Hugo Rifkind

The answer for sensible moderate Labour folk? Leave

They won’t shift Jeremy Corbyn and know that almost everybody in Britain who might vote for him already has

14 November 2015

9:00 AM

14 November 2015

9:00 AM

What a useless shower the Labour party is right now. What a snivelling dance of fools. And I don’t just mean the new lot, under Jeremy Corbyn, although his ongoing decision to surround himself with a team of people who seem to have each been tasked, individually, with emphasising a different bad thing about him does take some beating. I mean the whole train set, radicals and moderates alike. This is a party, right now, reaping what it has sown, which is piety, tribalism and a sort of over-weening preachiness. And now, to mix my metaphors, it is getting bitten by all of them.

Last week, Labour suspended a man called Andrew Fisher, who was, and remains, Jeremy Corbyn’s head of policy. It might sound odd, that ‘and remains’ bit, but don’t blame me. Fisher, inasmuch as I can make out, is mainly tasked with reminding people that although the new leader looks like a genial Captain Birdseye, he actually hails from a section of the party that hates almost everybody else, even more than the rest of it hates almost everybody else, which is saying something.

Fisher’s more recent crime, though, was party disloyalty, via tweets. In part, this involved calling the Miliband shadow cabinet ‘the most abject collection of complete shite’, although having met people who were actually in the Miliband shadow cabinet who would have merrily called it much the same, I’d say this seems wholly forgivable.

More dangerous was his endorsement of the Class War candidate in Croydon South. Fisher now claims this was a joke, and may even be telling the truth, because only Oxbridge trustafarians from west London support Class War these days. No matter. Article something of Labour’s terribly important something or other declares that anybody Labour who joins or supports somebody who isn’t Labour can’t be Labour any more. That’s that.

Fisher’s sins were brought to light by Emily Benn, who was the Croydon South Labour candidate he jokingly told people not to vote for. She was 12,000 votes short of victory, although I don’t think she can blame the Class War guy for that, because he only got 65 of them. Amusingly, anyway, it now turns out that Benn herself had done something similar, by retweeting a suggestion that people who disliked Corbyn’s male-dominated cabinet should consider joining Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party.

Action against Fisher was also demanded by Simon Danczuk, which has led in turn to Ken Livingstone demanding that Danczuk himself be kicked out of Labour, because he keeps writing beastly things about Corbyn in the Mail on Sunday. That’s Ken Livingstone, of course, who had to actively run against the Labour candidate in a London mayoral election to get kicked out of his party, but was let back in anyway after he’d won.

What is wrong with these people? It’s like they’re children. Part of the madness comes, I suppose, from social media, whereby every utterance is ‘campaigning’, even if you’re just doing it in the office, on the loo. The bulk of it, though, is the idea that Labour people have to be Labour forever, even if they completely disagree with Labour, or else they’re not Labour. It’s weird and it’s needy and it’s anti–intellectual, and it makes no sense at all. They went big on this during the leadership election, when a host of people with politics virtually indistinguishable from Jeremy Corbyn’s were kicked out on the basis of prior support for the Greens or the Scots Nats. Because, of course, if they were true Labour they’d support Labour even while disagreeing with Labour, because that’s what Labour does.

Why does it? Nobody else behaves like this. Nobody else turns party into a tribe, not just putting loyalty over policy, but feigning a virtue with it, too. In any other party, anyone who disagreed with the party line as often as Corbyn has might have been expected to resign at least once, if only out of embarrassed deference to the voters who had blithely ticked the ‘Labour’ box. Perhaps due to its history, though, Labour is not merely a jumble of policies in the manner of other parties. Labour is a ‘movement’ and if you aren’t with it, you’re against it. No matter which direction it currently happens to be moving in.

This is what keeps all those moderate Labour folk — sensible people, people I like, people who’d rather vomit on themselves in public than go on Russia Today, people who could totally be trusted to run a country without accidentally breaking it or losing it or allying it with Hezbollah — so hopelessly shackled to a party with a leadership none of them agree with about anything. They won’t shift Corbyn anytime soon, because the members won’t let them. They know full well that almost everybody in Britain who would ever vote for him already has. Yet they stay.

