Features

Life inside Jeremy Corbyn’s crazy party

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

Jeremy Corbyn is a rarity among politicians. All his enemies are on his own side. For the Tories, Ukip and the SNP, Corbyn is a dream made real. They could not love him more. As the riotous scenes at the shadow cabinet and parliamentary Labour party meetings this week showed, his colleagues see Corbyn and John McDonnell as modern Leninists who are mobilising their cadres to purge all dissidents from the party.

Conversations with Corbyn’s aides show a gentler side to the new regime, however. They suggest the Corbynistas are unlikely to be able to control Labour MPs when they can barely control themselves.

‘Chaos’ was the word that came up most often, followed by ‘panic’ and ‘unforced errors’. Corbyn’s staffers were working 12-hour days. As tiredness and hysteria built, rows broke out, voices were raised and accusations of bullying followed. So tense is the mood that John McDonnell’s supporters suggested that Corbyn’s staff do what all oppressed workers of the world should do: join a trade union and force the hated boss class to heed their justified grievances.

It is no wonder his aides are jittery. They have had to build a party leader from scratch. Take the image which ‘Jeremy’ — as every-one insists on calling him — presents to the public. Even his closest friends had to admit that his ‘FE lecturer at the Primark sale’ was not perhaps the style a man aiming to be prime minister should ape.

After much time and argument, they found a stylist he would agree to listen to. The stylist’s suggestions were practical. Jeremy’s trousers were too long. Folds of cloth concertinaed up on top of his shoes, making him look as if he were wearing another man’s clothes. Jeremy should perhaps consider buying trousers with a ‘small’ or ‘regular’ leg, the stylist said, as the ‘long’ leg was, well, too long for him. He was to stop wearing striped shirts, which do not look good on television, and dress in plain colours.


Corbyn attempted to fight back. His son had to be sent from Westminster to his home in Finsbury Park after Corbyn failed to bring a suit in for Prime Minister’s Questions. But he buckled down and buckled up, particularly after the stylist told him that there were no sartorial objections to him wearing a red tie.

The political objections may be less easy to dismiss. Voters have described for decades how they hated focus-group-tested, poll-watching professional politicians. The voters are a pack of liars. Corbyn offered them an alternative, and they have no time for that either. When Corbyn said he was ‘not happy’ with the police or security services operating a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in the event of a terror attack, he had not ‘war-gamed’ his comments in advance with his advisers. The first they knew about them was when they turned on the news. None of John McDonnell’s staff knew that he was going to throw a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book across the chamber of the House of Commons. It was the shadow chancellor’s own little joke.

Nor do the Corbynite apparatchiks appear to be directing the new generation of militants who are rampaging through constituency parties. No Labour advisers could explain to me why their supporters were targeting popular MPs such as Stella Creasy. She’s one of Westminster most interesting feminist voices, I said. She made the life of the poor and working class better when she helped force the Tories to regulate the payday loan sharks. Why are they going for her?

‘We don’t know,’ they replied. ‘It’s nothing to do with us.’

If this is Leninism, it is Leninism for the Twitter age. Militants whose contribution to the cause of social justice has been to shriek on social media and call total strangers ‘Tory scum’ will persecute any MP to the right of Corbyn and McDonnell, without asking the leadership’s permission or needing its instructions. They just know instinctively that the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party fails to meet Jeremy’s high standards, and so has to go.

As indeed do the overwhelming majority of the British people. Even Corbyn and McDonnell worry that the killer charge that Labour loves Britain’s enemies more than it loves Britain may resonate with the British electorate. They are preparing a string of admirable initiatives to show that they care about security. The Labour leadership will launch a national campaign to protect the interests of sick veterans back from war. It proposes to highlight new ways of protecting women from rape, and of protecting Parliament itself from terrorist attack.

All worthy proposals, as I said. And all useless, as Corbyn’s aides know. When I asked one what vote she expected her new model Labour party would get at a general election, she said it would be as low as 20 or even 15 per cent.

Her well-grounded despair at what Corbyn is doing to Labour raises Lenin’s old question: ‘What is to be done?’ Corbyn ought to step down for the good of the Labour party and the wider left. His leadership may give the Conservatives a generation in power, and turn Ukip into a serious political force. But the far left that Corbyn comes from does not regard politicians from the Labour mainstream as comrades. In Corbyn’s world they are Blairite hypocrites and traitors, worse even than the Tories, because they sell out the interests of the workers they are meant to champion. I cannot see Corbyn responding to an appeal that he has a comradely duty to put first the interests of a Labour party he despises.

