It was something of a foregone conclusion that last week’s European elections in the UK were going to result in a dismal result for the ruling (just) Conservative party as well as the utterly divided Labour opposition. But while the Tories mercifully refrained from actively campaigning in elections they knew they were going to lose, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took things one step further and actively insulted those who are in favour of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 23, 2019
Although supporting Brexit is a majoritarian centrist position in the UK and whilst the Brexit Party has consciously forged an identity as a party that transcends traditional notions of left and right while avoiding all imaginable extremes, it was clear enough that Corbyn was directing his ire towards the only party that presented a major threat to Labour’s traditional working class heartlands. This was of course the Brexit Party.
Corbyn’s statement is in many ways the unkindest cut of all from a Labour party that has since the mid 1990s been little more than a fatuous, dishonest, non-working class, pro-war cosmopolitan liberal party. This is the case because for most of Jeremy Corbyn’s life, he was a pro-working class opponent of the European Union who knew the difference between the actual far right and that which liberals misguidedly call the far right due to a lack of rhetorical nuance. Now though, someone who clearly does know better (or at least used to know better) has sunken into the abyss of naming everyone who isn’t part of his political clique as “far right”.
The fact of the matter is that there were no classic far right parties standing in last week’s election and the only party that flirted with some far right figures, UKIP did not win a single seat. The party which did in fact win was one which transparently rejecte the dishonest liberalism of both the Tories and Labour whilst likewise rejecting the honest but penultimate anti-democratic liberalism of the Liberal Democrats (an increasingly ironically named party). This centrist Brexit Party stood on one platform – that of withdrawing Britain from the EU in the name of democracy – something that had traditionally been a cause associated with the Labour left.
Many of the people who voted for the Brexit Party last week voted Labour in the infamous 2017 general election. Some were in fact lifelong Labour voters. But as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage makes it clear that traditional Labour voters are more than welcome in his new party, Corbyn’s deeply insulting language may well have pushed many across the threshold and out of Labour’s electoral reach for the foreseeable future if not for life.
While I have never agreed with all of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, I have in fact agreed with many, primarily his aversion to foreign war and interventionism. Beyond this, I have felt that the mainstream media’s personal attacks on Corbyn have been not only untrue but in the worst of taste.
But when Corbyn makes blanket statements which infer that supporters of Brexit and/or of The Brexit Party are “far right”, this is no different than the false statements accusing Corbyn of being a supporter of terrorist groups, an antisemite or a communist spy.
Corbyn has therefore become everything he used to hate. He is in the clutches of a pro-EU, ultra-liberal party that is willing to make defamatory and inflammatory false statements about political opponents and ordinary people alike and all for an attempt at political gain that backfired before the eyes of the world. If there was anyone who should have avoided such hostile, dishonest and dangerous rhetoric, it should have been Corbyn. If anything, but calling anyone who one disagrees with “far right” it serves only to normalise the positions of those who are actually on the far right. Luckily, the actual far right still remains on the margins of UK politics, but further childish outbursts from Labour could in fact change this over time.
When it comes to the Labour leader, it seems as though the victim has become the aggressor, but a man as pacific as Corbyn simply does not have it in him to even be a proper aggressor. It is a very disappointing day for anyone who ever had a single good word to say about Jeremy Corbyn.