Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

He must therefore now follow through with Livingstone and uphold the suspension. Not just because that is the right thing to do; but because he has little choice.

If he does not follow through, his leadership will inevitably be destroyed by the backlash. That backlash will come from the media, Her Majesty’s Opposition, the public and particularly his own party, where decent MPs and members will no longer stand for being in the same party as Livingstone. We should not forget that he is only days away from a significant set of elections.

And it may just kill Corbyn anyway. The damage done over recent days to his faltering leadership is now substantial in the eyes of the public, but the real test will be if the party’s power-brokers – the major unions – opt to turn on him.

Even if Corbyn holds his nerve and the suspension is upheld, things will not be easy. Livingstone is a political survivor: when Margaret Thatcher dissolved the Greater London Council in 1986, no-one would have ever predicted that he would be running London again as mayor a mere 14 years later. Since Corbyn’s unexpected win, he has been enjoying an unexpected return to the limelight after his double failure to win back the mayoralty.

So, it cannot be ruled out that a man, whose love of attention has generally been his undoing, will not return to front line politics outside Labour, as his former colleague George Galloway has done. If that were to happen, he could easily look to form a rival power centre on the far left, perhaps aligned with Momentum, which might initially compete with Labour for votes, but which would ultimately both fail, and be likely to draw out the far-left poison of Labour’s recent, radical recruits into itself. In other words, it could ultimately be a positive thing for Labour; a ticket back to the centre.

But that requires him to go. In short, either Livingstone must go, or Corbyn will have to. They cannot both survive within the party.

Even if he does go, a realignment of the left could still do for Corbyn. If members on the hard left drift away to coalesce around Ken or others, Corbyn’s support base within the party could quickly crumble. The only question is, whether this would happen before he has a chance to lose the 2020 election and be gone anyway.

Either way, he or his successor will have to focus relentlessly on stamping out anti-Semitism, if the party is to survive.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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10 Responses to “Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party”

  1. Tafia says:

    some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks,

    Who has been found guilty of anti-semitism?

    Stop being a sad-arse by trying to conflate anti-semitism with anti-zionism – they are entirely different things and you are a fraud by attempting to combine the two as the same thing.

    You’ve even got kids using the phrase ‘anti-semitic’ like they used to use ‘gay’ – and that is precisely because people like you have debauched and diluted the phrase to such an extent that it is now seen as a humourous expression.

    Labour voters have more important things to worry about than your hysteria.

  2. Mike Homfray says:

    But it isn’t up to Jeremy Corbyn. These are decision made by the NEC on behalf of the party.

    And I predict few will be expelled. It would help if we had a firmer and less compromised policy in support of the Palestinians

  3. OllyT says:

    This all stems from the same – the refusal of Corbyn and his ilk to call out muslims when they voice unacceptable beliefs. Whether it’s appalling attitudes to Jews, women or gays
    the Labour leadership just turns a blind eye.

    I have left the party precisely because the minority of muslims holding those views are now very comfortable within the Labour Party. A broad church is one thing but accepting people with mysogynistic, homophobic and anti-semitic news is not. Cosying up to illiberal islamic beliefs is going to keep Labour out of office for many years.

  4. Nick Wall says:

    This website is revealing its true colours, continuing to run muck-raking, dishonest stories right up to the eve of the local elections in a desperate attempt to damage Corbyn in any way possible. Make no mistake : Progress, Labour Uncut, and the Labour MPs who support this agenda are showing total disregard for to every voter who will vote Labour on Thursday, to the Labour membership which voted for Jeremy, and to everyone who hopes that Labour can win back the trust we lost over the last decade. It’s you guys, not Jeremy, who will be responsible for every seat that Labour loses on Thursday. Shame on you.

  5. Tafia says:

    Cosying up to illiberal islamic beliefs is going to keep Labour out of office for many years.

    So you would condemn Blair for hob-nobbing with the Saudi royals last week (and thus giving them international acceptability) and demand that all future Labour governments have nothing to do with any middle eastern muslim country on any level – trade, defence, visas etc etc.

    Otherwise your position is a nonsense.

  6. TCO says:

    OllyT unfortunately if you’re looking for liberal views you’ll not find it in the majority in the Labour Party (and arguably it never has been).

    Hopefully the Liberals such as Liz Kendal and Dan Jarvis are waking up to this.

  7. Toby Barrett says:

    “Jeremy Corbyn … is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic.”

    This is the case now, but I predict that this will become less sure in the next few weeks as his past associations are trawled over by the media, the all party parliamentary group and Labour’s own enquiry into anti-Semitism. There will be photos and recordings aplenty of him with acknowledged anti-Semites, doing little to distance himself. This drip, drip, drip will give a guilt by association. At which point, all the protests that JC is merely pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist will start look pretty weak. The issue will be his appalling judgement in allowing himself to be associated with such people.

    And more and more will see he is not fit to lead the Party.

  8. Rob says:

    You can condemn Blair for hob-nobbing with the Saudi Royals. You can condemn the Saudis for promoting the worst form of Islamism in this and other countries. And be very concerned about the implications of that.
    Then, you can condemn Corbyn, Livingstone and their fellow travellers for consistently cozying up to Islamic extremists who hold appalling and dangerous beliefs. And for bestowing legitimacy on those beliefs. You can then condemn all the people in the Labour party who personally hold appalling beliefs who have been exposed as doing so. Then you can wonder how and why so many people with appalling beliefs were successful at gaining positions in the Labour party. After that, you can wonder why the present leadership of the Labour party seem so unconcerned with such matters. And so likely to continue to attract people who hold similar beliefs.

  9. Peter Kenny says:

    I’m astonished by the sometimes almost willful descent into fantasy here. I remember reading someone here saying during the leadership election that maybe Corbyn would withdraw ‘now he’s made his point’. We’re not trying to ‘make a point’.

    We’re not leaving the Labour Party to faff about on the fringes. A left winger is leader of the party, the membership has swung sharply left, 200,000 joined to support him. We want power in the party and the country to radically change things – in what fairy tale would we leave for Ken?

    Be clear, we may fail, the odds are against us for sure but we’re not leaving. We’re also your fellow human beings, actually, not poison, even if you think we’re wrong.

    Also, do catch up – the Unions are not the power brokers they were. The affiliate members are largely left wingers and the Electoral College has gone – one member one vote, remember. Your political current thought this was great, until you lost.

    I imagine you thought 200,000 Liz Kendall supporters would join, waving little flags and chanting “Change to win”.

    A poor, fantasy driven article.

  10. John P. Reid says:

    Mike Homfray, you say our lack of support for Palestine is the reason that we have a anti semeticism,problem, but what if someone showed anti semeticism, in the party to someone who was pro Palestine,not keen on Israel, David Winnick, Gerald Kaufman for instance,
    Kn Livingstone had previous commented 3 times in people facing internal disputes Naz Shah and Simon Dankzuc, before his suspension, had he still been on the nEc his integrity would have been compromised, and Christine shawcrodt who no time for the rules regarding Luftur Rahman shouldn’t comment either,

    Some of the defence of corbyn that he’s not a anti Semite,so it’s OK he’s turned a blind eye to it,is worse,and the idea from corbynistas by bringing this up,it’s muck raking ,ignores the fact these people have said these things,

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