There may be another pressure, however. My conversations have confirmed what we already knew. Whatever his politics, Corbyn is unfit to lead a political party. He cannot cope with the enormous pressure or the relentless scrutiny. One figure close to the leadership said I should not discount the possibility that the strain would become too much for him and that he would step down — as much for the sake of his own health as the health of the Labour party.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free


Show comments
  • davidshort10

    One of the few brickbats that Corbyn’s opponents have not thrown at him has been the issue of age; his and John McDonnell’s. Perhaps even they are afraid of being called ‘ageists’. But for modern politicians, they are positively geriatric.

    • Michael H Kenyon

      In the 1960s and 70s Corbyn and McDonnell will have been sneering at the Spitfire pilots and self-effacing greengrocers who represented the old values. What goers around, comes around: 68ers are now as archaic.

      • mikewaller

        Not it would now seem in Oldham!

      • OscarJones

        Oh God talk about desperation. Please provide proof that Corbyn would sneer at Spitfire pilots given he attended the recent war memorials and chose to chat with WW2 veterans rather than attend the VIP shindig.

        • mulga mumblebrain

          The sheer viciousness of the abuse tells you just who Corbyn has worried. Since Blair, there has been a choice of Tory Parties, and the real rulers of society, the rich oligarchs, have rested peacefully. Now they are alarmed and are reacting with innate extremism.

    • David Simpson

      speak for yourself. I’m 63 and a Corbyn supporter, but I’m certainly not geriatric (unlike a lot of Tory voters, I suspect!)

      • davidshort10

        I was talking in relation to the average age of senior politicians now, which is usually under 50.

      • Landphil

        A late developer.

    • jennybloggs

      Gladstone was in his eighties when he formed his last administration and he governed an empire. Youth is wasted on the young.

  • David Simpson

    I wonder what Nick Cohen would have written had he known the Oldham by-election result – even Labour canvassers admitted they were surprised. I think the disconnect between the chatterati (of all stripes) and what actual people are actually thinking gets wider by the day. Cf the HoC vote on bombing Syria – after 10 days of intense media discussion and coverage of the issue, the HoC votes for bombing by an overwhelming majority, while less than half the country supports it.

    • OscarJones

      I think we are seeing a real shift in people’s thinking – they are rejecting so much of the media hype and possibly getting rather pissed off with Fleet Street’s series of propaganda sheets.

      • Jambo25

        They may be but, believe me, they are not going towards Corbynism.

      • mulga mumblebrain

        The MSM were engaging in ‘push-polling’, with the usual 100% Groupthink. The sheer viciousness of the Corbyn-hate tells you that they are worried by what he represents.

  • Porkbeast

    Its all a narrative, the unelectable one has won again and the emperor of political consensus has no clothes.

  • The_greyhound

    There is a risk of feeling sorry for corbyn and his supporters, There’s the poor bumbling old man, completely out of his depth, utterly unused to attention and responsibility, A bit like Clau-Clau-Claudius found gibbering behind a curtain and acclaimed emperor, a position for which he had neither legal right nor aptitude. And much like Claudius, his puppeteers have to tell him how to dress, and not to drool. And then there are his supporters, with their personal hygiene problems, and their poor educations (rather like corbyn himself) and their naive and simplistic way of looking at the world.

    But one should not feel sorry for corbyn, or his supporters. For corbyn may not be very bright, but he is studiedly malicious, a man who under colour of “talking to both sides” has cultivated and excused some of the worst people in the world. He never met a terrorist he didn’t like, and he never troubled to even acknowledge the decent side in any conflict. You will never find a picture of the odious hypocrite supping tea with Israelis or Ulster Unionists. It’s not so much that corbyn is an active anti-Semite, or believes in gender segregation; it’s just that he will go along with either, he is so very comfortable around the whole islamo-fascist scene. And though those supporters are mostly dim losers, some of them are extremely nasty with it – bigoted, self-righteous, profoundly ill informed, thuggish, arrogant, bullying scumbags.

    So the sooner the PLP disposes of corbyn, the better. That will entail the loss of the much of the new membership, but the truth is that they are the sort of members no one needs.

