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Last House On The Left: Following Jeremy Corbyn's Campaign Trail
Taylor Parkes , September 9th, 2015 08:46

Taylor Parkes visits Chelmsford - Thatcher's Agincourt - to study Corbyn mania, ahead of Thursday's Labour leadership poll deadline. All photographs by Samantha Hayley

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All pictures Samantha Hayley

A couple of weeks before the election, a Conservative campaign poster appeared on the billboard by the main road, round the corner from my flat. It boasted of the strength of the economy. It was on the side wall of a shop which had closed down; the doorway was stuffed with a sleeping bag and a couple of cardboard boxes. I looked up at the poster and I laughed out loud. Why were they wasting their money? Nobody round here votes Tory.

Then one Friday I was walking down the hill, heading in the opposite direction – literally and figuratively – to the usual snake of rush hour traffic, and it dawned on me. The poster wasn't there for us. Of course it wasn't. It was for commuters, heading out of London with their windows wound up tight, towards the sloping lawns and sweet, sweet leaves of Hertfordshire. It was in our space, without acknowledging our presence – sort of like the Evening Standard. I had to walk underneath it every day.

For years, Jeremy Corbyn was my local MP. I voted for him cheerfully. One of those beardy, tea-drinking lefties – just what you want at constituency level. I was dimly aware that he was said to hold some colourful opinions here and there, on this and that; none had any bearing on the parliamentary representation of our slightly grubby London suburb.

(Things are different now.)

But if you'd asked me, back in the day, how I felt about Jeremy Corbyn becoming the leader of the Labour Party, I'd have chuckled softly, shaken my head, realised that you meant the question seriously, doubled the size of my eyes, exhaled through a pursed-up mouth, then finally said “Hmmmmmmm. I like what that question implies. I really do. But does it absolutely have to be him?”

(Some things haven't changed.)

We're now three days away from the result of the Labour leadership election, and as you may or may not have heard, Jeremy Corbyn is the runaway favourite.

There's a sense in which all this is bloody marvellous. Well-heeled columnists and dinner-party commentators, let alone the moribund Labour Right, have no idea how desperate the situation has become. Corbyn's supporters – even the worst of them – understand it all too well. This, in many cases, will be why they are prepared to overlook the things they overlook. All that hope and anger, all that deep frustrated longing for something good, projected onto those snow-white whiskers...

And then there's a sense in which all this is bloody petrifying. Jeremy Corbyn? Are you fucking serious?

Does it absolutely have to be him?

On the train to Chelmsford, heading towards a Jeremy Corbyn campaign rally, I sit across from a businessman with a beard down to his tits.

Outside all the windows are these empty new buildings, flaring in the afternoon sun; impossible towers, fairy-tale money-pots, make-believe homes for make-believe people. In our space, without acknowledging our presence. I'm staring down at an ancient mobile phone, drinking a paper cup of awful coffee – I'm part of the modern world. Out past Stratford, Romford, Brentwood. Tiny rooftops, dirty, peeping out from behind the scaffolding.

Then suddenly everything opens out, and we're speeding through the Essex countryside. Late afternoon easing into early evening. Late summer easing into early autumn. Contrails are dissolving in the sky; people coming and going. The sunset, melting. Everywhere's green. Through the open windows drifts the sickly, overwhelming smell of manure.

Whenever Labour need to elect a leader, a left-wing candidate stands. Everyone knows that they're going to come last, but it makes the party feel good about itself; it's a way to connect with, contain and cosify the past. It's like one of those folksy old traditions that you get in Dorset – every Maundy Thursday everyone gathers at the mill pond and hurls bindweed at the seventh oldest virgin in the village, who's dressed up in a suit of peas. (His name is Bobbly Jack.) It's a novelty, isn't it? It's a bit of fun.

(But things are different now.)

The ceiling's caved in on New Labour. Bits of plaster had been coming down since well before the last election, but everything collapsed when Harriet Harman, interim leader, tried to get around the trap the Tories had set with the welfare bill – a trap as clear as fear – and plumped for what she seemed to think was a clever compromise: abstention, en masse.

But this happened instead.

Now just because Tony Blair says something, doesn't mean it can't be true. Blair's “interventions” in the run up to this vote have been drowned out, unsurprisingly, by a heavy chorus of boos. But while Blair was only half-right when he linked the “Corbyn surge” not just to Syriza and Podemos, but to the likes of UKIP and Marine Le Pen, he was correct to be concerned about the somewhat unstable, rudderless nature of this “vast wave of feeling against the unfairness of globalisation, against elites”. Of course, if he had not worked quite so tirelessly to reshape Labour into a party which would reinforce that “unfairness” and pander to those “elites”, there might not be this sense of desperation in the first place. People would be less inclined to seize onto the first thing that floats by, and not let go.

But he did, and now they do. Many Labour voters feel that they've already tried a “moderate” and “plausible” alternative. Everyone knew Ed Miliband was basically a decent man, but a lousy, de-electrifying leader. Some collective desperation kept the Labour faithful hoping, but that 10 o'clock exit poll which hit like a thunderclap... once the room stopped shaking, it was hard not to feel, somehow, we'd known it all along.

(Thanks for everything, Ed. I'll never forget you. And one day I'll be in a pub quiz somewhere, and that'll earn me a point.)

But now that this desperation has deepened, people will believe still stranger things. Some of Corbyn's fans have even managed to convince themselves the Right are scared of him – “Ooh, he's got them rattled!” – when they are in fact bouncing up and down on their beds and whooping. It's likely that a Corbyn-led Labour Party, tanking in the polls, would create space for the Tories to reach that bit further, cut that bit deeper, since there would now be – quite literally – No Alternative. This scenario does not “frighten” the Right, nor does it appear to greatly concern the Corbyn massive. But it scares the hell out of me.

(Which is why I don't entirely hold with these folk who go on about purity in opposition... They're not the ones who are going to be homeless this winter. Oh, didn't I mention that? I shan't bore you with it.)

The fact is, unless a lot of things change deeply and most unexpectedly over the next four years, Jeremy Corbyn is not going to win a general election. This is not to suggest that there's some kind of objective, immovable “centre ground”, nor that if there were, it would be occupied by the Labour Right – still less the modern Conservative Party. In truth, Corbyn's domestic policies are not very extreme, and would in many cases prove quite popular. Yes, they're “radical” in the sense that there's a chasmal distance out to there from where we are today, but really, Corbynism is just about hauling Britain back towards the social-democratic Centre. There will be no pogroms, no fifteen-hour queues for stale bread. This is not the problem.

I think we all know what the problems are. For instance, I'm not what you'd call a hawk, but please: out there in grainy, hard-bollocked reality, Corbyn's foreign policy would not just leave Britain naked in the conference chamber, but fastened into a gimp mask with a horse-tail dangling out of its arse. Whether we like it or not, there is at least one confrontation coming; you can be sure of that. There are some nasty people in the world, you know. Some of them – get this! – are even nastier than Tony Blair. And even if you leave them all alone, they will not stop. Not for all the tea in Islington North.

What's more, there are certain... issues with Corbyn and the company he keeps. He doesn't just have skeletons in his closet, he hangs up his shirts in an ossuary. This is not a trivial matter. Those who underestimate the problems this will cause are fooling themselves (and in some cases, losing sight of their own moral compass).

Don't get me wrong. My desire for a Left or leftish alternative to permanent austerity is so strong that I could weigh all these things up and still decide that yes, a Corbyn government is something I could vote for – albeit with my mouth in the shape of a wavy line and a hand to my brow. But let's not fantasise. Most British voters will respond to Corbyn much as they'd respond to a man weighing five stone five, with blood trickling out of his left ear, asking for a loan. The very phrase “a Corbyn government” has a whiff of pixie dust about it, something chimerical. This doesn't worry the Corbyn faithful.

We have no choice, they say. This is the last roll of the dice.

Well, I have two worries. Firstly, we're going to sea in a sieve. The rebuilding of the Labour Left, not just as a force within the party but as something which could make a realistic bid for government, is a massive project which requires meticulous planning, a lot of patience and probably a genius at the helm. What's more, I'd say that Labour only gets one shot at this, and has to get it absolutely right first time. There are no half measures, either: those who make half a revolution dig their graves. This suggestion – well, it's more than a suggestion, I suppose – that we should do this now, entirely on the hoof, with a hostile party, a makeshift leader and nothing approaching a power base...

My second worry is... this is the last roll of the dice.

Time is short. Stare into the bleakness of the future as it stands: TTIP, corporate rule, maximum secrecy, minimum privacy, elimination of workers' rights, a cultural vacuum, no education, dead suns and collapsing horizons... Goodbye to the NHS, goodbye to the welfare state. Goodbye to everything. Just goodbye.

And yet, and yet... the cold reality of casting a vote for Yvette Cooper, her exciting plans for cutting corporation tax, her benefits crackdown...

Yet again the Left is in a corner, driven there not just by slick manoeuvring from the Right, but by its own persistent stupidity. The fact is, this leadership election could end up enabling a de facto right-wing one-party state... either because Labour is too timid, or because it is too bold.

So, I made it to Essex. The heartland of working class Conservatism; the Agincourt of Thatcherism. At the last election the Tories took 51% of the vote in Chelmsford – nearly three times as many suckers as Labour. Since 2010, the UKIP vote has increased sevenfold; they were only a polling-day rainstorm from beating Labour back into third. This is not Corbyn territory. Five hundred people are out tonight – that looks like a lot of vote-meat when it's lined up down a sidestreet (four hundred and ninety-six more than you'd get at the Andy Burnham Roadshow), but it's not quite revolution yet.

Outside Chelmsford Civic Theatre – the kind of council-run arts venue which won't exist in ten years' time, if things go on the way they are – representatives of various far-left factions hang around, ants at a picnic, opportunistic, doing the things they do. These are the terrifying “entryists” we've been hearing so much about, an army of hard-left activists who tend to gather in groups of twenty or thirty in the upstairs rooms of pubs – a ruse to conceal their true numbers, no doubt – and who've now put aside a century's worth of livid but incomprehensible sectarian feuds in order to come together and pervert the course of bourgeois democracy. Over there, an old lady from the Communist League is selling books from a fold-up picnic table. It would appear that demand for Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983-87 is just a little slack. Over here, a woman with a fading American accent tries to sell me a copy of Workers Hammer, apostrophe-shy newspaper of the Spartacist League of Britain.

“Do you want to buy our newspaper? It's only 50p.”

“Which tendency are you, then?”


