The ‘Toxic Jeremy Corbyn’ re-enters, stage left, via a Financial Times book review. Old Socialist considers the source

Robert Shrimsley gives the game away in the first three paragraphs of his essay of September 29, 202o.  

Headline: This Land by Owen Jones — Corbynism beyond Corbyn

Sub-headline: A critique of Labour’s election defeat seeks to give life to the manifesto without the man

The harsh fact about the Corbyn project is that the only one of Labour’s hard-left MPs able to win the party leadership was the person least suited to lead.

While others in his faction — most notably John McDonnell — made enemies and were feared, Jeremy Corbyn was sufficiently liked that even people who disagreed with him signed the nomination to get him on the ballot. With hindsight, this lack of enemies should have been a clue.

For the inescapable conclusion of a new and sympathetic look at the period is that Corbyn was probably the worst prime ministerial candidate put before the voters in modern times. Leaving aside his political positions, he was temperamentally incapable of doing the job. For Owen Jones, the Corbyn project’s important media cheerleader and semi-insider, the drama of those years is almost Shakespearean. Jones’ own doubts about Corbyn appeared early but his enthusiasm for the wider project is undimmed.

Its ‘as if’ Mr. Shrimsley takes for granted that his readers are somehow ignorant of the rise of Corbyn in the Labour Party hierarchy.  A revelatory survey of some of the commentary on Jeremy Corbyn, in the British Press, is revelatory of its Anti-Leftism , while the utter failure of the Neo-Liberal Project is the very reason for the rise of Corbyn, from within a Labour Party still enamored of the Thatcherism Lite of Tony Blair and his epigones.  


Headline: Backwards, comrades!

Sub-headline: Jeremy Corbyn is leading Britain’s left into a political timewarp. Some old ideological battles must be re-fought

‘BEFORE he had finished belting out his first celebratory rendition of “The Red Flag”, a hymn to class struggle, some of Jeremy Corbyn’s colleagues in Labour’s shadow cabinet had already handed in their resignations. A 66-year-old socialist, Mr Corbyn has spent 32 years as one of the hardest of hardline left-wingers in the House of Commons and a serial rebel on the Labour backbenches. On September 12th he flattened three moderate rivals (see article) to become leader of Britain’s main opposition party. Labour MPs are stunned—and perhaps none more so than Mr Corbyn himself.

Two views are emerging of Labour’s new leader. The more sympathetic is that, whatever you think of his ideology, Mr Corbyn will at least enrich Britain by injecting fresh ideas into a stale debate. Voters who previously felt uninspired by the say-anything, spin-everything candidates who dominate modern politics have been energised by Mr Corbyn’s willingness to speak his mind and condemn the sterile compromises of the centre left. The other is that Mr Corbyn does not matter because he is unelectable and he cannot last. His significance will be to usher in a second successive Conservative government in the election of 2020—and perhaps a third in 2025.


Headline: Review: Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power by Tom Bower — portrait of a monomaniac

Sub-headline: If Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister, he would easily be the most dangerous, most indolent and least intelligent holder of the office in history

This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. It is a forensically detailed portrait of a man with no inner life, a monomaniac suffused with an overwhelming sense of his own righteousness, a private schoolboy who failed one A-level and got two Es in the others, a polytechnic dropout whose first wife never knew him to read a book.

It is the story of a man who does not appear to have gone to the cinema or listened to music, takes no interest in art or fashion and refused to visit Vienna’s magnificent Schönbrunn Palace because it was “royal”. It tells how he bitterly opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, deeply regretted the fall of the Berlin Wall and praised the men who attacked New York on September 11, 2001, for showing an “enormous amount of skill”. In some parallel universe, this man would currently be living in well-deserved obscurity. In reality, Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition and the bookmakers’ favourite to become our next prime minister.


Headline: Tom Bower on Jeremy Corbyn: he left for Jamaica an academic failure and came back a fanatical Marxist

Sub-headline: Throughout his career the Labour leader has used tactics learnt from the communist playbook. His biographer Tom Bower charts his cultivation of a ‘good guy’ image — and ruthless elimination of moderate rivals

Burning buildings, overturned cars and students rampaging through downtown Kingston, Jamaica, in October 1968 spurred Jeremy Corbyn’s switch from traditional Labour Party supporter to a Trotskyist dedicated to transforming Britain into a communist state. After his stay on the island he successfully concealed his past and his prejudices, even from his family and closest friends.

Despite scoring two grade-E A-levels and failing a third, Corbyn had landed a Voluntary Overseas Service (VSO) placement to teach geography at Kingston College, an elite school. Ever since, he has said those “two years were really a defining moment in my life”.

Close to the school, the clean-shaven Corbyn witnessed the raw struggle between Jamaica’s rich white people and impoverished black people. Paul Wimpory, another VSO teacher, heard Corbyn’s dismay about the “vast inequalities on the island”, the guilt of the British Empire, the capitalists’ exploitation of Third World countries, the horror of American interference across the continent and, above all, his desire to “rebel against his affluent background”.