  • The_greyhound

    There is a risk of feeling sorry for corbyn and his supporters, There’s the poor bumbling old man, completely out of his depth, utterly unused to attention and responsibility, A bit like Clau-Clau-Claudius found gibbering behind a curtain and acclaimed emperor, a position for which he had neither legal right nor aptitude. And much like Claudius, his puppeteers have to tell him how to dress, and not to drool. And then there are his supporters, with their personal hygiene problems, and their poor educations (rather like corbyn himself) and their naive and simplistic way of looking at the world.

    But one should not feel sorry for corbyn, or his supporters. For corbyn may not be very bright, but he is studiedly malicious, a man who under colour of “talking to both sides” has cultivated and excused some of the worst people in the world. He never met a terrorist he didn’t like, and he never troubled to even acknowledge the decent side in any conflict. You will never find a picture of the odious hypocrite supping tea with Israelis or Ulster Unionists. It’s not so much that corbyn is an active anti-Semite, or believes in gender segregation; it’s just that he will go along with either, he is so very comfortable around the whole islamo-fascist scene. And though those supporters are mostly dim losers, some of them are extremely nasty with it – bigoted, self-righteous, profoundly ill informed, thuggish, arrogant, bullying scumbags.

    So the sooner the PLP disposes of corbyn, the better. That will entail the loss of the much of the new membership, but the truth is that they are the sort of members no one needs.

    • Howard

      Recommend me some Roman classics old boy? Wish to take up that history. I know of Herodotus Histories and that’s it. Obliged.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      One of Cohen’s fellow haters, driven to vicious extremes of abuse because Corbyn dared treat the victims of Israel barbarity as human beings.

  • mikewaller

    Yet another political journalist with egg on his face. Oldham has spoken since this was written making much of what Cohen wrote rubbish. I have no time whatsoever for Corbyn, but it now very much looks as though those on whom the main burden of the recession has fallen do have, as do many immigrants of Muslim faith. It would be very foolish indeed to write him off as Cohen did. If the economy hits another serious downturn with yet more service cuts and/or things turn very nasty in the Middle East, his time could come.

    • Jack Rocks

      Oldham is a safe Labour seat and they’re fighting it in opposition, so the usual rules of by elections (governing party loses but wins it back at the next election) don’t apply.

      All we learned from the by election is that the Labour vote hasn’t completely collapsed. A real test would be to try and win a Tory marginal at a general election with Corbyn as leader. I predict you won’t win a single one and indeed that you’ll lose at least 20 Labour marginals in the process, increasing the Tory majority.

      • mikewaller

        What simple binary souls so many Specky followers are! I am in no sense a Corbyn supporter. I think Corbynomics insane and his defense policies just re-heated appeasement. However, as with recent polls, political journalist got Oldham very badly wrong and I have a deep fear that as the conditions of ordinary working – and non-working – people continue to worsen – as they will, we just could find the next GE a re-run of 1945. After all, jam today becomes particularly appealing when all the evidence suggests that all that can be expected tomorrow is yet more hardtack.

  • Juggzy Malone

    Oh. It’s a Nick Cohen article.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      Time to don the personal protection equipment.

  • Fenman

    Oldham was a bent result with illegal postal votes being 99% for Labour. It also has a large Muslim population who appreciate supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah. He also has , because of his boss, the traitor, Len McCluskey a massive union support. This also accounts for UKIP’s poor showing.
    One shd also remeber a large minority of Brits are addicted to the teat of the sate and incapable of standing on their own feet, so Osborne,IDS,Hammond etc frighten them into Corbyn’s arms.

    • Jack Rocks

      The 99% figure was votes from a single street. It’s quite possible everyone on this one street who voted, voted Labour.

      • andyrwebman

        I wonder how accurate the 99% is? For one thing, to be going down to 1% accuracy, you need at least 100 voters. That sort of sample size is enough to make me a bit suspicious, although no smoking gun.

        • Jack Rocks

          It doesn’t have to be a very big street to have 100 voters on it (50 on each side, assume 2 per building, it’s only a street with 25 houses). Or if only 40% voted, a street with 125 houses.

    • OscarJones

      And your proof there were illegal votes?
      Interviewed the residents of Oldham have you?
      Stalinism is alive & well in the UK but it’s shifted to the right side of politics.

      • evad666

        Only a matter of time with that attitude before the BNP starts to take Votes of Labour.

      • mulga mumblebrain

        Stalin was of the Right. His greatest efforts were directed at destroying the best within the CPSU.

  • Frank Molina

    Jim McMahon a new labour Local man won Oldham in spite of Jeremy corbyn. Still had a majority reduced by 5000. Corbyn is past it, too thick and too Marxist To lead the labour party. I give him 12months .