“That doesn't really narrow it down.”

I glance at the cover: oh right, it's the Sparts. I wonder who on Earth is paying to keep all these papers in print these days, now that most of the great 20th century human rights abusers are dead.

“It offers a Marxist perspective on world events,” she says. “Would you be interested?”

“Well,” I say. “I am a Marxist. But in terms of a system of thought, you know, not so much at the ballot box, because...”

Her expression hardens suddenly.

“I don't think it's about the ballot box.”

I can only shrug. “I'm a pragmatist.”

“So am I!” she snaps back sharply. “That's why I'm for revolution!”

What a salesperson. Dear old Sparts... don't ever change (the last I heard, they'd declared solidarity with ISIS, who must have been thrilled to hear that). I take a copy anyway – for research, let's say – and stuff it into my shoulder bag, already overflowing with leaflets and Mentos chewing gum and glossy red pamphlets with Jeremy Corbyn's face on, covered with quotes from Charlotte Church.

I step inside – some bungler's left my name off the press list, but they take pity on me, and let me in anyway. If ever you wanted to illustrate the best and worst aspects of the British Left...

In the auditorium, the crowd is pretty much as I expected. The average age is probably fifty, but there are almost no fifty-year-olds: mostly, it's the under-30s and the over-60s. Snow-topped grizzlers, veterans of those great defeats of the 1980s, and a bunch of clean young people who can be bothered to give a toss. Lots of them in T-shirts with words on: “100% Socialist.” “Never Trust A Tory.” Someone's brought a packet of chicken caesar wraps from Tesco's and is sharing them out with their mate. Inevitably, someone else has brought their kids (stoked, no doubt, at the prospect of a 15-minute speech by Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary of Unison).

Young volunteers in hi-vis jackets are acting as stewards, wandering up and down the aisles. One is the absolute spit of Roxy Jezel – if you don't know who that is, you're a better man than I – and I'm ashamed to say I do a double take before it dawns on me that... nah, it probably won't be her. A man with a megaphone tries to tell the crowd that someone's dropped their wallet, but his megaphone has broken.

“I've got some spare batteries,” shouts another steward on the other side of the hall, hand cupped to his mouth.

“I just put in some new ones,” the first bloke calls back.

“Oh, right,” bellows his mate. “You're better off shouting, then.”

In the end, some imbecile with a giant beard and a man-bun goes round doing the shouting – and during the daydream that follows I realise that nobody's searched my bag. Not that it matters much: I'd imagine that Corbyn's enemies are quite relaxed in the expectation that he'll become his own Sirhan Sirhan.

The smell of chicken caesar wraps drifts over to where I'm sat, which is as close to the back of the hall as I can get. The rally's sold out, but some folks haven't been able to make it because of a traffic jam near Chingford, so I move over into the seat on my right. I couldn't see a thing before. The lad in front of me's wearing a massive baseball cap with “REVOLUTION” printed on it. It was blocking my view.

There was a phrase you used to hear in the Cold War days, if you spent enough time around penitent ex-communists: “What was your Kronstadt?”

This is a reference to the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921, when Russian sailors and peasants, most of them veterans of the revolution, rose up in protest at Bolshevik rule, demanding something less repressive, something more like what they'd been fighting for. Instead, over the next few weeks they were slaughtered in their thousands by the Red Army – this is where the revolution first embraced state terror (an embrace which can never be broken). “What was your Kronstadt?” meant “When did you finally accept that you could no longer support, or make apologies for, the Soviet Union?” Sixties radicals spoke of the tanks in Budapest and Prague; others had already thrown in the towel, with the post-war annexation of the eastern European states. For one or two rather more senior comrades, Kronstadt was their Kronstadt.

It would be grandiose to draw a direct parallel, but still, it makes me think of what went down with me and the Mainstream Radical Left. Not that I was ever all that active in the struggle. This was partly laziness, partly an antipathy to dogma, but also, if I'm being honest, I just couldn't stand those bloody people and didn't want to spend any time with them. But you know... solidarity, right? I'd stick up for the Left like a drunken brother, because I wanted the best for it, because I wanted the other guys to lose... and because my heart was in it, somewhere. This is what I think, it's how I think; it's what I am. And nobody wins who fights alone.

I remember feeling quite uncomfortable with some of what was going round in the aftermath of 9/11, but the Left is a broad church, and has never wanted for ghouls and blockheads. I put it out of my mind. But things got worse around the time of the war in Iraq: I was against the war just like everyone else I knew, but deeply unimpressed by many of the loudest voices in the anti-war movement, whose desperate attempts to close down all debate seemed shrill and foolish, not least when – too often the case – their own views were fatuous and rather ill-informed. And, while I opposed the war, I still hoped something good might come of it, somehow. Clearly not that creepy neo-con pipe-dream with the children waving the Stars and Stripes and singing songs about Donald Rumsfeld, but possibly a functioning democracy, the final defeat of Ba'athism, some kind of bulwark against radical Islam... no, I wasn't hopeful (lack of faith in all of this was partly why I hadn't backed the war), but still, I was hoping. Yet I couldn't help noticing how many on the Left were cheering on what they called “the insurgency”, nor how sharp they soon became with those who wouldn't join them.

Around this time, the Stop The War Coalition, of which Jeremy Corbyn was – and still remains – the national chair, praised the “legitimacy” of the Iraqi resistance (in truth, a ragged band of Ba'athist remnants and Al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia), and expressed support for their attempts to fight the occupation “by whatever means they find necessary”. In other words, now that the bombs had fallen, they were quite determined it should all have been for nothing. Iraq had been the property of Saddam Hussein for 24 years, had been half-starved by sanctions and shattered by the 101st Airborne; still, it seemed, this wasn't enough. Iraqis must now live in an insoluble and bloody chaos, under the heel of petty thugs and theocratic terrorists, just in case they accidently made George W Bush look good. Back then – before all hope dissolved – most Iraqis did not share this view. But to the Mainstream Radical Left, it didn't really matter what Iraqis thought or wanted. This was a point of principle.

For ten years I listened to rubbish like this, on all kinds of subjects, reassuring myself these people were just a small but noisy minority... even when it became quite clear that this was no longer the case.

In the end, my Kronstadt came on the 7th of January 2015, when fascists forced their way into the office of a small-circulation satirical paper and killed twelve people, many of them long-time Leftists, lifelong supporters of anti-racist, anti-fascist causes; tireless tormentors of the Right in all its forms. And almost instantly, the Mainstream Radical Left – from a position of near-total ignorance as to what this Charlie Hebdo even was – began to slander the dead, announcing to no one in particular that they were not going to cry for them... before their bodies were even cold. Were not those caricatures of thick-lipped Africans and big-nosed Arabs transparently racist? Well, they didn't look great, it's true – but the intent and the actual meaning of those Charlie Hebdo covers which were flashed around the globe had been entirely lost in (non-) translation. In vain did the rest of us explain that all this ire had been misplaced, and anyway, none of these people were killed for being “racist” – they were killed for being blasphemous. That was the whole of the point. And if you could not or would not understand that, you were never going to understand a thing about these murders, or begin to grasp their true significance. Still, the arguments kept going round and round. Nothing could shake the Mainstream Radical Left's determination to indulge Islamic radicalism, even as its self-appointed warriors cut their comrades down. Truly, the anti-imperialism of fools.

(Stop The War ran several pieces on their website relating to the Charlie Hebdo murders. They're still there, if you want to read them. “It is a great testament to the enduring humanism of the Muslim population of the world,” says one, “that only a tiny minority resort to such acts in the face of endless provocation.” Well, that's one way of looking at it.)

So it was time to make a choice. Did I want to make excuses – even in my own mind – for a version of the Left which laughed at murdered soixante-huitards and stopped short of cheering their fascist killers – as they'd cheered for fascist killers elsewhere – only because Paris was a bit too close for comfort?

Sure, disengaging wasn't a complex procedure, seeing as I wasn't really that engaged in the first place. There were no forms to fill in, no phone calls to make. But you know, it's the thought that counts. No, really – it's the thought that counts. Because for as long as people let this dangerous stupidity go by, in the name of solidarity – or something – it just keeps on growing. Quietly it creeps, until it becomes an orthodoxy, received wisdom, an article of faith. And then, God help us, the next thing you know, the Labour Party elects a leader who gives this bullshit house room. And then you have to vote for it.

Jeremy Corbyn may well be significantly smarter than most of these people – or he may not. The point is, he's their man, their voice, their representative.

I've been waiting most of my life for the Left to make its glorious return. This is not what I've been waiting for. I've not changed my principles, and have only changed my views to fit the facts. I'm the one who feels abandoned – everything has moved around me. I lay down in a big tent, and I woke up in the rain.

Up on stage there's a long low table, and behind that there are several bright red boards with Corbyn's logo on them. It looks like the logo of an outsourcing firm, or a local radio station. There's a camera on stage pointing into the crowd, and at random intervals the flash goes off. Even back here, it's blinding. Every time, it feels like a kick in the eyes.

The chairman tonight is a genial Geordie trade unionist. “Jeremy spoke at an event in Colchester earlier,” he warns us, “so not to put too fine a point on it, the man's completely whacked!” (Yeah, that sounds like a punishing schedule – good job he's not running for Prime Minister or anything.) There are pantomime boos and hisses whenever he mentions Tony Blair, and then a spontaneous round of applause when he mentions Tony Benn. Once we've listened to Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton, who is bald and jolly and looks like a baker, Geordie comes back on and tries to make a point about something or other, but halfway through his second sentence Jeremy Corbyn shuffles onto the stage behind him, staring at the floor, and gets an instant, clattering, foot-stamping ovation. That's called being upstaged. Poor Geordie! The camera flashes in my eyes, again.

But it's like a soul revue – we're made to wait for the main attraction. Next on the bill is Tony Kearns, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (his page on the CWU website proudly boasts that “Tony is not a member of the Labour Party”). He turns out to be a likeable Scouser who wakes the audience up with his opening words – “Hiya!” - then speaks at considerable length about the privatisation of the Royal Mail. I agree with every word he says; I suspect that the crowd do, too. But time is passing slowly. Corbyn sits there, rubbing his eyes, idly scribbling notes. It's all a bit like a boring night in the pub, except that you can't join in. The arguments are sound, but they're mostly very simple.