This is what happens when you brainwash yourself into believing that your lot are the only good guys; when you forget that it’s not the club that matters, but what the club does. This is what happens when you grow so used to feeling superior to everybody outside Labour that you can no longer properly believe such people are proper, moral humans at all. It’s not a church. It’s not a sin to go somewhere else for a bit if you need to. Not when the nuts do it, and not when you do either. Pull yourselves together. People are laughing.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • John Smith

    Leave them alone, they remain un-electable
    Strategy complete


    17,410 is the Conservative majority in Croydon South. The Benn family name was of no help to Emily.

    • rtj1211

      Well, the Cameron family name would be no help if he were standing in Bradford, would it?!

  • MikeF

    “piety, tribalism and a sort of over-weening preachiness.”
    That is the least of it. The real problems are with its vindictive, intolerant and self-righteous authoritarianism and its hatred of democracy, pluralism and established British ‘identity’ that it masks under the mock-altruistic smokescreen of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘anti-racism’. These are concepts on behalf of which for its own sectarian self-interest it has debased the notion of equality before the law to establish instead a balkanised legal system in which particular ‘preferred minorities’ are given precedence and which has also led it to create ethnic voting blocs whose existence it is prepared to prioritise over the interests of young women being subjected to mass rape. That is the reality of the Labour Party today – who cares what little spats they have with each other. It is an evil organisation that must be crushed – that is the only thing that matters.

    • giselle97

      I have no idea where you come from (Mars?) but I don’t recognise your patronising lies as representing the Labour Party I’ve supported for 50 years. Maybe you’re just trolling because your word “evil” is a disgrace!

      • MikeF

        I come from a council estate in the North of England. I used to be a Labour Party member and I can claim that I once risked serious injury at the least single handedly destroying the results of a National Front flyposting operation on the streets of London – I suspect you could not do so. Another difference is that I recognise what the Labour Party has become whereas you want to cling to your illusions. Well cling to them if they give you comfort. I will continue to describe the Labour Party in the terms it deserves.

        • hearditallbefore

          I suspect you have never been a member of the Labour party. I maybe wrong, but I doubt it.

          • MikeF

            You are wrong – you need have no doubts on that score.

          • hearditallbefore

            I’ll just stick to my hunch thanks.

          • MikeF

            Indeed socialists often think that what they like to regard as their superior insights have more credibility than actual events which they like to dismiss as mere circumstance. You may also, of course, have difficulty with the idea that someone can be a member of the Labour Party but then leave after they come to recognise that the reality is somewhat at variance with the ideal. You may even regard them doing so as a form of apostasy – now I wonder what more recent influences on the Labour Party in particular might be conducive to that particular mindset amongst its members.

          • hearditallbefore

            I’m sorry, but your pontification does nothing to alter my view. It’s your choice to be either annoyed with that or just shrug it off. You have no reason to try prove to me anything. It’s just my opinion. That’s all. No big deal.

          • MikeF

            Not at all – it is quite nice to deal with a socialist who recognises that what they think does not have the status of revealed truth. Reminds of when I was…oh no let’s not go there again.

          • Ooh!MePurse!

            You’re not expressing an opinion, you’re accusing someone of lying based on gut feeling and without a single shred of evidence.

          • hearditallbefore

            We’re not in a court of law here. Calm down. I have an opinion, deal with it, and don’t lose sleep over it.

          • Harryagain

            Heh heh.
            Just how long did it take for you to realise this?
            Most people can see this at a glance.

          • MikeF

            As I said I grew up in a generally Labour environment so yes it took me a bit of time to create the distance from which I could get a better sense of perspective.

        • Billo Qasira

          Wow, Mike. Powerful.

        • Harryagain

          So you now see that everything the National Front predicted has come true?

  • Calzo

    What I don’t understand is why EVERYBODY doesn’t join the Lib Dems. It’s blatantly apparent that both Labour and the Tories are a shower of witless buffoons beholden to their respective outer extremes. Why aren’t Labour and Tory “moderates” alike flocking to the only sensible centrist party. Clegg has a lot to answer for…

    • MikeF

      In the case of Labour yes we now see the ‘Blairites’ waiting their turn to be minced up by the hard left – not that the ‘Blairites’ are all that ‘moderate’ in any case – and a pleasing prospect it is too. In the case of the Conservatives you could hardly describe Cameron as ‘beholden’ to his ‘extreme’ if by that you mean the ‘right’. He is still trying to the Conservatives’ ‘Blair’. As for the LibDems oh who cares…

    • MikePage

      For taking his party for a test drive?

