‘Saving Labour’, a shadowy, anonymous advocacy group whose express aim is to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader briefly rose to fame last week after it was endorsed by a number of anti-Corbyn, Labour-supporting celebrities such as author J.K. Rowling, comedian Robert Webb and actor Jason Isaacs. Some mild controversy has been brewing over the sources of this group’s funding, with fears that it essentially represents corporate interests and wealthy elites, which would not be surprising given those factions’ natural hostility towards Corbyn and socialist politics in general. The Scotland Herald pointed out that the pro-Corbyn Momentum group had been forced to undergo checks by the Electoral Commission over the sources of its funding after a request from Blairite MP Emma Reynolds earlier in the year, and so surely the same kind of procedure should also be conducted with this anti-Corbyn group. Whether or not this will occur is a test of how fair and free the electoral system really is; are rigorous checks on campaign funding only for those candidates who are anti-establishment and challenge the status quo, or are they for all candidates, regardless of their political message?
The forces behind this group, after receiving endorsements from a number of mainstream cultural icons, deserve further inspection. On their website, they claim to have “tens of thousands” of supporters, who are probably nostalgic for those good old days when Labour was invading Iraq and softening up the NHS for privatisation. Their message is clear: “Join our campaign to save Labour and save democracy”, ignoring the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party. Under the heading, ‘Challenge the Tories’, they state: “Labour needs to hold the Tory Government to account and be ready to form a radical alternative Government”, ignoring the fact that most Labour MPs left over from the Blair regime are indistinguishable from most Tories, and so the idea of “a radical alternative Government” or any kind of an opposition consisting of them is a complete joke. Was it “radical” when Blairites voted against Corbyn and with the Tories to bomb Syria and renew Trident? Give me a break.
Under the heading, ‘Build a strong democracy’, they state: “Jeremy Corbyn has alienated almost all his colleagues in Parliament, has failed to set any kind of policy agenda and cannot meet the profound challenges of the future”. Did he alienate his colleagues, or were they against him from day one? And has he alienated Party members, such as the 50,000 people who joined the Party in the aftermath of Corbyn’s election as leader last year and the numerous others who have joined up since? The answers to both of those questions are obvious, and yet apparently elude the likes of J.K. Rowling and Robert Webb. As for Corbyn’s “policy agenda”, it can be found here. I’m not too sure what “profound challenges of the future” the website makers had in mind, but two of the main ones I can think of from a traditional Labour Party viewpoint are putting an end to perpetual war and preventing the privatisation of public services. Given a choice between Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong principled opponent of both war and privatisation, and Owen Smith, who in 2006 said that he didn’t know whether he would have voted to attack Iraq (only to later come out with a fully-formed opinion post-Chilcot), and who previously actively pushed for the privatisation of the NHS, I’d go with Corbyn.
Robert Webb is quoted on the website as saying, “I’ve stopped grimly waiting for the next disaster. Signed.” Webb’s definition of “disaster” is the Party he supports losing the next elections. There are people in Iraq who would probably define that word slightly differently (having their country destroyed in an aggressive war carried out by a Labour government, for example); but so long as the Labour Party is ‘electable’, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what it does or what it stands for; only if it is marketable. Rowling and Webb and the other celebrities who endorse ‘Labour First’ are like the Bolsheviks who put an end to Tsarist tyranny in Russia and then went on to install their own form of tyranny and oppression, and justified all of the heinous abuses of power they carried out by saying that they were “defending the revolution”. Anyone who spoke out against and resisted the oppression they implemented was labelled an “enemy of the revolution”. But what even was ‘the revolution’ anymore, apart from a way of justifying a new form of totalitarian rule? Likewise, what even is ‘the Labour Party’ anymore, apart from a means of achieving power for power’s sake? What’s the point in supporting a Party if it doesn’t stand for anything? Labour without Corbyn would turn the UK back into a one-party state, where Labour and the Tories are just different faces of the same evil. That’s the real threat to democracy.