And it goes on. Shelly Asquith, vice-president of the NUS, an impeccably-groomed young blonde woman sat among tired-looking men of a certain age – it looks a bit like Sky Sports News on transfer deadline day – explains that Corbyn is the only one of the leadership candidates who's been consistently pro-migrant (a ripple of applause), pro-free education (she really belts this out, but to a fairly muted response) and anti-interventionist (instantly, the hall erupts with cheers). I wonder about priorities... but then all thoughts are blasted out of my head by Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary of Unison. Within seconds of beginning his speech he's screaming his head off, blowing the lights out, voice shaking with uncontrolled emotion, as though this were a frosty night on the Govan shipyards rather than the here and now, with most of the crowd – who look like they're here to see Vampire Weekend – just staring back at him blankly, one or two of them nibbling away on Tesco's chicken caesar wraps.

But then something happens, and it catches me off-guard. Reaching the end of a long, long litany of basic Labour values, he adds “... and for the first time, I'm saying these things and not wondering whether the person next to me, standing for Labour leader, is going to support them.”

And he's right, you know.

The flash goes off in my face again. I think it's giving me a sinus headache.

Assuming he comes out on top this Saturday, the media assault on Jeremy Corbyn will barely have begun. What we've heard so far is just a clearing of the throat.

Of course, a lot of it's pure hysteria, the same old junk that's hurled at every lefty who breaks cover: he's mad, he's weird, he wants to force us all to dress in boiler suits and only eat potatoes. A lot of it involves the twisting of his words until they squeak – e.g. the flagrant misreporting of some cautious and equivocal comments re. segregated carriages on late night trains. But much of it is not hysteria. Much of it has not been twisted. Much of it is simply reportage; the startling facts. Incredulous hacks, digging not-very-deep, have uncovered a seam of words and deeds so appallingly and astonishingly ill-judged, they cannot believe their luck. Do not doubt that there will be a whole lot more of this. Corbynites' attempts to wave this stuff away, as though it were just tittle-tattle, are foolish indeed (and in some cases, shameful). This stuff is incredibly worrying – both in terms of what it says about the man behind the beard, and in terms of what it means for the future of the Labour Party, specifically the Labour Left. And by extension, the future of Britain.

We needn't go through all the details again. Everyone's aware by now that Corbyn has referred to members of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, that he's courted and supported all kinds of anti-semitic nutbags and babbling enthusiasts for jihad, then defended them in robust terms when asked what the hell he was doing. (It's not unusual for those in Corbyn's position to find themselves sharing platforms with people whose wider views they find repulsive; not so common to big them up at great length after the fact.)

Corbyn fans' response to these unsettling revelations has been rather dismissive, even impatient. Again and again, the same responses: “Huh! Another smear!” Well no – a smear is something which isn't true. “Tony Blair met Hamas just last week – and no one had a problem with that!” Intelligent people, trying to pretend that they see no difference between a former Prime Minister and UN Middle East Peace Envoy – grotesquely amusing as that may be – attempting to negotiate a ceasefire in Palestine, and some obscure backbench MP, with close-to-zero power and influence, having a pow-wow with his curious “friends”. Whatever Corbynites claim, this is not international diplomacy. These were not summit meetings, nor were they peace talks; more like publicity stunts. Publicity stunts for peace, perhaps, or something similarly asinine and Lennonish, but still, the fact remains: there's no conceivable way that anything constructive – not one thing – could ever have come from any of them. And nor did it; only the provision of a platform for bastards.

Incidentally, wouldn't it have been nice to see, in amongst those shots of him sat next to Dyab Abou Jahjah – the Lebanese activist who rages against “Jew-worship” and describes gay men as “AIDS-spreading fagots” (sic) – pictures of Jeremy Corbyn hanging out with... I dunno, Bat Shalom, the joint Israeli-Arab women's peace organisation? Some of the many Israeli Leftists opposed to the occupation, but also to Hamas' thirst for genocide?

There is at least one Israeli citizen to whom Corbyn has chosen to extend the hand of friendship: Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, enthusiastic proponent of the “Jews did 9/11” theory and spreader of the Blood Libel. Now, there's really no point in talking to people like Raed Salah – other than to say “Fuck off, Raed Salah.” There's simply nothing to be gained. They have no interest in “finding common ground”... “a greater understanding”... “peace”. It's clear what Corbyn was thinking: Theresa May was trying to boot Salah out of the country at the time, on charges which Corbyn considered unfair. But the warmth with which he hailed his latest cause celebre was startling: “[Salah] is far from a dangerous man,” he gushed. “He's a very honoured citizen. He represents his people very well.” And, issuing an invitation to the House of Commons: “You will be assured of a very warm welcome, and I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace, because you deserve it.”

It just goes on and on: anyone who can be arsed to look will discover a list of crackpots, Jew-haters and general scumbuckets longer than both your arms. Corbyn seems to think that anti-imperialism is a simple thing: you just seek out some underdogs and slap them on the back. Never mind who or what they are; never mind the dungeons dark and gallows grim these “friends” provide for the secular Left, wherever they find them. Never mind if some of these “anti-imperialists” happen to subscribe to the most imperialist ideology that the world has ever seen. Never mind, never mind.

This stuff will undo him. It may well undo the Labour Party, too. This is not just “muckraking”. And this is not a trivial matter.

What's actually going to happen here?

The Labour Party is famously – or notoriously – reluctant to kick out its failed and failing leaders. If Burnham or Cooper should get this gig, only the fat hand of death would prevent them hanging on until at least spring 2020. If Corbyn wins, there are three possibilities: he could remain in place until the next election; he could be forced out, either by a coup from the Labour Right (who've never cared that much about internal party democracy), or by some public disgrace; or he could step down voluntarily in a couple of years on the perfectly reasonable grounds that he's ancient, and never really wanted the job.

The first of these scenarios could well lead to an electoral wipe-out. The second would spell the final defeat of the Left – and centre-left – within the party it created.

And so that third possibility is our best hope here, I think. But it assumes so very much. It assumes that Corbyn could nudge the Overton Window leftwards while in opposition (which is almost unprecedented), while under ceaseless, scurrilous – and sometimes well-founded – attack. It assumes that his successor would also come from the Left of the party, and would continue the good work which may or may not have been done while curbing the Corbyn-specific stupidity, cheering the party up, and then presenting as a credible PM. It assumes that three years of Corbynism would not have toxified the Labour brand to the point where it can only be handled with rubber gloves and tongs, from behind a sheet of reinforced plexiglass. It assumes that by this point, anyone will care what happens to the fucking poor, or whoever. How lucky do you feel?

Because this is a wager. With Cooper or Burnham there's a 50/50 chance we'll get our stake back, but we'll never get any more than that. With Corbyn, we could roll a double six and win the bank, but anything else and we've lost the watch, the car and the house; we're ruined. I'm not sure how lucky I feel. (A friend points out that the watch has stopped, the car is a write-off and the house has collapsed, so what have we got to lose? And I say, “Hmm.”)

One more thing: if Corbyn were to contend a General Election, it's worth considering who he'd be up against. Cameron insists he won't contest a third election, with George Osborne his anointed successor. That could be a gift to Labour – it's not just that Osborne is scum, it's that he can't conceal it. No one seems too bothered for now, so long as he's just some Igor lurching round Cameron's lab, but when that face has been on every TV screen in Britain for months, radiating smug malevolence, simultaneously spiteful and weak... that's not the customary front-benchers' mask, with its semi-convincing, stencilled-on sincerity. That's the face of a snivelling, evil bastard. It's unmistakable. Giving him that little Roman emperor's haircut hasn't changed a thing; Osborne may still be thought of as competent, but he will never be popular.

If on the other hand Boris Johnson finds a way to muscle in, all bets are off. Corbyn versus Osborne is at least a fight you can sort-of imagine the old man having. Corbyn versus Johnson goes like this:

Two days before Chelmsford, yet another row blows up. Someone's turned up footage of Corbyn, four years back, on Press TV – the propaganda channel of the Iranian government – describing the death of Osama bin Laden as “a tragedy”. Of course, that's not quite what he meant: if there's one thing surer than Corbyn's knack for saying unfortunate things, it's the media's determination to magnify and misrepresent them. Which allows the faithful to exonerate him, yet again – but despite these instant (and by now well-practiced) defensive manoeuvres, the truth is... well, the truth is bad enough.

Just as no one really thinks that Corbyn has a Hamas poster blu-tacked to his bedroom wall, no one believes he thought of Osama bin Laden as a superstud. We know what he meant: that an assassination, rather than an arrest and trial, appeared barbaric, and would provide more fuel for those who see Bin Laden as a martyr. Now, you could say that's a bit naïve – this stuff is shadowy, and we don't know the half of it, but it's unlikely that when those Navy SEALs burst in Osama threw his hands up and said “OK, it's a fair cop” – but it's a reasonable view. Barack Obama, too, says he'd have preferred to put Bin Laden on trial, for the same very obvious reasons.

But any politician with ambition should know better than to be so unbelievably careless. A tragedy? What was he thinking? Surely, if there's one essential quality required for the office of Prime Minister, or Leader of the Opposition – whether Right or Left – it's judgment. And if there's one thing Corbyn lacks, it's judgment. This is someone who still believes that Slobodan Milosevic was misunderstood; someone who signed an Early Day Motion calling for research into homeopathy to be “placed on the national agenda as a credible scientific field of inquiry”; someone who's already made it plain that he'd take Britain out of NATO if he could – even though he probably couldn't – thereby burning bridges which he hasn't even come to yet. (Deserting all our allies and then preaching them a sermon might cause certain folk to clap their hands in glee, but it's best avoided, really.)

It doesn't get any better, either: Corbyn went on to draw an equivalence between the death of the architect of 9/11, and 9/11 itself – oh yes he did – and anyway: what was he even doing on Press TV, best known for parroting the government line on Western journalists tortured for “spying”, and broadcasting theories of the Holocaust as perfidious Zionist hoax? It's not the only time he's popped up on there, never so ungracious as to criticise a government which hangs gay men from the gibbets of cranes – a government which he believes has been “demonised” by the West.

One or two of these clangers could be written off as “gaffes”; three or four you could brush under the rug... perhaps. But we seem to be looking at a lifetime of this stuff. And those of us who care about such things, and are prepared to say so, just face snarky, eye-rolling ridicule from people whose instincts are so acute that six years back they were telling us that George Galloway was a principled opponent of tyranny. (Corbyn, incidentally, sent a congratulatory tweet on the occasion of Galloway's victory in the Bradford West by-election. Always good for the party leader to be on record celebrating the election defeat of a Labour MP. Inspires loyalty, that.)

