that Cameron left Downing Street. And what about Milifandom? Given the Blairite dedication to Tony Blair, it is surprising that no one has ever made such a claim against his supporters. That’s because there is a reason the “cult” label works for those who want to discredit Corbyn. 

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

Calling us a “cult” is the same as calling us stupid. It’s painting a picture of Corbyn’s supporters as blind followers of a strange doctrine. It links us with some of the worst instances in political history and develops a narrative that positions Corbyn and his supporters as dangerous. It is a poisonous term that should be deployed with caution. But sadly, that hasn’t stopped Corbyn’s opponents. In their plan to break him as a man and attempt to crush his support base, it seems that no step is too far. The plan to keep it comradely seems like a distant memory.

This point is not made to diminish the abuse or attacks that others face. We are well aware of the vile abuse that some of  Corbyn’s opponents face. There is often little evidence that these abusers are signed-up supporters of Corbyn, but their allegiance is often clear. But the abuse faced by Corbyn’s supporters often goes under the radar. Both should be met with equal disdain. It is a shame that this serious problem continues to be used as a political weapon rather than a point to correct, together.

It seems unlikely that opponents will refrain from referring to Corbyn’s supporters as a cult. It seems like a foolish strategy for Smith to be following given that he needs to win these people over if he wants to be elected leader. Perhaps this is his way of conceding an early defeat. It’s a shame that people within the Labour party would use this time to attack members and attempt to delegitimise those who want to play a part in building a modern Labour movement.

Yes, the Labour party faces a crisis. But it is one we can overcome together. These constant internal attacks help absolutely nobody.