      It didn’t go as well as advertized, did it?

    • rtj1211

      It’s not particularly ‘moderate’ to demand one-world-government using climate nonsense as cover nor to demand hegemonic anti-democratic rule from Brussels using the words ‘liberal’ ‘democrat’ as cover. I joined them over a decade ago as an anti-war party dedicated to political localism. I left it 8 years ago for the above reasons…….

      • Calzo

        I must have missed their rallying call for the end of the UK state. Mind you if it was based on the considered findings of the vast majority of ‘one-world-government’ scientists then it probably is the moderate position.

      • Mary Ann

        If we had one world government we wouldn’t need any wars, that would damage the armament industry, can’t do that.

        • nicks40

          War is the health of the State. If we had one world government, then all wars would be civil wars. And we know how nasty they can be.

  • MikePage

    It’s an irrational (and lazy) conflation of “Community” with Labour. Some people just think/feel that way: that Labour is pro-community, pro-society, and Tories are a load of baby-eating bastards. Or worse.

    The sad thing is, it’s not like they haven’t got brains. Whenever some piece of evidence comes along that challenges their cosy assumptions, they retreat into this ugly tribalism and blame it all on Rupert Murdoch. And some of them claim to be atheists, yet their working definition of RM is as close as you’d get to The Devil as makes no odds.

  • jeremy Morfey

    I was reflecting on the relationship between Emily Benn and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, and wondering if there is a similar relationship between Hugo Rifkind, and John Major’s Foreign Secretary between 1995 and 1997. Actually there isn’t, since one is a grand-daughter, and the other is a son.

    Actually the ritual knife-in-the-back politicking is the “conversation” that Corbyn said he would restore to the Labour Party in place of the mindless conformism of the Blair years, and I am surprised any of the Rifkinds are knocking it.

    For my part, I’m looking forward to seeing if any good comes of it – if they can restore public services to what they should be without goldplating bonuses to every shafter on the make, then I might even consider voting for them again. Their politically correct nonsense is no worse than that coming out of the Tories and Liberal Democrats in recent years. I’ve been sorely tempted myself to vote UKIP because of it, but I have serious misgivings about some of their policies.

    I agree with Hugo Rifkind on one point though – society would be so much better for everyone if we could stop hating one another, and concentrate instead on bringing out the best in us.

    • rtj1211

      What a breath of fresh air. An adult comment about the true nature of British political parties…..

  • Billo Qasira

    Labour deserves to die. It deserves to die for electing as leaders a bunch of sinister men who supported the IRA which murdered British people, and who are apologists for Islamists who hate our society. Anyone who leads a political party and is in league with jihadis hates the voters and the voters should hate them back. The only question now is whether Labour will survive.

    • Chamber Pot

      What is the difference ? During Dave’s watch we’ve seen serving soldiers jailed for doing their duty, former paras prosecuted for stuff that went on in Ulster, and under Blair IRA terrorists given immunity letters which were illegal.
      There is no daylight between any of these crooks.

    • MikeF

      It deserves that fate because of what it did to this country well before the present leadership was elected.

  • Well lot’s of jolly fun but simplistic and, the very thing he complains about, juvenile. Some people stay because they oppose the Tory agenda and want a fairer society. Most importantly that all governments, particularly this one, need opposition in a democratic society.

  • Harryagain

    The sheeple will always vote for someone that tells them what they want to hear.
    (A bit like newspapers.)
    However lying and unlikely it is.
    Socialists love to bury their heads in the sand and imagine they live in Lala Land, where money grows on trees and debts don’t have to be repaid.
    Socialism has failed wherever it has been implemented usually in a big way.
    Sweden being the latest example.

    Socialists need to get their heads out of their bu ms and join UKIP.
    (Don’t bother with the Tories, they’re nearly as bad these days.)
    After all, they have the most to lose with the tide of EUSSR immigrants taking their jobs, houses and school/hospital places. All with the support of their new leader.

    This is where we’re heading if we remain in the EUSSR.