If you think these things don't matter – well, I suppose that's up to you. If you're going to hold your nose, the way you held your nose to vote for the party who brought us anti-immigration mugs and a pledge to be “tougher than the Tories” on social security – well, I can understand that. But please, don't be under any illusions. People keep comparing Corbyn to Michael Foot (and not in a nice way). But Labour lost in 1983 because its manifesto was simply too left-wing for the British electorate. If you're going to make yourself unelectable, that is at least an honourable way to do it.

This, I think, is not.

Anyway, look, why doesn't Corbyn have a campaign song? Everyone loves a campaign song. I suggest this one, by the ever-popular Ted Rogers. You have to change the words from "Dusty Bin” to “Jeremy Cor-byn”, but otherwise it fits quite well, I think.

So, Geordie comes back onstage and talks about blacklisting in the building trade, and then informs us that there'll be no Q&A at the end of the rally tonight because Jeremy's too tired. With that awesome, Howard Finkel-like introduction, Jeremy Corbyn takes the mic. They weren't kidding: he looks knackered, clinging to the lectern like a length of cobweb swaying in the breeze.

I've spent so long, these last few months, trawling back through Corbyn's recent past and finding demons that by now I'm half-expecting him to pull a piece of paper from his top-left pocket, read out the names of a third of the crowd, then have them dragged outside – by Roxy Jezel and the bloke with the man-bun – lined against the wall and shot. It's almost a surprise to get the man I voted for at two elections, that sincere and softly-spoken socialist, articulating my most deeply-held beliefs about the way we have to treat each other, while there is still time.

I'm no sourpuss; like everyone else in here, I applaud the things I agree with, and by the end of it my palms are sore. He talks about courage and strength, about the treatment of the mentally ill, about building social housing and controlling rents, establishing a baseline of decency. Low-key, small-scale, never trying to play the crowd. Treating them like adults, or equals.

What about the money, then? Once again he speaks in vague and reassuring terms about setting up a National Investment Bank – I'm broadly in favour, though partly because whenever he mentions it I get an earworm of the first Black Sabbath album – and everything is all so simple.

“So, we can raise corporation tax a bit...”

“A lot!” screams someone in the audience.

“OK, well...” he ad-libs weakly. “We'll take the bids later.”

This is not quite good enough. And I know it's not quite good enough, but... as he starts to wind up, it occurs to me I haven't really disagreed with anything he's said, and much of it has moved me almost to the point of real emotion. But, but, but, you see...

...that's the easy bit.

All he's done is offer up the very basic outline of a social democratic programme, and then waved his hands in place of explanations as to where he'd get the money – never mind what the holy hell he'd do about capital flight or uncontrolled inflation – but by God, these are filthy and desperate times, and if the things he said tonight were all he had to say, he'd have my vote tomorrow morning.

Finally, the crowd shriek their approval as he shrugs off the “abuse” he's been receiving from the media, as though it were all just tittle-tattle. We don't do that, he says. We don't deal with abuse. We don't respond to it. And for the first time tonight, I frown. And all around me, people are applauding, louder and louder.

On the way out, someone shakes a collection bucket under my nose. All I've got's a 50p and a 20p, and I'm not going to give him that.

“Sorry comrade,” I say. “I'm out of work at the moment.”

And he grunts and scowls.

Slumped on the train back to London, I suddenly remember that copy of Workers Hammer. I pull it from my bag and flip it open at a random page. It's an advert for back issues: some previous front covers, spread like a fan. One of them has the headline “HANDS OFF ROMAN POLANSKI! DOWN WITH AGE OF CONSENT LAWS!” (There is no comma halfway through the first of those injunctions.) I stuff it back in my bag with all the other crap and I stare through the window at the darkness instead.

We're speeding through an oblivious night, and London is approaching. Up in the newly-built towers a hundred thousand multi-coloured lights are sparkling, beaming; within sight, but out of reach. I think back to the clapping hands, and I have to remind myself: it's probably not going to be like that. It's going to be like this.

At Liverpool Street the tube is full of affluent-looking Londoners. We pull out of the station, and a homeless guy with half his teeth gone shuffles down the carriage waving a dirty paper cup. “Sorry to bother you, ladies and gentlemen,” he says, in a middle-class accent that's seen better days. “I'm trying to get the money for something to eat. I'm in a night shelter, and...”

I scrabble in my pocket and I give him what I've got – a 50p and a 20p – and shrug apologetically. He gets off at the next station. No one else has given him any money. I watched: they all made a point of staring straight ahead, unblinking, as he went by. Refusing to acknowledge his presence; refusing to acknowledge his existence.

Time is very, very short. The leaves have started falling already. The winter's coming on.

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Sep 9, 2015 9:52am

Absolutely spot-on.

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Sep 9, 2015 10:48am

Fantastic writing. Corbyn is poison.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:50am

You're missing the point. Corbyn's interactions with Hamas are not instantiations of some kind of bullshit empty "international diplomacy" which puts Israel on a false equivalence with Gaza, but expressions of solidarity with the ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES of an oppressed people.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:50am

In reply to :

I'm not sure that's what...

Never mind.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:53am

In reply to kal:

Electoral poison, that is. Unelectable.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:54am

also, i'm pretty sure that, insofar as we define imperialism as "a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means", classical liberalism and its modern variants are "the most imperialist ideologies that the world has ever seen"

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Sep 9, 2015 11:57am

Excellent. You have properly raised the bar with this one.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:12pm

Imagine him as Prime Minister, September 1939.

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Sean K
Sep 9, 2015 12:14pm

Great article, fantastic writing.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:21pm

A really excellent article

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Sep 9, 2015 12:26pm

Some good points, but the problem is Corbyn's rivals stand jack all chance of winning over a hundred seats either. Cooper or Burnham, for all their qualities, are not going to inspire anyone much. Therefore, party members have quite understandably thought 'fuck it, we might as well go out fighting and elect someone who believes in something other than a bit of technocratic tinkering'.

If Corbyn does fuck things up, the Labour Party have only got themselves to blame. They've turned into a big confused mess of triangulation and compromise with no ideological identity, leaving a vacuum for someone like Corbyn to fill.

Personally I've given up on politics for the time being. Everything's going to hell over the next few decades and I'm afraid all we can do is wait for that critical point when something has to change. Someone like Cooper might ease the pain a bit, but the dysfunctional economic paradigm will have to unravel.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:48pm

In reply to Barry:

yeah but it's not. And also I prefer someone who do talk to Hamas and engage in a dialog than to walk the line of the Israeli government and support bombing campaigns.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:52pm

In reply to Daniel:

Elected representatives committed to the murder of all Jews in the region.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:56pm

I can't help but be stunned whenever anyone shows they have uncritically swallowed the blatant lie that the 7th richest country in the world, with the most billionaires of any country, running the largest network of tax havens on the planet "cannot afford" to work for its population, provide services, create employment, redistribute wealth.

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Sep 9, 2015 12:57pm

I've just read this twice and it has suucceded in turning me against Corbyn where all previous critiques have failed.

Shameless arse lick here, but Taylor you should publish. Ever since I used to buy NME I've adored your prose.

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Sep 9, 2015 1:21pm

The modern Labour Party's really not connected to reality unfortunately, worsened by the number of people (often affluent bourgeois Londoners) who don't really know anything about politics that have joined the Corbyn cause in recent months. Like most other people, I think he is a decent man in many respects - but what is the objective in him becoming leader? No one seems to be able to provide an adult answer with foresight

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Louise Ankers
Sep 9, 2015 1:33pm


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Sep 9, 2015 1:34pm look long and hard enough at the backstory of any individual and there can be events, speeches given, conferences attended that can be used to fit a prevailing agenda.

Does this imply bad judgement at each turn, as the author tries _very_ hard to assert? I don't think so. Judged against actual outcomes, some of Jeremy Corbyn's positions are - not merely appear - farsighted, for instance, with regard to Irish nationalism (views also echoed by former 'terrorist', Nelson Mandela). I also get the feeling that what he says regarding similar issues comes from a deep compassion and awareness of suffering, not poor judgement.

There are problems with the author's patronising tone regarding some of the attendees. I attended an event in Ealing, hardly a hotbed of Trotskyist activism, and was surprised at the representativeness of the country at large: young, old, former activists returning to the party, black, white. Everyone was respectful, kind and asked pertinent questions of me. Yes, there were some of the fringe left, but they need a voice, too.

I do gather, from a quick search, that the author's style is meant to be acerbic, so I guess the tone fits in.

The author mentions the 'Overton Window' of public acceptability, but neglects to mention that this window shifts with time (in the theory) and can be influenced by events and a strong opposition that forces a government to explain what it is doing and why (a failure of the 2010-2015 Labour party).

The next general election is 5 years away. A lot can happen between now and then. We live in interesting times.

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Sean Thomas
Sep 9, 2015 1:37pm

I'm a fellow hack, and I doff my fecking hat. This is just brilliant journalism, as well as being entirely true.


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Sep 9, 2015 1:40pm

Excellent article, very prophetic and spot on

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Sep 9, 2015 1:44pm

In reply to Sean Thomas:

oh my god you're that prick who writes for the telegraph aren't you? at leas you know you're a hack

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Sean Thomas
Sep 9, 2015 1:46pm

In reply to :

Yep, it's me!

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Nick Name
Sep 9, 2015 2:12pm

Interesting. But I never fail to be amazed at how many people believe that their world view and experience is the definitive one.

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John Traynor
Sep 9, 2015 2:17pm

Here's a precis of your rambling deliberately-dumbed-down nonsense:
"Why do people like Corbyn, I don't understand, Smear, smear, smear, OMG what will the Tory swing voters think?"

The Labour elite have lost - the capitalist gangsters will lose. Corbyn is just a catalyst to encourage people to take control.

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Sep 9, 2015 2:37pm

This is superb. Absolutely brilliant piece of writing.

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 2:45pm

Can't say I'm particularly swayed by this article, but then I always preferred the Stud Brothers.

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Sep 9, 2015 2:51pm

This is poor stuff. You make no attempt to really understand the reasons for why people are voting for Corbyn. These being:

1) The fact that none of the other Labour candidates have given any assurance that they're going to stand up for people at the sharp end of society. One of the main reasons given for Miliband losing was that 'he wasn't right-wing enough'. The other three candidates didn't oppose the Tory welfare bill, either. This is a party that wants to get into power at any cost. Is it any wonder that people are voting for the one person who is against all this? which leads me to

2. Ever since the election the left has basically been saying 'what the fuck do we do?' to each other. There seems to be an idea among people opposed to Corbyn that everyone supporting is some kind of delirious Trot or that they're gleefully naive or doing it on a wind-up or something. It's not that; it's the 'what the fuck do we do?' vote. What else is there? There aren't mass protests or strikes going on. People are really scared. All this 'oh, you're voting for someone who wants the IRA TO WIN!!' is just a smokescreen. Give people a better alternative and they'll go for that. But there isn't one.