    • Jack Rocks

      I don’t think he’s too thick to lead Labour. Previous Labour leaders have included Foot, Kinnock, Brown and Miliband. It doesn’t get much thicker than that.

    • andyrwebman

      I wonder if what will really do for Corbyn is the mob of leftists given new energy by his election?

      Despite disagreeing with his politics, I actually think he’s a nice guy. The trouble is that left wing politics of such strong conviction attracts the not so nice types – the militant mobs.

      For now, the mob supports him. But wait and see its reaction the first time he has to do anything unpopular, make any sort of pragmatic concession to reality forced by not having a blank cheque book to sign.

      They will turn on him. They may already be doing so because of his declining to apply a three line whip on the Syria vote.

      • Jack Rocks

        He may be “nice” but he’s a fantasist.

      • OscarJones

        yeh sure and the right side of politics has thrown up Angels by comparison. Give me a break.

        • Ridcully

          How many people on the Right spit in their opponents’ faces and call them “scum?”

          • mulga mumblebrain

            They prefer bombing countries to rubble and killing millions of men, women and children.

          • Ridcully

            .. while twirling their moustaches and going “Muha-hahahahaaaaa!”

  • OscarJones

    This is a load of nonsense from Cohen as he so often writes. The real ‘throwback” to another era is the Stalinism of today’s media who fulminate about Corbyn and Labour MPs as though they should all sing from the same song sheet and proclaim anyone having a different view is a traitor in Dorbyn supporter’s eyes.. In fact Corbyn is being far more democratic with his party than the Blairites ever were, or the Tories, and the recent bombing vote is an example of allowing MPs a conscience vote.
    Who needs Pravda when current UK tabloids willingly become propaganda sheets?

    • Freddythreepwood

      Come on! He ‘allowed MPs a conscience vote’ – and then published a list of the ‘traitors’ and set the dogs on them. He is as democratic as Stalin was democratic.

    • Greenslime

      He might be being more democratic but that is simply imperative pragmatism. Quite apart from the fact that anarchistic committee is no way to run a political party – or a country – you can be positive that once his Monentum acolytes have consolidated some control, that cloak of democratic pragmatism will be dropped. You will not like what is underneath. Not if you are sane anyway.

    • Jambo25

      Corbyn and his mates are painted as pacifists yet they were all very close to Irish Republicanism and the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah etc and none of them are exactly pacifist.

      • mulga mumblebrain

        Neither is Israel or the USA-haven’t you noticed?

  • davidofkent

    It isn’t Corbyn’s Party. He has been allowed to lead (and ruin) it, but the Party belongs to its members. In any case, they will soon rid themselves of this communist, 1950s throwback and find themselves a new leader. Of course, I would prefer that they didn’t.

    • SmallTree

      There is a discrete issue to do with credibility
      of Leadership especially when the leader does not have respect not does he have
      loyalty. A Leader that changes position especially
      in relation to so called ‘principles’ Privy Council, White Poppy etc. invites
      inspection because the Leader normally is ACCOUNTABLE.

      There is always the need for accountability
      in any group function. Should that group itself be part of a wider group which
      exists on a wider elected basis say a democratic process a question arises. If only
      certain members of the group elect the Leader and if the Leader requires those
      members of the group to be the major support what can the wider group do to
      test accountability? Who is accountable?
      Who or what?

  • Michael Hoffman

    This is a fact that is not in dispute, when Jeremy Corbyn was adopted as the Labour Candidate for Islington North in 1983, the electorate was mainly made up of an Irish electorate that supported the IRA. His support for the IRA and being supported by the Communist dominated North London Branch of the Engineering Union was the only way he was able to become an MP. You can check this out by reading the back copies of the Islington Gazette that were published at that time.

    • Jambo25

      There was a strong Irish Republican element in Islington Labour as far back as the late 60s/early 70s. I can remember Bernadette Devlin (as she then was) make a very pro Republican speech at (I seem to remember at Islington Town Hall) in 69 or 70. The place was crowded out with Labour members who cheered her very pro Republican speech to the rafters.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Cohen hates Corbyn with scarcely sane intensity because Corbyn dared to treat the Palestinians as human beings, dared to speak to their elected Government, Hamas, and dared speak to the Lebanese Shia resistance movement, Hezbollah. Hezbollah are particularly despised by Cohen’s ilk because they twice defeated Israel, and grew out of the heroic resistance to Israel’s brutally racist occupation of south Lebanon.

Close