    • Andy Castor

      Repeat after me “I don’t understand economics since Maggie told me about the kitchen sink”.

      • Dogsnob

        Please expound what needs to be understood about economics.

    • Mary Ann

      Anyone joining ukip needs their head examined.

      • gillardgone

        Mary Mary quite contrary how does you labour part grow, God only knows.

      • Ivan Ewan

        Hark who’s talking! Everything you’ve ever said around here has been certifiable, and I suspect that when you heard of the bombing in Paris it lifted your spirits and dampened your undies.

  • Malcolm Knott

    Corbyn and his closest mates are not just laughable. They are also ruthless, single-minded and dangerous.

    • Andy Castor

      And the Cameron cabal isn’t?

      • Malcolm Knott

        No, because they don’t embrace the Queen’s enemies.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    For all his macho style I find Mr Rifkind naive: “..all those moderate Labour folk — sensible people, people I like…. who could totally be trusted to run a country without accidentally breaking it or losing it or allying it with Hezbollah”?? You mean, all those non-Corbyn types who supported that nice moderate Mr Blair? Let’s just remember one or two things about the Blair/Brown years: not only did they borrow & spend like there was no tomorrow, they boosted mass immigration to an unprecedented degree; as Migration Watch records (in its invaluable reference section on the history of UK immigration),
    The existence of a wider strategy to encourage immigration to the UK was revealed in an article by Andrew Neather in The London Evening Standard. In October 2009 Andrew Neather, a former speech writer for Tony Blair, David Blunkett and Jack Straw, wrote that immigration did not just
    happen, instead ‘the deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration.’ Mr Neather questioned why Ministers had been so poor at communicating a message on immigration when behind closed doors there was an obvious policy to open up the country to what he described as the benefits of mass immigration. Mr Neather also suggested that all of this was done by some ‘to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.’ Mr Neather cited a policy paper ‘RDS Occasional Paper 67’, which made an economic case for migration but he revealed that earlier drafts of the paper contained a clear objective: ‘that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.’
    Andrew Neather’s remarkable admission in The Evening Standard strongly suggests that the government had a very clear objective to increase migration on a significant scale but were unwilling to communicate this to the public….

    New “moderate” Labour shafted this country. They are/were criminally reckless at best, traitors at worst, and their supporters were/are fools.
    As for Rifkind’s “Nobody else turns party into a tribe, not just putting loyalty over policy, but feigning a virtue with it, too,” I don’t know whether this too is naive or just laughably optimistic. Zillions of Tory supporters are mindlessly tribal, and as the saying goes, in many constituencies they’d vote a donkey into Parliament if it wore a blue blazer.

  • Teacher

    “The bulk of it, though, is the idea that Labour people have to be Labour forever, even if they completely disagree with Labour, or else they’re not Labour.” Spot on. Labour is a faith which is what makes the phrase “moderate Labour” an oxymoron.

    Quit the tribalism and stop demonising decent, honest, hardworking and empathetic people who do not happen to have ‘Labour’ tattooed on their foreheads. The abuse of non left wing individuals and their depiction as ‘fascists’, ‘Tories’ (uttered with hatred), ‘Kippers’ and ‘racists’ is horrific.

  • Mary Ann

    Talk about bias, sounds like Hugo hates anyone who wants to look after the less well off.

    • Ron Todd

      Shoveling more and more money at ‘poor’ people through a series of increasingly complicated taxes and benefits might keep buying votes in the short term in the long term though as the money coming in decreases and the money going out increases we would end up like Greece.

  • davidshort10

    Let’s not forget that this is written by someone who only got the right to do so by being the son of a Tory minister and that this magazine is managed by a Thatcherite. They are stuck in the past and don’t understand that Corbyn is mark of history the same way as Thatcher was, as Callaghan said. The Spectator needs to get rid of the escort-girl man.

    • King Zog

      “They are stuck in the past and don’t understand that Corbyn is mark of history”

      Corbyn is a man in his late 60s whose political/economic views haven’t changed markedly since the late 60s.

    • Dogsnob

      Anyone who can write as Rifkind Jr does here, should have the right to do so, whatever his background.

      • douglas redmayne

        He is the son of a corrupt politician and I am sure there are many non beneficiaries of nepotism who can write better.