All this finger-wagging just seems a cover up for how bankrupt the Labour party largely is now. You can't keep scapegoating forever.

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Sep 9, 2015 3:16pm

what a naughty labour leadership candidate ;)

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Sep 9, 2015 3:19pm

Very interesting article, and I completely share your disquiet about Corbyn's lunatic friends. I thought something was up when I heard that Galloway was supporting his nomination.

Just one quick point on Bin Laden. Seymour Hersh's article in the LRB (here: states that he was whacked (to use a mafia term). There never was any intention to bring him to trial, and whatever Obama says on the matter is neither here nor there. Needless to say, this article has been denounced by the usual suspects.

Then again, they did that when he reported on Mai Lai. And Abu Ghraib.

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 3:23pm

"...I've spent so long, these last few months, trawling back through Corbyn's recent past and finding demons..."

So has Louise Mensch. Not that I'm making comparisons or anything. Still, I'm sure Louise, Tony, Mandy, McTernan, Hodges et al are extremely grateful for all your hard work.

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 3:47pm

In reply to :

"I've just read this twice and it has suucceded in turning me against Corbyn where all previous critiques have failed..."

I know what you mean. I once read an article by Melanie Phillips saying global warming was a myth and I was totally won over by here well-informed and unbiased arguments. Sometimes we plebs need to be told the truth by courageous columnists willing to impart their wisdom for a reasonable fee.

"...Shameless arse lick here, but Taylor you should publish. Ever since I used to buy NME I've adored your prose..."

Not enough to buy the Melody Maker though, obviously.

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Sep 9, 2015 3:57pm

This article in a nutshell "Well, you know, I'm against X, but at the end of the day you've got to vote for X, haven't you?". Complete and utter fealty to capital. There are so many factual inaccuracies in this piece it's untrue, don't the Quietus have sub-editors?

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Sep 9, 2015 4:25pm

I didn't see this piece as anti-Corbyn rhetoric. I thought it was examining the pitfalls of being too far to one side of the political spectrum as well as the failings of the hard left when it comes to foreign policy. If I was a member of the Labour party I would vote for Corbyn but that doesn't mean he is infallible. It is worrying how black and white people want politics to be so it is refreshing to read an article that does not offer any easy answers.

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Sep 9, 2015 4:25pm

In reply to baikonour:

He wasn't "talking to Hamas - he was promoting them:

like Hamas hasnt done any bombing either - usually with rockets into civilian areas, and suicide vests:

Has he spoken to any left-wing Israelis ? If not, why not .

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Ed Grains
Sep 9, 2015 4:53pm

In a word Bagoshite. Now go away.

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Blank Frank
Sep 9, 2015 5:00pm

Cooper introduced ATOS work assessments. Burnham sold off large chunks of the NHS through backhanded PFI deals. Are we, as so-called 'Labour' supporters, honestly expected to vote in people like this as leaders for the sake of a few more crosses on the ballot box? Gimme a fucking break, Corbyn for the people!!!

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Sep 9, 2015 5:05pm

In reply to Adam:

OK, it's well written, but at heart it's the same sort of straw-man stuff we've seen in the Mail, Telegraph and the rest of the right-wing press.

Yes, much of the left has bent the stick stupidly far over the question of Islamic fundamentalism. No, Jeremy Corbyn is not part of that, despite the attempts to wrest his words out of context (which even Parkes acknowledges). And it is a serious mistake to rely on right-wing Zionist sources when trying to find out the real politics of people like Raed Salah.

In fact Jeremy has frequently criticised the behaviour of the Iranian government, including on his recent visit there with an all-party delegation. Although it has to be said the government of our 'ally' and major arms customer Saudi Arabia makes the Iranians look like wishy washy liberals.

I really hope no-one will be taken in by this and will do their own research on anything that gives them cause for concern. Here, for example, is Corbyn on Charlie Hebdo:

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Sep 9, 2015 5:05pm

In reply to barry:

He's certainly no anti-semite if that's what you're suggesting

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Sep 9, 2015 5:13pm

Agata Pyzik's got it right on this one: "there's a special brand of forty-something male journalists, who will always end up with some 'let's get real here'."

Does Taylor have a vote? Who is he voting for? What does he think of abstaining on the bill cutting tax credits and reducing the benefit cap?

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Sep 9, 2015 5:27pm

In reply to barry:

"Has he spoken to any left-wing Israelis ? If not, why not"

OF COURSE he has. Why on earth are you even asking that question? For one example, he attended the release from prison of Mordecai Vanunu at the invitation of left-wing Israelis like Gush Shalom. And for the views of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and others, look here:

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Sep 9, 2015 5:31pm

In reply to Chris:

Here's a proper summary of Jeremy Corbyn's opinions on Israel/Palestine, if anyone wants to find out the actual facts....

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Sep 9, 2015 5:36pm

A great piece of writing.

The fervour and lack of scepticism shown by his disciples is breathtaking. He isn't a kindly uncle who happens to bumble naively onto the same platform as some very unpleasant characters. You don't become chair of the Stop the War coalition without some basic knowledge of who's out there and what they represent.

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Sep 9, 2015 5:44pm

In reply to Isaac:

No, Im not suggesting he is an anti-Semite (the anti/anti smear ?)

I am suggesting that he is careless, indifferent or naïve as to who he gets into bed with: along with the odd nut-case Islamic cleric.

if he is interested in peace in the Middle East, and is talking to Hamas and Hezbollah (both of whom call for the destruction of Israel), why isn't he talking to progressive Israel, who want the Palestinians to have their own state, and to bring an end to the conflict

a bit myopic and blinkered imo

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Sep 9, 2015 5:44pm

Why should he talk to those people, when bombing the shit out of their countries is working just fine.

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Sep 9, 2015 6:10pm

I’ll pick out one paragraph from this article and go through it carefully, because it concerns an important issue—the Iraq war, over which Jeremy Corbyn took the right position long before it was popular, when the great majority of Labour MPs stood behind Tony Blair in the war camp:

“While I opposed the war, I still hoped something good might come of it, somehow. Clearly not that creepy neo-con pipe-dream with the children waving the Stars and Stripes and singing songs about Donald Rumsfeld, but possibly a functioning democracy, the final defeat of Ba'athism, some kind of bulwark against radical Islam... no, I wasn't hopeful (lack of faith in all of this was partly why I hadn't backed the war), but still, I was hoping.”

A functioning democracy, the final defeat of Ba’athism, some kind of bulwark against radical Islam—that was the neo-con pipe-dream in a nutshell, along with the stuff about Iraq becoming a gleaming model of ultra-radical free-market capitalism that would make Thatcher and Reagan look like social democrats. If you were really hoping for that to materialize under the guidance of Cheney, Rumsfeld and company, you’re in no position to accuse others of being ‘fatuous and rather ill-informed’.

“Yet I couldn't help noticing how many on the Left were cheering on what they called “the insurgency”, nor how sharp they soon became with those who wouldn't join them.”

Actually it was the western media that started using the word ‘insurgency’, as an alternative to using the words ‘resistance’ (good connotations) or ‘terrorists’ (bad). Strictly speaking, it was a misleading term, as it implied that there was a struggle going on against a domestic government, when the main target was a foreign occupation. But for the sake of convenience it’ll do.

“Around this time, the Stop The War Coalition, of which Jeremy Corbyn was – and still remains – the national chair, praised the “legitimacy” of the Iraqi resistance (in truth, a ragged band of Ba'athist remnants and Al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia), and expressed support for their attempts to fight the occupation “by whatever means they find necessary”. In other words, now that the bombs had fallen, they were quite determined it should all have been for nothing. Iraq had been the property of Saddam Hussein for 24 years, had been half-starved by sanctions and shattered by the 101st Airborne; still, it seemed, this wasn't enough. Iraqis must now live in an insoluble and bloody chaos, under the heel of petty thugs and theocratic terrorists, just in case they accidently made George W Bush look good.”

This is just a series of talking-points from State Department press releases. Some basic facts, which the author appears not to have taken account of before forming his (how shall I put this?) ‘fatuous and rather ill-informed’ views on the subject:

1) According to the most recent and reliable survey, approximately 450,000 Iraqis were killed during the US-led occupation between 2003 and 2011: The occupation forces were the largest single killer (35% of deaths), followed by sectarian militias (32%). At the most conservative estimate, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed by US bombs and bullets (with the UK playing a supportive role). They were gunned down at roadblocks, or massacred in their homes during searches. Don’t take my word for it, just listen to some of the veterans who have told us what they saw and participated in:

“Soldiers and marines at Winter Soldier described the frustration of routinely raiding the wrong homes and arresting the wrong people. It was common for unarmed Iraqis to be killed at US checkpoints or by US convoys, they said. Many said they were congratulated on their “first kill.” Some even desecrated Iraqi corpses . . . Several veterans said it was common to carry a stash of extra automatic weapons and shovels to plant near the bodies of unarmed civilians they had killed to make it look as if they were combatants. Others described the surreal sensation of committing cold-blooded murder without facing any consequences.”

Falluja was turned into a free-fire zone while still packed with civilians and literally razed to the ground. The Americans reopened Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers at Abu Ghraib, and organized sectarian death squads who roamed the streets kidnapping civilians and torturing them to death with electric drills. Trust me Taylor, there is absolutely no danger that a clear-sighted examination of the US record in Iraq could make George Bush look good.

2) The brutality of the occupation forces wasn’t accidental; it was a feature, not a bug. The goal of the US in Iraq was domination, not liberation. They wanted to take control of its oil reserves and establish a client state in the heart of the Middle East. Elections were initially no part of their plan: they were forced to hold elections after mass protests called for by Sistani in 2004 (I am going to generously assume that the author knows who Sistani was, since he obviously cares so deeply about the fate of Iraq). When elections were held, the Americans told Iraqi politicians that it didn’t matter what their campaign platforms said about the need for US troops to leave; they were here for the long haul. One of their key goals was always to privatize the Iraqi oil industry. When the oil workers’ union, which had re-emerged after years of Baathist repression, organized to oppose privatization, Paul Bremer revived the Baathist anti-union law, and many of its leaders were jailed on trumped-up charges of ‘terrorism’.

