9th November 2019
Jeremy Corbyn – launching Labour’s campaign for real change
The first week of the General Election campaign in the UK has already seen fault lines open up between the two main parties in a way which will define what this election is about. The commitment of Labour to address the needs of the many, not the few has been evident in announcements on housing, public spending, maternity pay and childcare. The position of the Tories has largely been to play catch up, by making public sector spending promises which are a poor shadow of those made by Labour.
It is remarkable that the Tories have miraculously discovered that the NHS, industry and pubic services might be things worth investing in. The difference of course is that the Tories are merely paying lip service, in order to win votes, whereas a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would be committed to a real effort to shift the balance of power in favour of those currently paying the price for the failures of capitalism.
In spite of their efforts to steal Labour clothes the Tories have stumbled through a chaotic first week of campaigning, which has seen the supercilious Jacob Rees-Mogg forced to apologies over remarks about the Grenfell Tower fire; the resignation of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, who supported a former aide whose testimony caused a rape trial to collapse; and Johnson himself being caught on video making a rambling speech in Northern Ireland, at which he appears not to understand the terms of his own Brexit deal.
Johnson had set the tone earlier in the week with a column in the Daily Telegraph in which he compared Jeremy Corbyn to Joseph Stalin. Johnson accused Corbyn of hating “profit so viscerally that he will destroy the very foundations of prosperity in our country.”
Johnson went on to suggest that Labour Party members “pretend that their hate is only directed at certain billionaires, at whom they point the finger with a vindictive pleasure that has not been seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks.” The absurdity of Johnson’s remarks were summed up by Corbyn who responded via Twitter on “The absurdities the ultra-rich can come out with in order to avoid paying a little more tax …”
The media have done their best, no doubt in the interests of balance, to cover issues that have been problematic for Labour. The resignation of Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, was plastered across the press as a shock which had “stunned Labour.” In reality Watson’s decision had been known to Corbyn’s office a week earlier and the timing agreed with the Labour leader. In spite of Watson stepping down for genuine personal reasons the media narrative inevitably ran the story they wanted about splits in Labour.
The antisemitism bogie was also given a further run with former Labour MPs, Ian Austin and John Woodcock, being given airtime disproportionate to their importance to wheel out the old trope that Labour is lax in tackling antisemitism. Both went as far as to say they would rather see Boris Johnson continue in Downing St than Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister.
Margaret Hodge, recently reselected as candidate for her seat in Barking, who knows Corbyn’s record as an anti racist of many years standing, also refused to endorse the Labour leader. When pressed as to who she would rather see as Prime Minister, Johnson or Corbyn she responded,
“I want a Labour government. I think any government is more than any individual. And I want a Labour government.”
The real low point came when the 8th November front page headline and editorial of the voice of the conservative Jewish community, The Jewish Chronicle, addressed a call “To Our Fellow British Citizens” it stated,
“The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite. In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.
Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult. But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that. Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.”
The subsequent article is a disgraceful fabric of lies and unsubstantiated allegations, including asserting that antisemitism in the Labour Party is “inspired by its leader” and that Corbyn personally has “racist views”.
Not surprisingly Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, tweeted the Jewish Chronicle front page, swallowing the slurs lock, stock and barrel.
With four weeks still to go every effort will be made by the media, the political establishment and those opposed to justice and human rights for Palestine to caricature Labour’s position and slur Corbyn personally.
For his part Corbyn has stood by his pledge not to get into the politics of the gutter. He has stood by the clear message of Labour’s first week of campaigning; no billionaires, no poverty.
It is a message which those siding with the few fear. It is a message which is having an increasing impact with the many.