The tragi-comic end of Wreathgate is a timely reminder of how far British politics has fallen

by Rob Marchant

You will recall how, a few months ago, a certain party leader furiously denied, then in the end implicitly accepted, that he laid a wreath at the grave of Palestinian terrorists: essentially in the face of overwhelming evidence that he did just that.

Thanks to the painstaking work of some ordinary folk, as well as journalists, piecing together maps and photographs from the event, it was made clear that the route he took through the cemetery would have made any other explanation untenable.

For many of us, this was a watershed moment. We knew he had a long history of hanging out with dubious people and supporting unpleasant causes, but we wanted to believe there was still a chance that he was merely naïve and occasionally mendacious, rather than a serial liar. This shattered that possibility.

Through five years of Miliband’s leadership, Uncut criticised him, often heavily. We praised him, too, when he got things right. But we never called him a liar, because he was not one. Corbyn is not in the same category politically, of course. But neither is he in the same category personally.

Jeremy Corbyn lied about not laying a wreath. It may seem a minor thing, in the greater scheme of things, but the fact that it does is more a comment on today’s politics than anything else. The only plausible explanation was simply that a man who aspired to be PM could not be seen to be openly supporting terrorists (and worse, Hamas, terrorists with an ingrained anti-Semitism that can be traced back to their founding charter).

So it was really no surprise to find that the Leader’s – or, we assume, his Communications Director and legal team on his behalf – that he made a complaint to the press regulator about the coverage of the event.

Challenging the press when they misreport – and they do – is an important right. Some media play it closer to the wire than others, and some (who do not really even deserve the name, because they are propaganda: RT, PressTV, Skwawkbox and so on) outright lie on a regular basis. But even if a regulator may sometimes seem toothless, it is there.

So when that regulator turns on someone, it is usually for a reason. Similarly, when a complainant withdraws their complaint, it invariably means that either (a) they can see it will never get anywhere, or (b) the outcome is likely to completely embarrass them. Or both.

Cue comedy interlude: Jeremy Corbyn’s complaint about the Daily Mail was withdrawn last week, for the following, brilliant reason. Apparently, the process was “compromised”. There was a leak, and the Labour Party could no longer have faith in a tainted process.

Not, you understand, that it was quietly withdrawn because the whole world knew it was a disingenuous complaint. It was decent Jeremy standing up against the nasty people who were maligning him (including an independent regulator and both left- and right-wing broadsheet press). Oh, my sides.

No, the grand finale of Wreathgate was the point at which Corbyn’s leadership finally descended into farce.

But the terrifying thing is that we are no longer shocked. What would have been a killer blow for Miliband, or any other Labour leader, does not seem to matter.

We Brits throw up our hands in despair – or perhaps laugh, and point – when we look across the Pond to find a serial liar at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation.

But our system – historically one of the least venal and corrupt in the world – is going the same way. The Tory Right and UKIP demonstrably lied about Brexit. Corbyn lies about his past (not to mention his proposals for the future, such as the manifesto pledge about free university education).

The term “gaslighting” comes from the old movie “Gaslight” (precursor to “The Girl On The Train”), where a psychopathic husband gradually turns down the lights in his house so his wife can barely see, trying to drive her slowly mad by behaving as if nothing is happening. Getting to her to accept an alternative reality by constantly pushing at her boundaries.

As a mirror image of UKIP on the right, Corbyn’s Labour has done something similar. In the worst case, we become part of the cult: we are successfully gaslit into believing that it is all the fault of the media, the Tories, the centrists, or whatever other convenient bogeyman comes to hand.

But the rest of us, we are still being gaslit into believing that a lying leader is normal and acceptable. Not that we are part of a movement whose values are slowly becoming unrecognisable to us. We should not accept and we should not defend.

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


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14 Responses to “The tragi-comic end of Wreathgate is a timely reminder of how far British politics has fallen”

  1. Alf says:

    A somewhat Tory-lite take on reality. One for the ultra-Blair cultists methinks.