3) Inevitably, this brutish occupation provoked resistance, including armed resistance (there was also political resistance, by the oil workers’ union, for example). This was never composed exclusively, or even primarily, of ‘a ragged band of Ba'athist remnants and Al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia’, or of ‘petty thugs and theocratic terrorists’. I know this is what the coterie of pro-war liberals who gave us the Euston Manifesto have been saying for years, so they can smear the anti-war left, but it’s simply not true. The majority of those involved in the anti-occupation groups were Iraqi nationalists who wanted the Americans out of their country, and the majority of their attacks targeted foreign troops. They had strong popular support in their areas (most of the groups were organized locally); the Americans had to reopen Saddam’s torture chambers because they knew that was the only way to get information about the groups attacking their soldiers, nobody would talk to them voluntarily.

Unfortunately, a small minority of extreme Sunni jihadists, boosted by those who flocked to Iraq from other countries, tried to hijack the resistance to the occupation, and put most of their energy into attacks on Shia civilians to try and provoke a sectarian civil war. This was manna from heaven for the Americans; their greatest fear was that Sunni and Shia militias would join forces to turf them out (there was a real danger of this happening in 2004–5 when they launched attacks on Falluja and Najaf simultaneously). They organized their own Shia death squads and sent them into Sunni areas to spread terror. Combined with the jihadists blowing up Shia mosques and markets, the effect was to divert the struggle against the occupation into a civil war between Iraqis, and it allowed the Americans to pose as peace-keepers, even though they were actually the main cause of violent deaths.

The majority of those fighting against the US occupation strongly opposed attacks on civilians (they distinguished between ‘terrorism’ and ‘honourable resistance’) and tried to stop the slide into sectarian civil war:

“The Association of Muslim Scholars, the key clerical leadership of the Sunni resistance, repeatedly denounced the jihadists, called for their arrest, and sought to expel them (at least sometimes successfully) from local communities. They also sought to counter the jihadist impact on police recruitment by publicly exhorting their followers to join the police … Finally, the Sunni and Shia guerrilla movements sought to create a formal organization that could simultaneously oppose the occupation, and prevent the jihadists from further weakening the unity between the two communities … On February 4, 2005, a summit meeting of the "Anti-Occupation Patriotic Forces," led by the AMS and the Sadrists, and attended by about two dozen smaller resistance groups, met to forge a broad alliance that would "lead to the withdrawal of the Americans from our country," and to demarcate a clear "separation between resistance and terrorism, because some are trying to relate the Iraqi resistance to the Zarqawi group and loyalists of the former regime." The demands that subsequently emanated from this meeting embodied both these principles and were signed by 21 groups, including secular and religious Shia and Sunni organizations.“

But between them, the Americans, their Shia fundamentalist death squads and Al Qaeda in Iraq succeeded in provoking an all-out civil war in 2006–7. In the end some of the Sunni resistance groups hated Al Qaeda in Iraq so much that they began to cooperate with the Americans to root them out.

4) There was a lot of debate on the anti-war left about the way it should respond to what was happening in Iraq. Many, including myself, believed that the Stop the War Coalition should have been more careful in the language that it used in the early stages of the occupation; it was absolutely correct to support the right of Iraqis to take up arms against foreign troops who were trampling all over them, but it was a mistake to issue blanket endorsements to what they called ‘the Iraqi resistance’, which didn’t really exist as a united movement. There were a lot of groups fighting the occupation, loosely coordinated at best; a minority of those groups were carrying out deliberate attacks on civilians, and the STWC statements could be (and were) misinterpreted as endorsing those attacks (sometimes in good faith, more often in bad faith by the pro-war liberals who were trying to divert attention from the murderous consequences of the war they supported). But the STWC was 100% right about the key point: the occupation forces had no right to be in Iraq, and they should pack their bags as soon as possible.

“Back then – before all hope dissolved – most Iraqis did not share this view. But to the Mainstream Radical Left, it didn't really matter what Iraqis thought or wanted. This was a point of principle.”

Judging by what you’ve written here, you don’t seem very interested in what Iraqis thought or wanted, or in what was done to them after 2003. Every opinion poll conducted in Iraq showed a majority of Iraqis wanted the occupation troops to leave. Mike Marqusee skewered the kind of self-righteous but morally
bankrupt thinking that underpins this article almost a decade ago:

But if Taylor Parkes genuinely wants to inform himself about one of the great crimes of our age, I would suggest he starts with Greg Muttitt’s book Fuel on the Fire (

I’ll finish by saying this. Last year, there was a solidarity rally in London to support the YPG Kurdish forces defending Kobani against ISIS in Syria, and I went along (I was living in a strongly Kurdish area at the time, and my local shopkeepers were all PKK supporters). Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the rally (he was an obscure backbench MP at the time), and he was introduced by one of the London-Kurdish activists as ‘a great friend of the Kurdish people’. I think they know more about the struggle against oppression in the Middle East than me, Taylor Parkes or nine-tenths of the people reading this article. If you look at Corbyn’s website and parliamentary speeches, you can find a long record of support for Kurdish rights. Right now, the secular, leftist HDP party which is supported by Turkey’s Kurdish population is being terrorized by the Islamist AKP government; PKK guerrilla bases are also being pounded by Turkish jets, supplied by the US. This is all happening with the blessing of Washington and the other NATO powers. Corbyn is the only one of the Labour leadership candidates I would expect to speak out against that. But maybe that doesn’t matter to Taylor Parkes; maybe he prefers to stitch together a load of decontextualized quotes, arguments and positions to present Corbyn as some kind of cranky extremist, while presenting Tony Blair—the great friend of Middle Eastern tyrants, from Mubarak and Sisi to the Saudi royals—as some kind of statesmanlike ‘Peace Envoy’. That’s up to him, I suppose.

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 6:22pm

Forgive me if I sound naive, but I'd rather vote for a rough-around-the-edges principled politician who talks to dodgy characters than a corporate-arse-licking middle-manager who happily sells arms to them instead. And the idea that Blairites are the moderate, electable wing of Labour when they're the ones who voted for a dunderheaded illegal war doomed to failure, is frankly laughable. While Tony was slipping secret notes to George on the 13th tee, Jeremy was speaking at peace rallies correctly predicting what would happen thanks to those two bible-bashing, warmongering twats.
So sorry Taylor, but I won't be joining in with those saying what a great piece of writing this is. I fail to see how it's adding anything positive or constructive to a Murdoch/Dacre-led media debate that's already heavily pro-austerity, pro-war, pro-tax-avoiding-scumbags. You may think your argument is more considered and nuanced, but it's essentially the same thing that the increasingly unhinged Louise Mensch has been doing on twitter for weeks with ever-decreasing interest. Plus, it's far too late anyway. Frankly, you're jumping on the Romo bandwagon the day before it crashes into the New Wave Of Giving A Toss About Stuff.

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Michael Taylor
Sep 9, 2015 6:38pm

Outstanding. I'm reading this while watching two of lads play football on a sports centre on an estate where I campaigned during the election, where I was told Labour were for "scum, scripted and the shit of the world... Coming over here." There are challenges of ambition that Corbyn doesn't come close to addressing with this empty rhetoric of easy answers.
But what an awesome piece of writing.

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Sep 9, 2015 6:38pm

It would be wrong to think of the author of this article as simply anti-Corbyn—no one who says that he clapped one of Corbyn’s speeches until his palms were “sore” could be that. But it is very weak, in places. For instance, it claims—with a fatuous “oh yes he did”—that Corbyn “went on to draw an equivalence” between Bin Laden’s death and 9/11. This is just silly. Corbyn said that Bin Laden’s assassination and 9/11 were both “tragedies”. He did not say that they were *equally* tragic. (For myself, I would not describe 9/11 as a “tragedy”—given the roots of that word in Greek drama it seems to imply that the event was somehow the fault of the victims’, when obviously it was not. But I would describe both events as *crimes*. Does that mean that I am drawing “an equivalence” between them?) At points like this, the author comes across as nothing more than Nick Cohen with a smaller fee—and no one wants to do that. The author is on much stronger ground when he claims that Corbyn’s past actions are dangerously ripe for misrepresentation. But it seems that the author wants to do more than this—he wants to pass moral judgment on Corbyn for these actions, just as he wants to on (what he calls) “the Mainstream Radical Left” for their response to the *Charlie Hebdo* attacks. But this is a bad example for the author to choose. For the author, Corbyn’s flaw is that some of his stances—laudable in themselves—have led him to offer words of support to people who have engaged in dreadful actions. But exactly the same is true of those people who rightly stood in solidarity with the victims of the *Hebdo* attacks. I myself was one of those people—but I did so in the knowledge that the cartoons that *Hebdo* published were (as many on the left rightly claimed) appallingly crass, racist caricatures. If someone said that I had stood in solidarity with people guilty of racism and Islamophobia I would have accepted it. I did, and it was right thing to do—not, of course, because I think racism and Islamophobia are sometimes okay (they are never okay), but because I agree with everything the author says here about the horror and monstrosity of the *Hebdo* attacks. Politics often involves making imperfect alliances. No one’s hands can be completely pure, at least not if he is a politically engaged, reflective adult. Given the author’s own example, he should admit this, and stop condemning Corbyn for his own imperfect alliances.

There is nothing shameful about once having showered praise on Jake Shillingford. But the unthinking, self-righteous, Harry’s Place high horse is not a good place to be.

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Sep 9, 2015 7:18pm

In reply to Ed:

Thank you for this truly excellent post.

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Fabian Society
Sep 9, 2015 7:42pm

I've long suspected tQ to be manned by a rudderless pontoon of posers but my ship has floated right into my dock and what do I see but a bunch of bearded misanthropes with Ultima Thule satchels aboard a few bunched planks of wood. Posers are bad enough, but when their minds are full of piss it's quite another.

"I'm a Marxist when it comes to systems of thought but not actually at the ballot box" ~ paraphrase, yes, but undoubtedly captures the essence of your complete gutlessness. I hope that the status quo rids those that you love of the thing that maintains them and that as they look to you for support in their dimming gaze and you at least can maintain the courage of your convictions to say "no, I supported the decision that put you here, I wrote articles encouraging the worst before it happened."

What's absolutely BRILLIANT is that you moan that you enjoyed it and clapped along and then moaned because he didn't produce financial complexity in front of your eyes like you're at a Satriani gig waiting for F# mixolydian and all he's doing is playing songs people like.

