Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Jones And The Thin-Skinned Labour Commentariat

Dan Hodges - Owen Jones - Labour Party

A campaigning journalist or opinion writer must write according to their conscience, without a second thought for whether it helps or hurts their own party in the short term

Owen Jones is angry that his attempts to make sympathetic, reasoned critiques of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are attracting the same levels of vitriol and hatred that those of us on the Right experience every day.

In his Guardian column yesterday, Jones complains:

I have several criticisms of the Labour leadership, held in good faith and constructive in approach. Because I want the left to succeed – otherwise, what’s the point? The need to build coalitions of middle- and low-income people; to reach out beyond the converted; to have a credible, coherent economic alternative; to rebut smears of being hostile to the country; and so on.

But when voiced, the right will use these as evidence that “even the left is losing faith”. Some on the left will see such suggestions and criticisms as playing into the hands of an aggressive media campaign regarding anything but blind loyalty as treachery. The isolated sympathetic commentators end up almost duty-bound to stay in line.

Such is the unrelenting nature of the media attack, any balanced discussion of the Corbyn leadership risks being shut down. That the media can be so dominated by one opinion – and so aggressive about it – is a damning indictment of the so-called free press. I’m an opinion writer: my opinions appear in the opinion section. But the media is swollen with opinion writers, and in too many cases their work ends up in the news section. A constructive critique of the Labour leadership is still needed for its own sake if nothing else. It is, however, an almost impossible task.

Meanwhile, Dan Hodges – a commentator with absolutely no concern about the potential impact of his words on the short term prospects of the Labour Party – has cancelled his direct debit and cut up his membership card (again) in no small part because of the vicious response to his opinions from the Corbynite Left.

In announcing his decision to quit Labour again, Hodges writes:

I’m done. Yesterday I cancelled my direct debit to the Labour Party. “Why don’t you just sod off and join the Tories”, Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters regularly ask anyone who dares to challenge their rancid world view.

I won’t be joining the Tories. But I am sodding off.

What’s a left wing polemicist to do if they find themselves disagreeing with the direction of the Labour Party in the Age of Corbyn?

It’s funny. Many of us on the right are well used to being called Evil Tories or labelled as heartless, uncaring monsters utterly lacking in all compassion – not because we don’t want to help the poor and disadvantaged, but simply because we don’t believe that endless, uncapped government spending is the best solution.

We are used to mainstream media outlets – heck, even the current Chancellor of the Exchequer himself – unquestioningly accepting and repeating the notion that conservatism is only about helping the wealthy, rather than the many. And when we are not being actively spat on or jostled in the street because of our political opinions, we are still used to being reviled, and our ideas not given a fair shake. And as a result, we have developed superior reasoning abilities, reserves of fortitude and patience, and very thick skins.

The left-wing commentariat utterly lack these qualities. For years they have marinated in the sanctimonious belief that their side has a monopoly on truth, compassion and decency. And since Labour lost power in 2010, it has been the easiest job in the world for them to sit on the sidelines throwing stones at the Conservative government.

(I’ll make an exception here for Dan Hodges, who correctly called Ed Miliband’s vacillating uselessness from the very beginning, and correctly predicted that he would lead the party to electoral ruin. And for his Cassandra-like efforts, he is now a pariah figure in the party he loves, with the small consolation of being David Cameron’s favourite columnist).

But to say that the left wing commentariat have had trouble adapting to the new reality under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a huge understatement. Because now, more than ever, the Labour Party has devolved into warring factions and bitter rivalries. And all of them – MPs, writers and activists alike – are now treating each other with the same contempt and raw hatred that they previously reserved for “Tory Scum” like me.

And it turns out that the Left can dish it out, but can’t take it.

Owen Jones in particular seems to be struggling with the fact that writing critically about tactical errors by the Corbyn leadership is not generating a warmer and more receptive response:

I have several criticisms of the Labour leadership, held in good faith and constructive in approach. Because I want the left to succeed – otherwise, what’s the point? The need to build coalitions of middle- and low-income people; to reach out beyond the converted; to have a credible, coherent economic alternative; to rebut smears of being hostile to the country; and so on.

