The problem isn't that Corbyn wants unity; it's that he wants unity around ideologically mad viewpointsby Peter Kellner / January 7, 2016 / Leave a comment
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For once, I am on Jeremy Corbyn’s side. His shadow cabinet reshuffle makes sense. So do many of the other things he has been criticised for doing in recent weeks: backing Momentum as a grassroots campaign to support his leadership, seeking to reduce the power of Labour’s national Policy Forum, wanting Labour MPs to heed the views of party members and working with other left-wing groups in the Stop The War coalition.
Throughout his political career, Corbyn has been open and consistent. He holds the same views as he did when he and I served together on the general committee of the Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party in the early 1980s. His record as an MP, his columns for the Morning Star and his campaign for the party leadership leave no room for doubt. He is sincerely, and avowedly, an anti-capitalist, anti-American unilateralist.
All he is now doing is applying the mandate he secured in winning the party leadership. In essence, he is doing the same as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair did when they imposed their will on their parties. And should Corbyn’s supporters exploit the coming boundary changes to replace current Labour MPs with candidates more to their liking, that is a perfectly reasonable way to secure their political objectives. There are now such different views of Labour’s basic doctrine, with many Labour MPs fundamentally rejecting Corbyn’s politics, that nobody should be surprised that the leader’s supporters seek to fashion a Parliamentary Labour Party that is more to their liking.
This is not to condone the kind of grotesque abuse that some MPs, such as Stella Creasy, have had to endure. But, more broadly, Corbyn’s critics are wrong to bang on about process and the need for unity. Unity is a virtue only when it is rooted in agreement on core issues – or, at the very least, acceptance that the leader should be able to lead. It is absurd to advocate the right of the shadow Foreign Secretary and shadow Defence Secretary to advocate different policies from their leader on matters that go to the heart of their portfolios. No past leader of any major party would be expected to allow this; nor should Corbyn. Given his basic beliefs, he is absolutely right to curb Hilary Benn’s tongue, and to replace Maria Eagle with someone who shares his views on Trident.
Corbyn’s opponents should abandon their complaints about process and drop their calls for unity. The real point is that Corbyn’s politics are ideologically mad, intellectually absurd and electorally disastrous. He will never become Prime Minister, which is just as well because if he did, and enacted the policies he has advocated throughout his adult life, he would wreck Britain’s economy, defences and international alliances. He needs to be shown up for what he is, and then deposed – not asked to destroy his party more gently.