Stepping down as Labour leader, Corbyn can hold his head high

JVL Introduction

As Jeremy Corbyn steps down as Labour leader, one of the most heartfelt appreciations has come from right-wing journalist Peter Oborne.

Former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph, he recently spent months, in the build-up to the election, inveighing against the political lies and fabrications, “so regularly, so shamelessly” of Boris Johnson.

By contrast he writes of Jeremy Corbyn comments:

“Corbyn’s problem? Again and again, he committed the ultimate crime in politics. He got the big issues right. The establishment will never forgive you for that.

“The fact is that, like it or not, the quiet and unassuming Corbyn has been a visionary leader of the Labour Party.”

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye on Fri 3 Apr 2020. Read the original here.

Stepping down as Labour leader, Corbyn can hold his head high

No mainstream politician in modern times has been as mocked and misrepresented as Corbyn – nor has any been proved right so often

There is one cardinal rule of British politics, decreed the great British historian AJP Taylor: radicals and visionaries are condemned to be ostracised and despised in their lifetimes. They never get within a whiff of power, unless they sell out. They get stopped by the establishment.

But there is one compensation. Their ideas win in the end. Not long after they leave the political stage, what once sounded heretical becomes the new orthodoxy. To put it another way, they lose the present but win the future.

Taylor’s analysis – set out in his superlative book The Trouble Makers, which reads as well today as it did when it was written six decades ago – applies exactly to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who leaves office this weekend.

Defying collective wisdom

No mainstream politician in modern times has been as mocked, misrepresented and eviscerated as Corbyn. But I can’t think of a single one who has been proved right so quickly – or so often.

Defying the collective wisdom of the establishment, Corbyn led the campaign against the invasion of Iraq. Seventeen bloody years later, the US is still trying to find a way to extricate itself. Virtually everyone admits Corbyn was right.

Corbyn warned against the invasion of Afghanistan. Nearly two decades later, the US has struck a deal with the Taliban and is on the way out, tail between its legs.

Corbyn was one of only a dozen British MPs who voted against former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Libya debacle. What a disaster. Once again, Corbyn was proved right.

But it is on the domestic front that Corbyn has been vindicated most spectacularly of all. Throughout the course of his half-century political career, Corbyn has argued against what we today call neoliberalism. That is to say, he has consistently argued against the shrinking of the state, the removal of protections for workers and the privatisation of public services.

Implementing Corbynomics

In recent years, that has meant that Corbyn has argued for the end of austerity, the reversal of privatisation and billions more pounds in public spending. As a result, he has been denounced by his political opponents (both in the Conservative Party and, more surprisingly, in his own Labour Party) as a demented Marxist hell-bent on the destruction of the British economy and the obliteration of Britain itself.

Though I have been a strong critic of many of Corbyn’s economic ideas, I pointed out that he was asking for nothing more drastic than a restoration of the social democratic settlement that prevailed in Britain between the end of World War II up to the rise of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

There is, of course, a rich irony at work here, for as Corbyn steps down from office, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is hard at work putting into effect an even more radical version of the domestic policies advocated by Corbyn in two consecutive general elections.

Corbynomics was the term used in the Tory press. Unprecedented levels of government spending. Bailouts for failed businesses. An exponential increase for government borrowing. Renationalisation. All put into practice by the very same prime minister who repeatedly warned before the last election that Britain under Corbyn would suffer an “economic catastrophe”.

Knives still out

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s measures have been praised to the skies by the exact same right-wing media who warned of economic obliteration if Corbyn ever became prime minister. This was true even of the spending splurge unleashed in his budget before the coronavirus crisis struck.

Even more so afterwards. Although it is too soon to say for certain, coronavirus appears to be bringing about a radical change of attitudes towards carers, public sector workers, nurses, doctors, and it should be said, migrants. People are coming to realise that they are some of the heroes of British society.

This brings me to my final point. As he prepares to step down as Labour leader, his opponents are plunging the knife in one final time.

In the Times, Matt Chorley sums up his leadership as “superficially well-meaning, yet bafflingly meaningless”. In the Spectator, Stephen Daisley’s denunciation of Corbyn’s “toxic legacy” is more direct: “Take your messiah complex and your dismal little cult and shove off.”

