DAN HODGES: One of the most grotesque acts of appeasement in British history
A few hours after it was confirmed we were finally heading for a General Election I met up for a drink with a senior member of the Jewish community.
‘Every family’s having the conversation,’ she said to me. ‘It’s hard for a lot of people. Not everyone can just pack and move to another country. But many of them are making contingencies.’
Just 24 hours later an opinion poll appeared in the Jewish News revealing that 47 per cent of British Jews who responded to the survey said they are considering emigrating from the UK if Jeremy Corbyn enters Downing Street after December 12.
Not Odessa in 1821. Or Nazi Germany in 1938. But here in Britain, in 2019. The Jews are again contemplating exodus.
Unsurprisingly, no mention was made of this at Labour’s General Election launch at the Battersea Arts Centre the following day. Corbyn was cheered on to the stage by his ecstatic supporters and members of his Shadow Cabinet.
47 per cent of British Jews who responded to the survey said they are considering emigrating from the UK if Jeremy Corbyn enters Downing Street after December 12. Corbyn, Centre, can be seen with Shami Chakrabati, right, who supposedly conducted an ‘independent inquiry’ into Labour antisemitism
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn can be seen kicking off the Labour election campaign at the Battersea Arts Centre, London, October 31. 47 per cent of British Jews who responded to the survey said they are considering emigrating from the UK if Jeremy Corbyn enters Downing Street after December 12
To be fair, not all of those who attended seemed overjoyed to be there. Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith looked like she wanted to be sick. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth sported a grin that appeared to have been stuck on with super-glue. Deputy Leader Tom Watson was so far to the margins of the stage he was almost perched on Lavender Hill.
But the rest whooped and clapped along dutifully, with Shami Chakrabarti positioned immediately to Corbyn’s left. At every mention of his name, she looked up at him adoringly. The same Shami Chakrabarti who held her ‘independent’ inquiry into Labour antisemitism, exonerated the party, then found herself awarded a peerage and a plum job as Shadow Attorney General.
On a purely political level it was a successful launch. Labour’s leader was focused and disciplined. He hit Boris hard over the Trump/NHS privatisation threat. But it wasn’t just another launch. And this isn’t going to be just any other campaign.
Shami Chakrabati who held her ‘independent’ inquiry into Labour antisemitism, exonerated the party, then found herself awarded a peerage and a plum job as Shadow Attorney General
What we are about to see is one of the most grotesque acts of appeasement in British political history. Appeasement, and denial.
Every member of the Shadow Cabinet knows the truth about what their leader is, what his acolytes are and what their party has become. Just as every moderate Labour MP and Labour activist knows. But for six weeks they will lock that truth away, press the pause button on their consciences and sign a Faustian Pact to try to insert Corbyn as Prime Minister.
Or, more specifically, Corbyn and his political stunt-double John McDonnell. Over the past few days there have been whispers of a new strategy deployed by Labour candidates who find Corbyn too unpalatable to force down the throats of wavering voters. It holds they will paint a scenario in which there is a hung Parliament and Corbyn stands aside for McDonnell to allow the formation of a Government of national unity. A strategy which tells its owns story about the extent of Labour’s moral implosion. In the last days of the Parliament, Labour MPs queued up to join the chorus of condemnation for the abuse and intimidation that has driven a significant number of their colleagues out of politics altogether.
But this weekend they have been obediently fanning out, asking the country to elect McDonnell to one of the highest offices of the land.
The man who joked about lynching Esther McVey, described a violent attack on Conservative Headquarters as ‘the best of our movement’ and proudly displayed a plaque commemorating the IRA hunger strikers in his office. Sending abusive texts or emails to MPs is unacceptable. But honouring those who murdered MPs and their families is fine. If you’re out on the 2019 Labour doorstep.
Every member of the Shadow Cabinet knows the truth about what their leader is, what his acolytes are and what their party has become. Just as every moderate Labour MP and Labour activist knows. But for six weeks they will lock that truth away, press the pause button on their consciences and sign a Faustian Pact to try to insert Corbyn as Prime Minister. Or, more specifically, Corbyn and his political stunt-double John McDonnell (pictured right)
At least in 2017, Labour MPs and activists had an excuse. No one believed Theresa May could fail to secure a working majority. Their entreaty to voters to save a few seats for Labour and keep the Tories honest had some grounding in reality.
There are no excuses this time. Nigel Farage’s decision to launch a kamikaze mission against Boris’s Brexit deal has blown the Election wide open. A hung Parliament is the bookies favoured outcome.
As one Minister said: ‘I just don’t see what our path to a majority is.’
So centrist Labour MPs are busily harvesting fresh apologia. Saving the NHS from Trump’s clutches. Throwing a blanket over the army of rough sleepers. And, the most cynical fig-leaf of all, stopping Brexit. Labour moderates view Brexit as their get-out-of-jail-free card. Those who pledged ‘Enough is Enough’ on antisemitism, or correctly declared Corbyn a Putin stooge or issued stark warnings about his economic vandalism, have suddenly fallen silent.
They will now spend the next month and a half parsing and pontificating before finally declaring: ‘Look, I hate Corbyn, but if it’s the only chance of stopping Brexit…’ And if Corbyn had the courage of Jo Swinson’s convictions – and had pledged himself to stand against Brexit come what may – they could claim a degree of intellectual, if not moral, consistency. But he has not. Their values are being cast on to a bonfire to lever into No10 a man who has posed time and again as an opponent of Brexit, but in truth has done nothing more than rubber-neck a process many believe he secretly supports.
So, as the campaign develops, be prepared to look at the moderates and the Corbynites, and struggle to discern which is which. And note the way both factions align in a desperate and vicious attempt to force Lib Dem supporters into joining their unholy tactical voting alliance.
There are still many Labour MPs who are sickened by this state of affairs. But they need to be honest now. Britain’s Jews are not being thrown to the wolves to stop Brexit. Labour’s heartland voters are not being abandoned so the homeless can be sheltered. The Union is not about to be sacrificed to keep Trump from buying The Royal Marsden. Labour moderates are capitulating for the reason they have always capitulated. A combination of tribalism, cowardice and self-interest.
As Corbyn concluded his speech on Thursday, the assembled activists broke into their new Election anthem. ‘Not For Sale’, they chanted, with the same cadence Trump’s supporters chant ‘Build That Wall’. The NHS may not be for sale. But in the General Election of 2019 the Labour Party’s soul is.
Boris’s magic number
Boris has been told that his magic number for the Election is 330. ‘That’s the minimum number of seats he’s going to have to win,’ a Tory MP told me last week.
‘If he gets that, then he’s got a big enough majority to get his [Brexit] deal through and govern for a full Parliament. But if he comes up short, he’s finished. We’ll be looking for a new leader.’
Several Tory backbenchers and Ministers have expressed serious reservations about the PM’s Election gamble. But one former Minister was more upbeat: ‘People keep asking, “What’s our path to a majority?” So I’ve been telling them, “It’s through the estates in my constituency.” Boris is cutting through there in a way Theresa and Cameron never could.’ But Labour MPs will hit the Election trail in a desperate mood. ‘Corbyn is toxic on the doorsteps. He’s killing us,’ one told me despondently. Oh, Boris Johnson…
It was reported last week that Boris’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, will not be involved in the Election campaign.
But I understand that may simply be wishful thinking by some of his critics. ‘He’s not going to be sitting it out,’ a Minister confided in me.
‘Even if he doesn’t have a formal role, he’s going to be on the phone every day, getting into Boris’s ear.’ Classic Dom.
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