But when voiced, the right will use these as evidence that “even the left is losing faith”. Some on the left will see such suggestions and criticisms as playing into the hands of an aggressive media campaign regarding anything but blind loyalty as treachery. The isolated sympathetic commentators end up almost duty-bound to stay in line.

And when Dan Hodges found himself implacably opposed to the current direction of his party – with his anti-Corbyn positions being received even more coolly than his tirades against Ed Miliband – he simply upped and left.

One might suggest that Owen Jones & company could learn a thing or two from this site. I’m a natural conservative supporter, though I reluctantly voted UKIP in 2015 out of frustration with the pro-EU consensus, in solidarity with good people like Douglas Carswell who went out on a limb in pursuance of their ideals, and because my local constituency fielded a dithering left-wing Wet Tory candidate. And I made clear that the Conservative Party did not deserve my vote because in every important area – national sovereignty, rolling back the state, fiscal policy, civil liberties and more – they were quite simply not behaving like a conservative party.

This blog is the exact right-wing mirror image of left-wing commentators like Dan Hodges: a natural supporter of my party, but with complete contempt for the current leadership (Cameron and Osborne) and a strong desire to see the Tories move in a more conservatarian direction. Dan Hodges can’t bring himself to remain within the Labour Party while its leadership refuses to countenance military action against the middle age barbarians of ISIS. I can’t bring myself to give money to the Tories so long as their leadership remains slavishly pro-EU and believes that the British people can be distracted from the gradual loss of their sovereignty and democracy by manufactured “table-thumping rows” and a sham renegotiation with Brussels. Or when they field a Conservative In Name Only parliamentary candidate who rails against the “bedroom tax” and thinks that we should do away with our independent nuclear deterrent.

I get a lot of stick for my views. I’m universally hated by the Left (and recently discovered a Tumblr page full of foul-mouthed invective about yours truly), and can hardly get deeply involved in Conservative politics when I disagree so fundamentally and vehemently with the centrist wet rag of a leader who just delivered a resounding general election victory only in the total absence of a viable Labour prime minister in waiting.

But that’s my lot in life, and I accept it. I’ve been called every name under the sun on Facebook and Twitter, earned the opprobrium of friends and acquaintances, and written lots of mean things about my own party, taking them to task for their failure to advance conservative policies while in power. But the one thing I have never done is pull a punch or moderate a sincerely held opinion because of the friends I might lose or the immediate electoral damage I might do to the political party I used to call home.

Love him or hate him, Jeremy Corbyn remained a Labour Party member through all of the long wilderness years of Blairism, years which must have seemed to Corbyn like an unbearable compromise with flawed Tory-lite policies. Ridicule and obscurity were his crosses to bear, and he bore them patiently until quite unexpectedly his fortunes changed.

For many of the left-wing commentariat, however, just a few short months out of power and favour within the Labour movement is apparently already taking a psychological toll on people more used to calling the Tories “evil” and sitting back to soak up the lazy applause than being tarred with the same brush and called Red Tories themselves.

I have no sympathy for any of them. Jeremy Corbyn sits atop the Labour Party because of the wretched job that the centrists and their establishment buddies did in making a convincing public case for moderate Labour. And on the flip side, I accept my share of blame for the Conservative Party’s current directionless, centrist malaise – I should have done more and worked harder in my own small way to keep the party true to Thatcher’s legacy, and fought harder against the Cameron project. Sadly I only began writing in 2012, when it was far too late anyway.

But if nothing else, perhaps now that major and influential left-wing commentators like Owen Jones have been on the receiving end of the same kind of foaming-at-the-mouth left wing demagoguery that libertarians and conservatives receive every day, they will refrain from indulging in it themselves.

Of course, that would require that they stop feeling sorry for themselves long enough to recognise the pattern staring them in the face.

Jeremy Corbyn - Paris Attacks - Terrorism - Appeasement

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