Tory and Labour grandees alike are not passing up a last chance to undermine the departing Labour leader. Lord Mandelson, the architect of New Labour, unsurprisingly branded Corbyn’s politics as “intolerance and factionalism”. This was some cheek from Mandelson, probably the most divisive figure Labour has ever produced.

Thatcher’s press secretary, Bernard Ingham, called Corbyn “a totalitarian up to his neck” in the Yorkshire Post. He has been written off with utter contempt.

The ultimate crime

Now, a new Labour leader is set to take over in the shape of Keir Starmer. He’s unproven, but I like the look of him. Many are advising Starmer to eradicate the legacy of Corbyn – to write him out of history, just as Tony Blair did to his predecessor, John Smith. But if Starmer has any sense, he will honour Corbyn and praise his legacy.

Corbyn’s problem? Again and again, he committed the ultimate crime in politics. He got the big issues right. The establishment will never forgive you for that.

The fact is that, like it or not, the quiet and unassuming Corbyn has been a visionary leader of the Labour Party. Of course he made mistakes. Of course he got things wrong. But history will be far kinder to him than to Johnson, or Blair, or Theresa May. Corbyn can hold his head high as he steps down as Labour leader this weekend.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.


Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.

Comments (8)

  • Edward Hill says:

    Can this be the mainstream media writer Peter Oborne who in The Daily Mail on 31 March 2018 examined “Labour’s descent into the cesspit of anti-Semitism”, and described Jeremy Corbyn as “unworthy to be an MP, let alone leader of a great political party”?
    The Community Security Trust treated this article as so authoritative that it quoted extensively from it in its publication ‘Antisemitic Discourse in Britain 2018’, in considering the allegations of antisemitism made about Jeremy Corbyn.
    Osborne’s article did concede that Corbyn had been “a refreshing contrast to the cynical and deceitful politics of Tony Blair and New Labour.” This new appraisal should therefore be seen in the context of new depths of dishonesty plumbed by Boris Johnson, his government and their supporting press.

    • Mike Cushman says:

      The CST of course quoted out of context. The very confused article also said:

      I also strongly admire the way he has stood up for Palestinian rights — an unpopular stance at Westminster…

      But then, I’m afraid, the ineluctable truth is that accusations of anti-Semitism have been directed at Corbyn ever since he became Labour leader.

      For my part, I admit, I felt that some of these claims were overplayed. For example, I believed Corbyn could not be held personally responsible for an incident at Labour’s conference last year, when an Israeli-American author, at a fringe meeting, compared Zionists to Nazis and suggested it was legitimate to question whether the Holocaust took place.

      Also, I felt some of Corbyn’s critics were confounding abhorrent anti-Semitism with criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government. Nor did I accept that Corbyn himself was anti-Semitic. I regarded him as a man who was passionately opposed to all kinds of racism and was a fighter — albeit sometimes very naive — for social justice.

      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-5563767/PETER-OBORNE-Labour-leader-Jeremy-Corbyn-soon-gone.html

  • Mary Davies says:

    A visionary. A man of integrity. He can hold his hed up high. Well said Peter Oborne.

  • Allan Howard says:

    It’s ironic, to say the least, that in his March 2018 Daily Mail article, Oborne should say the following (in relation to Jeremy):

    He has been especially courageous on foreign policy. I believe he was right to oppose the Iraq war, which created bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East and led to the rise of Islamic State.

    He wisely opposed Blair’s earlier Afghan misadventure, which led to the unnecessary loss of so many British and Afghan lives. Again, he was vindicated as one of only a dozen MPs who voted against Cameron’s catastrophic decision to intervene in Libya and oust Colonel Gaddafi.

    And THEN Oborne says THIS:

    All that said, Corbyn has behaved with grotesquely bad judgment in other areas. Above all, he has spent his entire political life supporting terrorist groups and governments hostile to the UK and our allies.

    I mean how many millions of people have been murdered – one way or the other – by the State terrorism of the US and the UK et al. There is absolutely no comparison!

