The day John Smith died, I was on the phone to a friend in Jeremy Corbyn’s office. I forget why I rang – probably to add to Jeremy’s workload of supporting every worthy cause in the world that sought the endorsement of a British MP, while simultaneously toiling to help his many deprived constituents. Despite ‘Islington’ being media code for effete liberals, half its children live in poverty.
Anyway, in light of the day’s news, I asked how things were in the Labour Party. My friend replied simply, ‘Tony Blair is being manoeuvred into power.’ I’m not sure what all the manoeuvres were, but she seems to have been proved right. Certainly, I don’t remember months of energetic campaigning and debate with a slate of candidates, rallying thousands of passionate and enthusiastic supporters and bringing an underdog outsider to a landslide victory. I know there was a deal in a restaurant, but I don’t know how inspired the waiters were by it.
However, after winning an open contest with massive support, Corbyn has been accused of ‘seizing power’ and ‘taking control’. MPs who sneer at him and threaten to oust him feel ‘bullied’ by the majority who voted for him. They ‘fear’ members of their local parties choosing to be represented by someone other than them. By resisting attempts to unseat him and not responding to insults and briefings, Corbyn is ‘tightening his grip’. By facing down those scheming to replace him, he is ‘plotting’ to remain in the position to which he was elected. The history of his supporters is scrutinised by New Labourites who used to be in the Communist Party. And there is faux outrage at any suggestion that the use of nuclear weapons is insane, while those old Stalinists cheerfully tell any available hack that Corbyn is a ‘nutter’.