Your false equivocation at the end that a Corbyn leadership won't help the man you so graciously gave 50p is a duff note that echoes your tin ear in the prior flight of fancy - you expect Corbyn to cost his way out of an argument, so why don't you? At least Corbyn, for his ills, is nearer to a Marxist at the ballot box than you'll ever be. At least when everything goes wrong you can play both Statler and Waldorf.

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Sep 9, 2015 7:57pm

Beautifully nuanced piece of writingwriting, Taylor. For me, it some up the awful bind that those of us with left-leaning views are in. Hamstrung by shrill fuckwittery and awful judgement when it comes to liberty and freedom on our own side and cartoonish boohiss villains on the right sweeping in changes that are almost unimaginable. And getting voted in to do it with seats and votes to spare all over the place.

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Sep 9, 2015 8:00pm

I was always told that if you haven't got anything nice to say, then don't say anything. Perhaps we could have a piece from Simon Price tomorrow, eh?

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Jim Clark
Sep 9, 2015 8:07pm

What a fabulous piece of writing. Passionate, intelligent, heartfelt, warm, funny, worrying. Didn't know the site, or the author. Very glad I do now. Brilliant essay.

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Sep 9, 2015 8:18pm


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Rob McKenna
Sep 9, 2015 8:28pm

This article has some shockingly inept premises: namely that Britain needs to be strong in the face of powerful armies abroad, that anyone really cares if Britain has an army, that this army is in NATO, that British intervention abroad is in any way important. If the U.S. doesn't get the illusion of plurality that having the UK along as a fig leaf for its adventurism provides, they'll just go it alone. Remember what your role is in the special relationship: the U.S. didnt bother supporting you in the Falklands because, well they weren't particularly allied to Argentina but it might have looked bad in Latin America and they are important trade partners after all.... But you go right on ahead supporting the U.S. wherever they go and you might get some scraps thrown at you.

It was a tragedy that bin laden wasn't imprisoned in a liberal democracy after due process. The west used to know that, that's why they tried the nazis and legitimised the post war occupation of Europe. Talking to Hezbollah? Goodness me, whatever next? Perhaps he will talk to Netanyahu, a violent racist seeking genocide and ethnic cleansing and part of a regime that has actually, quite literally, taken a country off the map. And elected. Like Hamas.

This article reeks of Christopher Hitchens.

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Sep 9, 2015 8:50pm

Having seen Mr. Parkes' piece on Nick Cohen's twitter space, I shared this to my fb site with the following encomium:

At last a brilliant Marxist take-down of Corbyn, a traditional Social Democrat at home and a complete fool on foreign policy. This guy Taylor Parkes can really write.

And I would add...

On Corbyn’s association with exterminationst anti-Semites, well we know that is the case and we know that he called them ‘friends’. And we know that these psychopaths, such as Raed Salah said, “We Muslims have never allowed ourselves to knead the dough for the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children's blood. Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the Jewish holy bread.”

It should not surprise us that those who fund Hamas should repeat such drivel. Hamas proudly includes the fabrication of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ – the tsarist blueprint for the extermination of the Jews – in its constitution, as well as hadith calling for death to the Jews.

What business does a leftist have expressing solidarity with that rabble? No, a Marxist should be promoting and supporting the secular Palestinians seeking a genuine democratic solution to the veto that the parties of God have imposed on the sole patch of the Middle East without any oil under it.

When you look at Corbyn’s record it is clear how he provides cover for the most brutal dictators. Take Saddam: Corbyn in 1990 condemned UNSC resolution 678 which authorized the war against Saddam. Five and a half months after Saddam’s annexation, not invasion, of Kuwait, a member-state of the UN, and three days after Saddam’s insane attempt to initiate a Middle Eastern conflagration by launching SCUD missiles at Bahrain, the Saudis, Israel and Qatar, JC called for a halt of military force against Iraq. Capitulation, in other words. Eight days after Corbyn’s intervention, Saddam invaded Saudi Arabia.

Notice that Corbyn argued against the UN in the First Gulf War, and nobody argues that was an illegal war. Yet, for the liberation of Iraq in 2003 the argument from Stop the War, which he chairs, is that it was illegal. Who said so? The UN in the form of Kofi Annan. No, this political opportunism. It is not about the defence of the UN as the arbiter of international law, but acting as a useful idiot for some of the most pernicious species of odious little vermin that never suffered to crawl upon the face of the earth, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift.

And it demonstrates that Corbyn actually defends the right of the most psychopathic gangster crime families to fail their state, immiserate, and commit genocide on, their own citizens and to secrete international gangsters and terrorists within their borders. What should a Marxist politician be supporting in Iraq, for instance? Why, a democratic, secular, federal civil society, at a minimum.

Yet since 1989, huge elements of the left find themselves morally on the wrong side of the argument in defence of genocidal maniacs, fascists and Islamo-fascists.

And that’s how ethically bankrupt Corbyn’s foreign policy is. x

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 9:09pm

In reply to :

"Having seen Mr. Parkes' piece on Nick Cohen's twitter space..."

Oh, for fuck's sake. Look what you've done Parkes. I hope you're bloody happy now.

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Sep 9, 2015 9:26pm

What a complete TWAT Taylor Parkes is - why do you give him houseroom?

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Sep 9, 2015 9:33pm

this is absolute horseshit but congratulations on the upcoming telegraph commissions. what are Sexus up to these days?

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Samir Eskanda
Sep 9, 2015 9:45pm

The main problem with this article (and there are too many to mention) is that it relies on the same nonsense that the corporate media has been bombarding us with for the last few months. I mean, this:

"There are some nasty people in the world, you know. Some of them – get this! – are even nastier than Tony Blair."

Nastier? In what sense? In what they say and think - or actually do? Blair made up a reason to destroy an entire human society, killing a million innocent people, for profit. There are some nastier-sounding people out there, but none of them (except Blair's US counterparts) comes anywhere near this crime. Just because Blair couches his extremism in liberal terms does not mean he is any less 'nasty' than other terrorists.

Later, Parkes devotes several paragraphs to de-legitimising the Palestinian struggle. I've seen this rubbish time and again in the corporate press, so it's disappointing that tQ has published an article replicating it - and not as an opinion piece, but as a feature.

"Everyone's aware by now that Corbyn has referred to members of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”... There is at least one Israeli citizen to whom Corbyn has chosen to extend the hand of friendship: Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, enthusiastic proponent of the “Jews did 9/11” theory and spreader of the Blood Libel. Now, there's really no point in talking to people like Raed Salah – other than to say “Fuck off, Raed Salah.” There's simply nothing to be gained. They have no interest in “finding common ground”... “a greater understanding”... “peace”. It's clear what Corbyn was thinking: Theresa May was trying to boot Salah out of the country at the time, on charges which Corbyn considered unfair. But the warmth with which he hailed his latest cause celebre was startling: “[Salah] is far from a dangerous man,” he gushed. “He's a very honoured citizen. He represents his people very well.” And, issuing an invitation to the House of Commons: “You will be assured of a very warm welcome, and I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace, because you deserve it.”"

Raed Salah is a legitimate Palestinian leader, perhaps the most prominent Palestinian activist within Israel. You don't have to like everything he says - I certainly don't - to accept this. As for the 'Blood Libel' bullshit, an Israeli court threw out this false charge some years back, a fact carefully omitted from these long passages denouncing him.

Here's a truthful, accurate version of events:

"One of the accusations leveled at Salah was that he had invoked the anti-Semitic blood libel in a 2007 speech during a Palestinian demonstration against Israeli occupation in Jerusalem."

"But the version of the speech reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (and relied on during the UK Home Office’s court case against Salah) inserted the word “Jewish” into its version of the speech."

"Salah argued that the mention of “holy bread” was actually a reference to the the Spanish inquisition spilling the blood of children and using religion as a cover for its crimes."

"In a Guardian article published after he was vindicated, Salah clarified that “I don’t believe in the ‘blood libel’ against Jews and I reject it in its entirety” (but a Guardian editor admitted in the comments section that she had removed this key paragraph from the published opinion piece)."

"The following year an Israeli court found Salah had not used the blood libel and acquitted him of incitement to racism. But the court jailed him for “incitement” over the protest, which the Israeli government – typically – characterized as a “riot.”"

"Last year, another Israeli court overturned the acquittal – siding again with the state. On Tuesday, Salah’s lawyer told Middle East Eye that he had appealed the case in the Israeli high court and a ruling is expected in the coming months."

To claim Salah is a "spreader of the Blood Libel" is a major distortion. Similarly, to say that Teresa May's attempts to prevent Salah from giving a speaking tour were based on "charges which Corbyn considered unfair" is utterly misleading- it wasn't just Corbyn who deemed the charges "unfair", they were totally thrown out by the British legal system.

"Salah was ultimately vindicated. In April 2012 a judge ruled in his favor “on all grounds.”

Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to deport Salah was “entirely unnecessary” and she had been “misled” on the facts, the judge said."

The allegations against Salah were instigated by Zionist lobby groups, thrown out by various courts, yet repeated here. So what's the author's game? Why does he distort the facts about Salah? Is it purely to smear Corbyn by association, or is it also to de-legitimise the Palestinian struggle? To me it's obvious that it's both.

Here's some more detail on the false 'Blood Libel' allegation against Salah, repeated uncritically on tQ:

"The ban was based on a falsified version of a poem Salah had written, with the words “You Jews” inserted to incorrectly make it seem as if it had been anti-Semitic."...

"Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Sarah Colborne said in a press release: “I trust that there will be a serious attempt by the British Government to rely in the future on accurate evidence rather than inaccurate anti-Palestinian propaganda against someone who has a history of opposing Israel’s crimes.”"

The UK government aren't the only ones who would benefit from a 'serious attempt' to rely on 'accurate evidence rather than inaccurate anti-Palestinian propaganda against someone who has a history of opposing Israel’s crimes'. Jeremy Corbyn is no saviour, but he IS a consistent critic of the state of Israel, which is the primary reason he has attracted so much criticism on the basis of his supposed 'associations' with Palestinian resistance.

I'm surprised this article, with its distortions, slurs and inaccuracies, even got to the point of publication.

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Roxy Jezel
Sep 9, 2015 9:49pm

In reply to :

"This guy Taylor Parkes can really write."

