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28 March 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:39am

No, I’m not angry with Jeremy Corbyn because I want him to lose

It’s really not the Tories who are angriest with the Labour leadership right now.

By Jonn Elledge

First I didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader because I didn’t think he could win an election. Then I didn’t like his leadership, partly because I thought he couldn’t win an election, but also partly because I was freaked out by some of his views on foreign policy, and by some of his friends, and, if I’m honest, because some of his supporters were being dicks online. Some of his opponents were also being dicks online, of course – but for some reason, that didn’t bother me quite so much.

Then came the snap election. As I saw him fighting the Tories rather than other factions of the Labour party, I suddenly found myself warming to Corbyn. When he turned Labour’s 20 point polling deficit into a three point one, and, against most expectations, actually gained seats, it suddenly seemed possible he could win. And suddenly all that other stuff that had bothered me didn’t seem to matter as much as it had before.

Or rather, it did still bother me – but the idea of an eternal Tory hegemony bothered me more. And it would be nice, wouldn’t it, to be able to vote for an electorally viable Labour party that was unashamed in its support for the public sector and left-wing causes? To find out that everything I’d had hammered into me since 1994, about how left-wing parties had to tack to the centre to win, even as the right tacked further and further to the right, was actually nonsense?

So suddenly, I found I quite liked Jeremy Corbyn. I was never a true believer – but I was more on board than not, and the occasional abuse my views received on Twitter switched from “melt” to “fellow traveller”. Maybe Corbyn could beat the Tories, and put an end to this ludicrous austerity nonsense. Maybe, finally, the left could win.

And that lasted right up until last week, when his spokesman Seumas Milne reminded us that he was intensely relaxed about the foreign policies of Vladimir Putin, and then there was the incident with that fucking racist mural, and the abysmal failure to deal with it properly, and now I’m back pretty much where we came in, except possibly slightly angrier.

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So, yes, my feelings about the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn have been complex and changeable and contradictory. Assuming any of you have bothered to read this far, it seems probable you will have been annoyed by at least one of the things I have just confessed to thinking.

What my feelings have not been motivated by at any point, though, is by the Tory tendencies of which those who question the Labour leadership are so often accused. I have no desire to see the Tories win, nor for the Labour party to split or collapse, nor for the left to get back in its box and surrender to whatever sensible strategy sensible centrist types want to follow now. (As has been noted many times, if those sensible centrist types had any idea of how to pull the party out of its funk, you’d think we might have seen some evidence of it by now.) And I am not angry with Jeremy Corbyn right now because the moderate social democratic platform on which he ran last year was too left wing for me.

There are much better reasons to be angry with the Labour leadership. Its weird habit of standing a little bit too close to people expressing appallingly anti-semitic sentiments is one. Its outriders’ habit of dismissing the concerns of the Jewish community, and dismissing Jewish Labour voters as Tories or Zionists or worse, with no more lofty concern than to slur the Labour leadership, is another. (How anyone could have even thought about protesting a demonstration against anti-semitism without wondering if they might, in fact, be the baddies is a mystery to me.) 

The leadership’s stance on Brexit, too, is beginning to piss me off. Not because I think it can just ignore the referendum result (if only), but because I really don’t see how it’s possible to bring an end to austerity without keeping Britain in the single market, and I would like some evidence that Jeremy Corbyn knows that.

As it happens, there are shadowy, politically-motivated forces that would like to see Labour lose because its current policy platform is too left wing. The Conservative party is one. The right-wing press is another.

But those who are most angry with the leadership right now are not aligned with those forces. It’s difficult to feel anger about a Labour leader’s mistakes, after all, when you never wanted the party to win in the first place.

That anger comes much more easily when you think they’ve betrayed your values, or, through their unwillingness to speak out, have provided a safe haven for racists. More easily, too, when you’d let yourself be won round, and now feel disappointed and horrified by the events of the last few weeks.

I’ve changed my views about Jeremy Corbyn a lot. So please, believe me when I tell you, I would really like him to do something that makes me feel I can change them once again. Please, fix this.