        • Dogsnob

          They would need to give the Spectator a call then? You make a claim I can not counter as I have no knowledge of his Father’s activities. However, he cannot be held responsible for anything he has not himself done.

    • Stu

      You give yourself away in the first sentence. Anyway keep believing.

  • Would it be so hard for the centrists to step away from the Labour Party had they not grown up telling themselves that the Evil Tories represent everything bad about Britain, that Britain’s greatness can be summed up by the output of our public services alone, and that Labour have a monopoly on both wisdom and compassion? Probably not. But sadly they did, and they still do.

    The Labour Party can suffer and roar until they grow up, and maybe learn to embrace capitalism too.

  • MrBishi

    I wonder when the Tory party turned into one huge bile factory?
    It was never like this when I was a Tory activist.
    Is the ability to spray bile over anyone you disagree with something that is only taught at public schools?

  • David Cain

    As a recently ex Labour party member there’s not much in this piece i can argue with. Seems to hit the nail on the head.

  • Alec Lever

    Swap “Conservative” for “Labour” in the headline and you might have something worth reading.

    • Dryermartinithanyours

      By chance a Baby Boomer, Alec? Interesting that we constantly see this journal critiquing the kind of bile we see in the American Republican party this past decade, in a far more insightful way than the left ever can. And that’s because level headed conservatives in UK are the only sane liberal voice in politics today. The leftism of the 1960s and 1970s, sadly with us to this day, will soon be regarded by one and all – and this a certainty – as the standout tribe of idiocy, weakness and hypocrisy in all of Western history. And a particularly strange, intolerant and irrational tribe.

  • The term ‘useless shower’ probably more fairly applies to the Tories, certainly under their last two PMs. I’m not sure it’s fair to call Labour a ‘useless shower’, they are actually positively venal and malevolent. Labour’s ‘moderate’ Blairites took advantage of a perfect storm in the Tory party and the emergence of possibly the best political communicator in either party since Churchill, to wreck the economy and open the door to half a million migrants a year. I don’t like admitting to schadenfreude, but I can’t resist a frisson over the sight of them trying to throttle each other. In fact I hope they turn cannibal.

    • MikeF

      Yes – ‘New Labour’ was as purposeful as it was malicious.

  • gillardgone

    The advice for any sensible labour voters to leave is good, if all the sensible types leave that should just leave Corbyn and a few fellow travelers to hold a love in.

  • Say it As It Is

    What the artical should say is all the right wing, puritan, blariity psydu tories leave laboutr you traitors and go be with your tories.

    Thats way all labourt party will be full of the sensible left wing socialist members and many can be promoted to MP level

    • davidofkent

      Did you write that when you got back from the pub?

      • Say it As It Is

        Dont go to pubs except to play poker or get a meal then drink pepsi.

        perfer damce floors and moshpits in nightclubs and venues with wild party games

  • dramocles

    Hugo, you’re confusing the majority of labour MP’s with people of principle (there are exceptions). The reason they stay is that they need the power trip and the gravy train.

  • green hackle

    The Labour party is stone dead, is anyone shocked?, The Leader and Deputy are supporters of terrorists murderers and anything that is Not British, And then there is that Useless Stinking Lying Fat Pig Watson who did his best to Destroy a mans Family with with unfounded Lies, If these Ignorant Filth are prepared to do this to the Once Great Labour Party what Chance do you think you have..

  • smoke me a kipper

    Why would sensible moderate Labour members leave when they’ve ditched the extreme right wing neo liberal leadership and installed a common sense moderate leader? It makes no sense. Hugo must have been drunk or on drugs when writing this article.

    • Flashman

      This is satire, right? It’s hard to tell these days.

  • Eques

    What a silly article. The very fact that Tories are holding such a love-in with Labour “moderates” should surely ring alarm bells. They seem to want a nice, cosy,sickly sweet little establishment back-slapping festival where everyone agrees with each other and believes in basically the same things. They want to reward those Labourites who behave themselves and don’t rock the boat a chance to mingle with the beautiful people.
    Surely it is bad for democracy to have an opposition of which the government approves. It surely makes no sense for people from opposing parties to be calling each other “sensible”, because it means the electorate does not get a genuine choice.