    And it’s a blatant lie that Christine Shawcroft ‘defended’ a Labour councillor accused of sharing an article on Facebook which claimed the Holocaust was a ‘hoax’. The article did NOT claim the Holocaust was a hoax. It was an article about the Red Cross and THEIR tally done at the end of the war as to how many had been murdered in the concentration camps. I think it was about 270,000 if I remember correctly.

    Oborne ALSO lies about the mural. Jeremy did NOT ‘defend’ it. In response to Mear One saying on his Facebook page that: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural Freedom of Expression. London Calling, Public art”, Jeremy replied: “Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

    I don’t suppose Jeremy took more than a cursory glance at the picture of the mural, presumably on his mobile (which back in 2012 would have had a relatively small screen), and I can only assume that Jeremy was already familiar with the artist’s work to some degree or other, and had no reason whatsoever to believe he may have painted something that could be regarded as anti-semitic. If Jeremy had KNOWN the reason the mural was being removed he wouldn’t have asked “Why?”, and it’s precisely because he DIDN’T that he is asking why. If Mear One had said ‘they are are removing my mural because some people have complained that it is anti-semitic’, then not only would Jeremy have taken a good look at the picture of the mural, but it is highly unlikely he would have then asked Mear One WHY? .

  • Allan Howard says:

    Afterthought: In a Guardian article at the time it says:

    ‘Labour MP Luciana Berger raised the issue with Corbyn’s office after screenshots of the Facebook post emerged.’

    Needless to say, it doesn’t explain HOW screenshots of the facebook post ’emerged’ Do screenshots of a comment made some six years earlier just suddenly ’emerge’! And needless to say, Jeremy’s explanation and apology was never going to be accepted by those with an agenda, and was of course duly dismissed:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/23/corbyn-criticised-after-backing-artist-behind-antisemitic-mural

    And this – which I just found – is very interesting (and check out Berger’s tweet, highlighted in red, and then click on ‘Show this thread’ directly under her tweet):

    http://www.edlis.org/criticalthinking/mural/

  • Jo Dominich says:

    Peter, thank you for this article. As you say, all the MSM are still perpetuating the witch-hunt against him. I don’t like the look of Starmer at all. His victory speech was rubbish. We have a Government in power headed up by a pathological liar who has never accepted any responsibility in life and never will. He hasn’t got a clue about politics. We have the most draconian Coronavirus Bill which has removed a large part of our civil liberties and our civil rights and has imposed what amounts to martial law. Yet what is Starmer’s first priority – to write to the British Board of Deputies – a humiliating creeping letter – it’s appalling. Considering the whole anti-semitism thing was fabricated by the Jewish Chronicle and the BoD to ensure Corbyn did not come to power. Whilst we are losing our civil liberties Starmer hasn’t called for an urgent recall of Parliament, hasn’t challenged the Government’s narrative, nothing. He has virtually vowed not to provide any opposition just nice cosy little dialogue to ‘correct mistakes that are made’. Corbyn was brilliant as the Leader of the Opposition, he asked incisive relevant questions, he, in this Coronavirus management, was the only one that proposed policy initiatives some of which of course, days later, Sunak implemented. If it wasn’t for Corbyn, we wouldn’t have the 80% furlough scheme. He wasn’t afraid of the media and carried on with dignity and determination in the face of the most appalling savage campaign against him by the MSM. Well, those who called him totalitarian, a marxist who would crash the British economy look where we are now, a Government determined on implementing Fascist Totalitarians starting with the Coronavirus Bill, an invisible Prime Minister who will do anything to avoid public scrutiny, to answer difficult questions and to be accountable and is advocating eugenics. The Tory Party after years of economic mismanagement have destroyed the British Economy an now the Chancellor announces huge spending plans with a ton of borrowed money. Ok for the Tories why not for Labour.

    You are one of the few articles I have read that has given a really positive appraisal of Jeremy Corbyn. I am deeply concerned about Starmer actually – I don’t think he has any real political ideology and will just be a stooge for the MSM. Corbyn thankfully, was not that.

  • Mario says:

    Corbyn is regrettably stepping down as a loser. But all this thanks to murky distorting campaign he constantly received from the most evil and extreme right-wing establishment as well as the coward back-stabbers from his own party.
    But time will price how wrong all those villains were and how right Jeremy Corbyn was.

  • Paul Brooks says:

    This is so damned TRUE

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