Headline: Jeremy Corbyn: the man versus the movement

Sub-headline: Two books explore what a UK government under the far-left Labour leader would be like

If Jeremy Corbyn ever makes it into 10 Downing Street, he will have completed the most improbable rise to power in modern British history. The Labour leader is soon to turn 70 and spent the first 30 years of his political career as an obscure backbencher, on the far-left of his party. A change in the political climate and a chapter of accidents led to Corbyn being elected Labour leader in 2015.

Two years later, he astonished his critics both inside and outside the party by putting in a strong performance in the 2017 election — depriving Theresa May’s Conservatives of a parliamentary majority. Now Corbyn is probably closer to power than he has ever been. May’s decision to reach out to the Labour leader in an effort to find a cross-party solution to Brexit has given Corbyn a chance to play the role of a statesman — and to shake off the accusation that he is too incompetent and too militant to be trusted with power.

Nonetheless, it is fair to say that most of the British establishment (including much of his own parliamentary party) remains both incredulous and deeply uneasy at the prospect of a Corbyn government. In the effort to understand what may be around the corner, many readers are likely to turn to the recent biography of Corbyn by Tom Bower, a veteran investigative journalist — just one of several new books promising to reveal more about the Labour leader’s life and opinions.

Still, those looking for an impartial account should be a little wary of Bower’s Dangerous Hero. Its sub­title, “Corbyn’s ruthless plot for power”, sums up its general approach, as does the jacket-cover description of the book as a “gripping exposé”.

Not forgetting Jonathan Freedland’s notorious defamatory political fiction: 

Headline: Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem

Sub-headline: Under Jeremy Corbyn the party has attracted many activists with views hostile to Jews. Its leaders must see why this matters

As the Conservative party divides its time between running the country and tearing itself apart over Europe, Labour has been consumed with a rather different problem. In the past two weeks, it has had to expel two activists for overt racism. That follows the creation of an inquiry into the Labour club at Oxford University, after the co-chair resigned saying the club was riddled with racism. The racism in question is hatred of Jews.

I suspect many in Labour and on the wider left dearly wish three things to be true of this problem. That these are just a few bad apples in an otherwise pristine barrel; that these incidents aren’t actually about racism at all but concern only opposition to Israel; and that none of this reflects negatively on Jeremy Corbyn.

Start with the bad apples. The cases of Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby certainly look pretty rotten. The former said it was time to wrestle with the “Jewish Question”, the latter hailed Hitler as a “Zionist God” and tweeted a line about Jews having “big noses”, complete with a “lol”.

It’d be so much easier if these were just two rogue cases. But when Alex Chalmers quit his post at Oxford’s Labour club, he said he’d concluded that many had “some kind of problem with Jews”. He cited the case of one club member who organised a group to shout “filthy Zionist” at a Jewish student whenever they saw her. Former Labour MP Tom Harris wrote this week that the party “does indeed have a problem with Jews”. And there is, of course, the word of Jews themselves. They have been warning of this phenomenon for years, lamenting that parts of the left were succumbing to views of Jews drenched in prejudice.

But this is the brick wall Jews keep running into: the belief that what Jews are complaining about is not antisemitism at all, but criticism of Israel. Jews hear this often. They’re told the problem arises from their own unpleasant habit of identifying any and all criticism of Israel as anti-Jewish racism. Some go further, alleging that Jews’ real purpose in raising the subject of antisemitism is to stifle criticism of Israel.


For the reader of Mr. Shrimsley’s  essay, it becomes clear that he follows the Party Line, on Corbyn and his followers. The Political Center is in fact defined by Neo-Liberals like Tony Blair and his successor Kier Starmer, the natural political opponent of any actual ‘Left’. On the question of Anti-Semitism: BDS is not Anti-Semitism, but Anti-Zionism. Corbyn  has been, and still is a supporter of the cause of the Palestinians, but propagandists like Freedland, Hodge, Labour Friends of Israel and Shrimsley continue to parrot the Party Line of ‘Anti-Semitism’. It is employed, as an attempt to rescue a Neo-Liberalism in a continual state of slow-motion collapse, barely held aloft via continual Strong State Intervention, the sine qua non of Hayek’s economic charlatanry.             

Like many on the left, Jones’ true target is the “centrists”, the moderate left who stand in the path of a more socialist option. For Jones it is essential we accept that the centre cannot hold. But this may be a counsel of despair. For one thing it misreads the voters, since the evidence is that confronted by hardline Labour and hardline Tories, they are more likely to tack right. Furthermore, the centre can move. It shifted from austerity politics but the beneficiary was Boris Johnson. 

Where Jones is strongest, and impressively so, is when he turns his analytical gaze on his own side. His dissection of the anti-Semitism issue is heartfelt and intelligent

Political Observer




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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