  2. Vern says:

    There will be others that still won’t accept what you refer to I’m afraid Rob and the “credibility” of the party will suffer as a result. Worse still is that those who support the Labour party will be tarnished by association. It’s a bleak outlook.
    With regards to the lies from Jeremy Corbyn we were given an early indication in to this when he lied about the availability of seats on a train you may recall.
    Since then there have been promises and pledges over student fees, no end of empty commitments based on Labours fully costed manifesto that is clearly a work of fiction itself.
    I can tolerate the odd lie from children as this is part of a learning process that I think most go through but Corbyn is old enough to be a Grandparent and he should haVE higher morals.
    Corbyn says that the media is controlled by the wrong people – presumably because they portray him in an odious light? Even The Guardian has finally come to its senses over Corbyn and it’s obvious that he and the cranks in Momentum seek to govern the press.
    Again, there is a very good reason why Corbyn was kept back of house for 35 years. There is much worse to come from his back catalogue of that you can be sure.

  3. paul barker says:

    So what conclusion do you draw for your own future actions ? The article seems to stop just as it gets to that question.
    There is another Party, The Liberal Democrats, that broadly shares your values. Why dont you join it & stop endlessly agonising ?

  4. Kevin Hawkins says:

    This is the reason I am no longer a member of the Labour Party. Momentum is militant in a new frock. Why do they need a party within a party unless it is to protect the cult of Corbyn. As an an ex serviceman you will not believe how utterly betrayed we feel by his action. His unsuitability to lead a Government is demonstrable.

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    paul barker,
    November 1, 2018 at 1:39 pm.
    I think the answer to your question is that Rob Marchant believes he can inflict more damage on the Labour leadership from within The Party.
    And he is right.

  6. paul barker says:

    @Richard MacKinnon
    The thing that would damage The Labour Leadership most would be the perception of a New Alternative to Labour on the Centre-Left. Obviously Rob Marchant cant launch that Alternative but he knows people who could.

  7. John PReid says:

    Richard Mckinnonn you could be right mit explains why the hard left, never left for the SWP , they thought they could inflict damage in Kinnock, Smith , Blair and Brown, till they got hold of the party again

  8. steve says:

    “we are successfully gaslit”

    By Jove!

    You’re right, Rob!

    This must be why you remain a subscription-paying member of the awful cult.

    My goodness, if they can dupe a person as clear-sighted and wise as yourself what hope is there for the rest of the nation?!

  9. Toby Ebert says:

    It seems a bit odd to call the Corbynistas a ‘cult’ when Corbyn overwhelmingly won two leadership elections. Like it or not, Corbyn supporters are now the mainstream of the Labour Party.

  10. John Reid says:

    Aaron Baatini at Novara has called for the poppy to be banned now. Madness

  11. John P Reid says:

    Toby ebert maybe it’s the fact his followers interpret what they like suited to their own beliefs rather than what he actually stands for , I met some fans of Corbyn in Barking who thinks if he wins “he’ll get rid of those Syria immigrants” others thinks he’s really pro the EU

  12. Anne says:

    I do keep defending Corbyn, but I have to admit it is not a good look for a prospective PM to be laying a wreath to a known terrorist. I am sure he is not that old and dithery that he forgot who it was.

  13. Landless Peasant says:

    More Rightwing propaganda and shit-stirring from Mr. Marchant

  14. Tafia says:

    Can anyone find one Remainer economist, or remainer at all, who, before we voted in the referendum, predicted that if we voted to leave the EU, that by now, we would be a few months from a likely No Deal Brexit, with a negotiation which has got about as badly wrong as it is possible to do so, with huge business uncertainty, and yet, we would still have historically low unemployment, Very high inward investment, very high and increasing exports and GDP rising 3x faster than the Eurozone?

    No, neither can I.

    Remoaner MP excuses:

    -When their constituents voted Remain – “I’m only doing what my constituents wanted” (but their party manifesto was for Leave).

    -When their constituents voted Leave – “I’m voting with my conscience” (despite what my manifesto and electorate say).

    -When their constituents voted Leave, their manifesto was Leave and the Referendum was Leave – “I’m doing it for the ‘Greater Good’* of the Country, both socially and economically”.

    (*Greater Good – an intangible thing oft quoted by dipshits and liars.)

    Have I missed any out?

    If you ever hear an MP start a sentence with “most people now agree” – it’s a lie. Always said in a calm conciliatory voice of reason.

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