David Cameron demonstrated his most statesmanlike poise and grace over the weekend by tweeting: ‘Islamic State is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family's security.’ Wait, no. That’s not right. Not Islamic State. He said that about the Labour Party. The loyal opposition. A party that, whatever your views on it, is legal, has enjoyed a surge in membership and public support of late and which just democratically elected its new leader. Classy.
But hey, Cameron’s supposed to (and does) hate the Left. What’s been more disappointing (if not surprising) has been the reaction of people who must at some point have called themselves socialists. Frontbenchers who for months have been trotting out platitudes about party unity while mounting an embarrassing campaign to make it impossible for Corbyn supporters to vote, have stated publicly that they refuse to serve under him. Papers that hate Labour, immigrants and those on benefits have attacked him.
And yet, this supposed ‘unelectable’ candidate, who has just won his party’s leadership race with a bigger margin than Tony Blair’s in 1994 and who has been re-elected seven times since 1983 by his constituency, seems to have energised the nation and the Church. Well. The nation and Church’s progressives, liberals, lefties and socialists, anyway.
So, there are clearly some very bad reasons to mourn the Corbyn Ascendancy.
Bad reasons first:
1. He’ll split the Labour Party
If you are a Tory supporter (or just a Labour hater, this is good news, surely, so ssshhh (and honestly, why any journalist has cared about what their political enemies want for Labour in this race is beyond me). If you’re a Labour supporter, let’s be clear: it’s not Corbyn splitting the party. It’s people who supported allowing new people to join and vote in the name of democracy until that democracy presented a candidate they didn’t like. It’s candidates who talk big about unity until *gasp* an actual socialist becomes leader of the nation’s socialist party.
2. He’ll bomb Israel
I know a lot of Christians are worried about this. But they needn’t be. Corbyn’s ‘links’ to anti-semites and terrorists are nonsense – classic smear campaign gutter politicking at worst and stupid at best. ‘Did you know he once shared a stage with someone who once said something in support of Al Qaeda?’ Sure. But Alan Titchmarsh once shared a stage with a Rhododendron, and that doesn’t make him a pot-plant. Campaigning for justice for the Palestinian people is done by some orthodox and non orthodox Jews, Rabbis, former Israeli soldiers, Palestinian Christians and Christians from around the world. Disagreeing with them is fine. Basically calling them terrorists is not.
3. He has a beard
Moses had a beard. I think. Jesus had a beard. I HAVE A BEARD! Why are people obsessed with his beard?!
Right. Those are all bad reasons to be sad about Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader.
Here are good reasons to be sad about the Corbyn win:
1. Corbyn’s policies (maybe)
If you love Nuclear weapons, haven’t noticed how Nato has been growing out of control for years, think that privatising the railways has made them shining beacons of efficiency and service and think austerity is working despite the UK becoming a nation of foodbanks, I guess it’s okay to mourn Corbyn’s win. But only a little. We still live in a democracy. You don’t have to vote for him. And even if you don’t vote for him and he wins the next election, that’s democracy too. I’ve lived for years under a Conservative government I believe to be wrong about almost everything. Before that, I lived under Labour governments I wasn’t crazy about either. I survived. You will too.
2. Corbyn’s inevitable crucifixion
This is going to be brutal. The vicious attacks and smears he’s suffered at the hands of his own party are nothing compared to what his actual enemies – the Conservatives and the vast majority of the UK media – are going to do to Jeremy Corbyn. It’s like watching a dear, sweet uncle get into the ring with an angry, armed Gorilla. Most of his critics call Corbyn a decent man. And the treatment he is about to receive makes me sad.
3. His enemies will destroy the Labour Party rather than see him lead
As a Christian I am proud and blessed to live in a country where concern for the poor and the weak and where the common good is sometimes served by government action (in the form of things like the NHS and BBC). We call this ‘socialism’, and I love the fact that there is a viable socialist party in this country, which, whether it knows it or not, often fights for the biblical values of caring for the poor and the weak, the widows and orphans. And I know that those within the Labour Party who are embarrassed by the mention of socialism, who want the party to be more right-wing, will do almost anything to topple him. This will be sad for Corbyn personally, but it will be a disaster for the party. All the left-wingers who returned to Labour (despite its best efforts to prevent them), all the young people and previously disillusioned voters who joined the Corbyn surge, plus the thousands who have joined since Corbyn won – all of these will be lost if a counter-Corbyn-coup is successful. Because such a coup will suggest that the party is more interested in power at any cost than in the principles at its heart. And the electorate will never forgive them.
I have hope that Corbyn’s election could revitalise British politics and create a real debate about our future. But that hope is fragile right now.