A SPECTRE is haunting Great Britain, to misquote The Communist Manifesto — the spectre of Corbynism. Pursuing the imperfect analogy a bit further, one could say that all the powers wedded to the status quo have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcise this spectre: the Zionists and the Tories, the so-called centrists and the money merchants in the City of London, the billionaires and their dedicated subordinates, the ratbags and the rabbis.
And it looks like they will succeed. Tomorrow’s British election offers a choice between the status quo and a potentially transformative alternative. The opinion polls suggest the Tories will comfortably romp home.
The fact that they are led by a mendacious monstrosity doesn’t seem to matter. This beneficiary of lifelong privilege will ‘get Brexit done’, and that seems to suffice for a great many people, regardless of the consequences.
Like his contemporary David Cameron, Boris Johnson was educated at Eton and Oxford. In a recent memoir, the master of his college at the latter institution reflects: “We had been privileged to be given the task of bringing up members of the nation’s political elite. But what had we done for Boris? Had we taught him truthfulness? No. Had we taught him wisdom? No. What had we taught? Was it only how to make witty and brilliant speeches? I comforted myself with the thought that even Socrates was very doubtful whether virtue could be taught.”
‘What had we done for Boris? Had we taught him truthfulness?
“Witty and brilliant speeches” is obviously an exaggeration. There’s boastful bluster in his utterances, which are invariably peppered with fibs. Does it matter? Decidedly not to the mainstream media, which never loses an opportunity to find fault with Jeremy Corbyn.
The relatively uncharismatic but exceptionally honest Labour Party leader tends to be painted as a terrorist-loving, communistic anti-Semite, never mind his verifiable lifelong commitment to combating all forms of racism. The idea of a potential British prime minister unequivocally backing the Palestinian right to statehood is anathema to certain vested interests, and many others have latched on to the anti-Semitism trope as a convenient means of thwarting the possibility of a socialist at 10 Downing Street.
The poisonous propaganda seems to have worked. In all too many vox pops, voters can be heard saying that they have no quarrel with Labour’s policies but can’t countenance the idea of endorsing Corbyn. The motivated myth of institutionalised anti-Semitism has also played its part. Then there’s the question of where the money will come from to implement a progressive agenda.
That question rarely arises when the richest individuals and corporations are offered generous tax cuts, or when there’s yet another futile conflict to plunge into. And in this instance it arises even though Labour’s policies have meticulously been costed in a document released alongside the party’s manifesto. That doesn’t matter as long as the mainstream media ignores it.
Back in 1945, a mild-mannered Labour leader, Clement Attlee, shattered the myth of war hero Winston Churchill’s invincibility, and his government went on to put in place some of the most endearing aspects of the modern British state, not least the National Health Service. Most of the innovations remained relatively uncontroversial until Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal regime launched a pushback that continued under her anointed heir, Tony Blair.
Blair’s heirs within the parliamentary Labour Party and the supposedly liberal media such as The Guardian have meanwhile been instrumental in the relentless campaign against Corbyn’s leadership, seemingly guaranteeing that many of those who voted against Britain’s EU membership in the 2016 referendum because of their justifiable antipathy towards the elites in Brussels and London will vote tomorrow to reinforce the Johnson brand of elitism.
Back in 1983, following a media campaign of vilification against the then left-wing Labour leader, Michael Foot, I recall watching the results roll in, in the company of a dear Indian friend who has since drifted to the right, in the Oxford college room of another Indian friend who has since headed the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and who insisted back then that we provided our own glasses for the numbing elixir we were determined to consume.
We drifted off to sleep at some point, and awoke to discover the extent of Labour’s devastation across the electoral landscape. Barely unnoticed at the time, one Labour contender who secured a seat for the first time that day was Jeremy Corbyn.
There is every indication that the British electorate is willing to inflict similar self-harm this week. Many of those who vote against their obvious interests — or, worse, fail to vote at all — will in due course find plenty of cause to regret their malfeasance. And they can rest assured that the opportunity for an equally clear choice probably will not arise for at least another generation.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019