I preferred his older stuff myself. The fully justified praise he gave to Menswe@r in the face of overwhelming indifference was truly exceptional. I remember the Shed Seven fans I used to associate with seething with inarticulate rage. The fact that Taylor pretended he had never even listened to the era-defining "I'll Manage Somehow" made his glowing review of said classic even better. From that moment on, the Melody Maker became my Bible. I even ceremonially burnt my sister's copy of Das Kapital. I remember she went apeshit cos it was a library book. She's never truly forgiven me.

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Daniel Abineri
Sep 9, 2015 9:58pm

Thanks for that. Very entertaining and informative. You write really well. I'll keep an eye out for your other pieces.

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Dan John
Sep 9, 2015 11:01pm

This article has brought out some right nutters.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:01pm

What a load of self obsessed rubbish, it felt like reading a short script from Mid Summer Murders, the series my nan likes watching! Now, "all the episodes of that series are based on true stories", arn't they!! What a waste of 6 mins of my time!

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Dan John
Sep 9, 2015 11:02pm

And I quite like George Osborne. He looks so happy when he's on trains or looking at the underside of a car whilst wearing a hi-vis.

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Sep 9, 2015 11:38pm

Interesting read, but it basically boils down to 'I agree with everything Corbyn stands for, but his past actions are too easily misinterpreted by the opposition and also people I don't like like him.' Pretty weak, have some strength of conviction.

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Sep 10, 2015 7:17am

I stopped reading this as the thoughts in brackets were ruining it.

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Sep 10, 2015 7:47am

Pathetic article. Entirely selective, biased, myopic and self-obsessed (how many 'I's are in this piece?) No proper analysis except of his own rectum. Just because he used to write for some crap music paper doesn't mean he deserves a platform. Corbyn is one of the few good things to have happened in British politics for many years.

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Sep 10, 2015 7:53am

PS What sort of writer uses hackneyed phrases like 'back in the day'?

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Sep 10, 2015 7:53am

In reply to Ed:

Really good

Taylor has written a really disingenuous article and because the man can write it is even more so misleading and patronising . Shameful

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Sep 10, 2015 8:47am

I thought this piece was a bit feckless and whining but the key point I'd grasp here is this: while the old school methods of social democracy are outdated, so too are those of the third way.

Blairites bleet on about putting methods over principles without recognising the fact that they have transformed Blairism into doctrine.

The party needs a shake up, it does not need to win the next election if all it's going to do is finish off what the Tories have started.

Corbyn may indeed have some questionable ideas about the economy and foreign policy. However, he will hopefully open room for discussion about the direction of the party rather than the maintain the post-1997 consensus.

He's also prepared to work with the right of the party, too. And if those Blairites mean what they say about principles over methods then they should stop crying and get on with it.

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Matthew R
Sep 10, 2015 9:32am

In reply to RJC:

"I was always told that if you haven't got anything nice to say, then don't say anything."

Ah yes, that would be an awesome motto over a journalist school's entrance... o_0

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Dan John
Sep 10, 2015 10:56am

I think if you believe Jeremy Corbyn is a suitable candidate for Prime Minister of the UK you're so far off the spectrum reason is futile.

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Sep 10, 2015 11:20am

Excellent writing.

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A Clockwork Lozenge
Sep 10, 2015 11:38am

In reply to DPQ:

"Entirely selective, biased, myopic and self-obsessed," you say of this story, which, presumably, is your attempt to share your opinion. Taylor has merely shared his, and you didn't agree with it. That doesn't make your opinion the truth. It just makes your comment "entirely selective, biased, myopic and self-obsessed."

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Sep 10, 2015 1:06pm

As Merryn Williams said above, it is worth bearing this in mind before attempting to tar Corbyn with the brush of those who failed to show solidarity with the *Hebdo* victims.

It is perhaps also worth bearing in mind that Nick Cohen--who I am not surprised to learn likes this article--is a little bit confused. He writes endless articles attacking Corbyn and other members of the left for their "associations". But he writes those articles in the fucking Spectator, a magazine that employs, amongst others, an avowed anti-Semite (their "High-Life" columnist Taki). He also has some other interesting "associations", having once shared a platform with that great defender of progressive values, Mr. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon of the English Defence League… If anyone wanted to write a series of hysterical articles attacking members of the "decent left" for their imperfect alliances, Corbyn would be a good place to start. Of course, those articles would be batshit crazy scaremongering. But that hasn't stopped Cohen, nor--sadly--the man who once wrote a very amusing article attacking S*M*A*S*H...

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Caroline Molloy
Sep 10, 2015 1:42pm

"This suggestion – well, it's more than a suggestion, I suppose – that we should do this now, entirely on the hoof, with a hostile party, a makeshift leader and nothing approaching a power base..."

Er, to coin a phrase, if not now, then when? When exactly will Labour NOT be 'facing a hostile party'? When will their power base be solidified, if not by an influx of people attracted by Corbyn's message? Where is the credible 'non-makeshift' leader who will lead Labour more softly to the left, now that the PLP is stuffed with drones who say things like 'Labour is aggressively pro-business' and 'Labour is not here to represent people who are out of work'?

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Sep 10, 2015 7:43pm

I wondered why you felt the need to pass comment about those you encountered at the rally .... You made judgements which were irrelevant to your article which was in essence your own thoughts about Jeremy Corbyn... Though I wasn't at the event I guess I would fall into your category of ' snow topped grizzly' And this is mild compared with some of your more patronising comments ... I wondered why you are judgemental especially as you wrap up your article with how you gave the homeless guy Money and other travellers gave non but chose to gaze straight ahead. So whilst you were quick to point out your own compassionate act of giving , and that is a kind act , you also make unkind and patronising comments throughout your article which doesn't reflect the compassion you wanted us to know about in your final paragraph...thank you though for your thoughts and the way you chose to describe Jeremy Corbyn and your feelings about him . I felt even more convinced that the Labour Party needs him as their leader because through your comments I realised how much we need someone who can articulate hope and the possibility of a far more compassionate way of living our ideals for a fairer society .... I felt sad that you felt the need to disparage those who chose to go to the rally and support him . However, quite possibly by doing so you may well have reinforced the reasons why voting for Jeremy Corbyn is the right choice for honesty , kindness and fair to each other values ...

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Kath Price
Sep 10, 2015 8:55pm

Very interesting article, which raises some food for thought, however, it is totally negative in it's approach. The reason why JC has become so popular in such a short space of time is because there is no one else in the Labour Party offering anything else. We have spent the last 5 years under Cameron, who has had free reign to do exactly as he pleases and no one in the LP has offered any resistance. In fact most of the LP elite appear to agree with his policies. Your article does exactly the same - negates a man and a movement that is desperately trying to fight back. JC is leading the people from the wilderness. Whatever he has to face from Tory and right wing opposition in the future, the LP must recognise that there is a movement of people who are ready and willing to fight back. If JC's only achievement is to motivate this movement, then he is to be commended for his foresight and leadership qualities.

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Sep 10, 2015 10:35pm

"Whenever Labour need to elect a leader, a left-wing candidate stands."


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Sep 10, 2015 10:39pm

Sorry I lost interest at the point where you claim there are nastier people than Blair out there.
I'm afraid with Blair you're looking at the highest body count since the Rwandan massacres. So, really, liberal interventionist apologist much ?

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Sep 10, 2015 11:20pm

Chuck trident and enjoy the money.

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Sep 11, 2015 4:54am

I don't care if his face doesn't fit at the Bilderberg and NATO meetings, or if the toffs who run MI6 don't think he's enough of a killer for them, I just want the wealth that has been looted from us to be restored.
Labour is supposed to be on the side of those who labour as opposed to those who own, it's as simple as that.

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Sep 11, 2015 12:21pm

In reply to Anscombe:

Actually the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were in no way racist, despite what some dozy kitsch leftists thought. This is one thing that Parke's gets right. A shame he doesn't apply the same intellectual rigour to the MSM misrepresentations of Corbyn's policies.

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Dan John
Sep 11, 2015 5:35pm

All these commenters hailing Corbyn....look forward to Prime Minister George Osborne in 2020, because that's what gonna happen.

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Sep 11, 2015 11:31pm

In reply to Dan John:

He's still more electable than Cooper or Burnham though. Better looking too.

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John S
Sep 12, 2015 12:33pm

I don't always agree with Taylor but love reading his work as it's always engrossing. Thankfully this article doesn't disappoint and also manages to articulate all the thoughts and doubts I've been having the past few months in a brilliantly written and insightful way.

To even question Corbyn on social media is a given for a kicking. The barrage of abuse is shocking (if not surprising these days). You're either Tory Scum, a Red Tory, plain evil, scum...god knows what Taylor is now at the receiving end. Flashmob politics at its worst.

Supposedly Socialism has inclusivity and equality at its heart. Yet why do I feel that even questioning Corbyn publically is like burning all my bridges? I've read wide around the topics, come to logical conclusions of my own but somehow I'm a just a victim of the mainstream media or a "fucking cunt". Our "Jezza" is somehow alway misquoted, always mis-interpreted and always the victim of smears. Obviously.

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Sep 12, 2015 7:38pm

This article is sub-literary bullshit, faux jadedness, second rate sixth from punditry posing as weary sage like wisdom. Even the more cogent points have been expressed better elsewhere, without the pretentious sighing wilting daffodil factor (and overall smug, cooler-than-thou fellow traveller ambivalence). Also unbearably long, too long to be asked to share in such a wankers thoughts. Thank god we don't have to rely on people like this for guidance in political matters.

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Dan John
Sep 12, 2015 10:34pm

In reply to joseph:


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Sep 12, 2015 10:50pm

In reply to Dan John:

Go and live with D Millipede in The States you cockchafer.

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joyce brand
Sep 13, 2015 8:26am

To us ageing lefties it feels an awful lot simpler; we are tired of the politicians whose sole aim is to further their career, we are tired of the political agenda being set by wealth sponsors, we are tired of Murdoch and co. pulling the strings, we are frightened by mega business calling the shots, we are frightened for the future of our children in a world of zero contracts, we are frightened for our ill relatives and neighbours in a world moving to USA style health provision. We welcome a politician who says it how it feels to us so welcome Jeremy Corbyn and fuck off Tony Blair who dares to give his unwanted advice, he who planted the seeds of destruction of the Health Service with his internal market and his Pfi and who shows no anguish for the part he has played in the havoc in the Middle East.

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Dan John
Sep 13, 2015 1:05pm


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Sep 13, 2015 10:11pm

In reply to Dan John:

A cockchafer on both your houses.

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Sep 14, 2015 9:22am

Great read, thanks

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