by Kevin Meagher
Is Jeremy Corbyn a racist?
It’s a strange and unfamiliar accusation against a politician who has spent his entire adult life on one anti-racist march or another.
Israel aside, Corbyn is the bleeding heart’s bleeding heart.
The allegation of racial discrimination against him comes from a serving Labour frontbencher, Chi Onwurah.
Writing in the New Statesman earlier this week, she complained about the way her brief as shadow minister for culture and the digital economy (nope, me neither) had been split between her and another Labour MP, Thangam Debonnaire, without telling either of them:
‘If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in – given that only five per cent of MPs are black and female, picking on us two is statistically interesting to say the least.’
‘In any other job I would have called on my union for support in confronting an all-white management which prevented two of its few black employees from doing their jobs. I would have expected the Leader of the Labour Party to condemn such ineffectual management which allowed such abuse.’
The accusation is a new low in the war of attrition between the Parliamentary Labour Party and their leader. Corbyn may be many things and not be many things, but he is no racist and the slur is contemptible.
It’s also a doomed attempt to ‘swift boat’ Corbyn on an issue he has made his own.
Onwurah is on surer footing complaining about his ‘ineffectual management’. On this, she does has a fair point.
But welcome to politics.
To the middle class professionals coming into Parliament, it must be rather shocking to discover just how chaotic and incompetent it all is.
The successful politicians learn early on how to deal with the ambiguities presented by the lack of effective line management or decision-making.
The unsuccessful ones get frustrated at the lack of formality. It’s why so many business high flyers bomb out of politics.
But the poor people-management evidenced here is of a piece with leaders far more successful than Jeremy Corbyn.
Margaret Thatcher was said to have given the hapless Tory MP, John Patten, his first ministerial job thinking he was the far more talented Chris Patten. While David Cameron promoted Chloe Smith to a Treasury job, mistakenly thinking she was a chartered accountant.
I can see why MPs attacking Corbyn play the man and not the ball. The level of despair in Westminster is such that many MPs think this is their only chance to get rid of him.
But it will not work. In fact, it does, and will, play straight into his hands.
The disloyalty of Labour MPs (whether justified or not) plays disastrously outside the Westminster bubble. And not just among the swelled ranks of the Corbynistas.
Casually throwing around these kinds of nasty, unwarranted smears will backfire badly on the moderates. Relations in the parliamentary party are already rancorous enough without all that bad karma floating around.
The fact remains that Labour MPs have bungled their coup from Day One. They will, in all likelihood, leave Corbyn in a stronger position. The least said at this stage, the soonest mended.
For the sake of the party – and Owen Smith’s campaign – a period of silence from them would be most welcome.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut