The right must cross divides to defeat the danger of Corbyn

James Bickerton

August 5, 2019

In the end, it’s the complacency that gets you. I keep reading, as I did prior to the 2017 general election, that Jeremy Corbyn can’t possibly become prime minister. Admittedly this argument has a solid basis. A recent poll gave the Labour leader an 18 per cent approval rating, the lowest of any opposition leader in modern history. There are tropical diseases that have done a better job of connecting with the British public. 

Yet Corbyn absolutely could end up as prime minister. British politics is in a Brexit induced flux. Polling shows voters are increasingly aligning along “leave” and “remain” lines. Now Corbyn has been bullied into supporting a second referendum with a “remain” option Labour could start coalescing the anti-Brexit vote. If they manage this, and the “leave” vote remains split between the Tories and Brexit party, they would be well placed to win a general election even with a relatively low proportion of the vote. Nor should we repeat the mistakes of 2017 and underestimate Corbyn’s campaigning abilities and the enthusiasm of his core supporters. 

These were the calculations which a small group, including myself, made before starting the Campaign Against Corbynism (CAC). We had a partial online launch last month, with a £120 budget, after which the campaign took on a life of its own.

Within 24 hours we’d accumulated 6,000 Twitter followers and an endorsement from Countdown’s Rachel Riley. Our inbox was inundated with offers of support, as well as some deeply moving stories from people about why they personally fear a Corbyn government. One of our Jewish supporters wrote a blog for us about why, since Corbyn became Labour leader, he had never felt “more under siege in the country I love”. 

To ensure Corbyn’s bid for the premiership is defeated Conservatives need to work with some of their traditional rivals. Concern, sometimes bordering on terror, about the prospect of a Labour government under its current far left leadership extends well beyond the usual suspects on the right. It’s shared by many liberals and social democrats, and even some fringe socialists.

Since launching the CAC what’s shocked me, beyond all else, is the proportion of those offering their services who come from a centre left background. Some are former Labour members, who quit in disgust at what their former party has become under Corbyn’s leadership. They’ve seen Corbynism up close, watched it destroy their party and realise what could happen to the country if its adherents achieve power. 

I do sometimes feel, even now, that some conservatives underestimate just how pernicious and dangerous a Corbynite Government could be. Most realise Corbyn is substantially worse than a regular Labour leader, but not all appreciate just how dramatically he breaks from the party’s traditions.

While I have previously disagreed with many Labour policy decisions including its stubborn attachment to the misconceptions of socialist economics, there was never any doubt in my mind that Labour was fully committed to the basic norms of a liberal democratic society. They were the opposition, yes, but never the enemy. Since Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015 the party has fundamentally changed, and the commitment of some of its top figures to these values is at best conditional. 

Getting into specifics we’ve identified three key areas where senior Corbynite figures, including the Labour leader himself, have broken with the core liberal values which used to be all but universal in mainstream British politics.

First, a number of Corbyn’s inner circle have a long history of defending, or even celebrating, the use of violence as a political tool. Should Labour win a general election the United Kingdom will be run by a man who once saluted the “bombs and bullets” of the IRA, which killed hundreds of his countrymen, and described rioters who attacked the Conservative Party headquarters in 2010 as the “best of our movement”. He has also described members of various terrorist groups as his “friends” and was once arrested at a rally called to defend suspected IRA terrorists including Patrick Magee, later convicted of planting the 1984 Brighton hotel bomb in a bid to assassinate Margaret Thatcher.  

Corbyn, and others in his inner circle, also have a long history of associating with and in some cases defending antisemitic racists. He described Raed Salah, who suggested Jews used the blood of non-Jewish children to make Passover bread, as a “very honoured citizen” and invited him for tea in Parliament. When an antisemitic mural appeared in Tower Hamlets seven years ago Corbyn objected to its removal. Leading Corbynites also have a worrying history of defending dictatorial regimes, and in some cases were previously affiliated with tiny far left parties which were not committed to parliamentary democracy. 

Opposition to Corbynism, and by association the Labour party itself for as long as it remains under the heel of the hardliners, extends well beyond the traditional conservative movement. The right would be wise to realise this and build cross-party and cross-ideological alliances where possible.

To put it bluntly this is now bigger than left versus right, capitalism or socialism. It’s about those who clearly adhere to core liberal democratic values, such as parliamentary democracy and aversion to racial hatred, and those who don’t.

Given the past associations of key Corbynite figures with terrorist groups, antisemites, and advocates of communist tyranny, there is quite clearly cause for concern. It remains to be seen whether this anxiety is wholly warranted, but we cannot afford to wait around to discover the answer the hard way.


  • James Bickerton

    James Bickerton is a reporter for the Daily Express and the founder and director of the Campaign Against Corbynism. You can follow him on Twitter via @JBickertonUK

Written by James Bickerton

James Bickerton is a reporter for the Daily Express and the founder and director of the Campaign Against Corbynism. You can follow him on Twitter via @JBickertonUK


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