Good and brave Labour MPs need to be defended | Nick Cohen

Such is Corbyn’s grip on the Labour party that his supporters can pick off opponents with impunity

The Daily Mail might have compiled the far left’s hitlist of Labour MPs. Seven of its apparent deselection targets are women: Angela Eagle, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Louise Ellman, Anna Turley, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth. Of these, Angela Eagle is an out lesbian and Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger are Jewish. Most are young by the standards of politicians and nasty old men have always enjoyed humiliating young women with ideas of their own.

The Corbyn gun club does not only have women at the end of its firing range. A list of MPs Jeremy Corbyn claimed had been abusive towards him included many men. But when Labour activists talk of the men most likely to be deselected the list narrows to three: Neil Coyle, Wes Streeting and Peter Kyle. Wes Streeting and Peter Kyle are, since you mention it, gay.

Should you mention it? There is a case for arguing you should forget about identity politics. A division as old as the foundation of the “left” on the benches of the national assembly of revolutionary France now tears Labour apart: the division between Girondins and Jacobins, reformists and revolutionaries, social democrats and communists. Gender and ethnicity seem irrelevant. Either you are for “Jeremy” – as his supporters insist on calling their Big Daddy – or against his revolution, whatever that might be.

Yet if you believe people who call themselves left wing, gender and ethnicity have never been more relevant. They celebrate diversity, count the number of women in senior positions and rage against racism and male privilege. Given their complicity with Corbyn, I do not think they will be able to rage against the patriarchy in future without having their hypocrisy thrown in their faces.

Angela Eagle pulled out of the leadership race in July. She has been subjected to homophobic and misogynist attacks.
Angela Eagle pulled out of the leadership race in July. She has been subjected to homophobic and misogynist attacks. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Just look at them. Jess Phillips’s file of online abuse contains Corbyn supporters photoshopping her head on to the body of a half-naked woman with a spear going through her heart. They tell her she is an “ugly cow” and a “psycho bitch”. Phillips is as tough as they come. She worked for Women’s Aid and inevitably received abuse from “men’s rights” activists, who resented the protection she offered battered wives and girlfriends. The only difference between their insults and the insults of the Corbynistas, she tells me, is that the far left is “a bit less rapey”. When men’s rights activists went for Phillips in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn defended her. Now that his own supporters are following suit, the Pilate-like Corbyn washes his hands and piously intones that local parties must decide whether to deselect their MP . He is just Labour’s leader. These are just his followers. It is none of his business.

After a Momentum activist denounced Ruth Smeeth, at the launch of Labour’s sick joke of an “inquiry” into left antisemitism, she had to call in the police to investigate antisemitic death threats. Smeeth has fought the far right all her adult life. She never felt the need to hire a bodyguard, however, until she went to face the far left at this year’s Labour conference. Peter Kyle took the Tory seat of Hove in 2015. Momentum wants to deselect the one candidate who could hold the marginal. Kyle does not receive much open homophobia, just constant complaints that he’s “not one of us”, which may mean he is gay or may mean he refuses to accord the Pilate of the left the tribute that is his due.

Supporters of Angela Eagle allege her enemies referred to her as “Angie the Dyke” at a local party meeting. A rebuttal leaflet circulating in her Wallasey constituency inadvertently explains why so many on the left cannot acknowledge not just homophobia, but misogyny and racism too. The dyke charge was “a politically motivated attack”, it said, with a variant of what Jews call the “Livingstone formulation”. Allow me to explain. Just as it is commonplace in the rightwing press to say that Islamophobia and racism are always the invention of log-rolling special interests, so the Livingstone left accuses Jews of always raising fake claims of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel. As so often, what happens to the Jews one day happens to everyone else the next. Women and gays are now hearing what Jews have heard for years: your complaints are just a cover to advance your sinister interests.

The Labour conference made clear there is no point appealing to Corbyn’s sense of decency. Stella Creasy found he did not have one after she followed the success of her campaign to curb the sharks of the payday loan racket with an equally urgent campaign to help child refugees. She and Yvette Cooper asked Corbyn to support a motion at conference to advance the cause. Of course he wouldn’t. Admirers of George Galloway and Islamist movements have overrun Creasy’s local party. They call her a “girl guide” and treat her with a condescension they would never afford to a male politician. Naturally, Corbyn prefers them to a Labour MP who has done what he has never managed to do and provided practical help to working-class Britain.

I know from my experience of confronting left antisemitism that what Labour MPs will be looking for is a glimmer of comprehension among their opponents about what is at stake. If my past is a guide, they will not find it and a sliver of ice will enter their hearts.

Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott and the rest of Corbyn’s prominent women supporters should be saying words to the effect of: “I back Corbyn. But I am also a feminist and an anti-racist. Everyone in public life gets abused, but we are now going beyond abuse to deselecting MPs. Even though Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy are my opponents, it would be intolerable for them to lose their seats to misogynist enemies, just as it would be intolerable for antisemites to drive out Ruth Smeeth and other Jewish MPs. These are victories that are not worth having; victories that are built on the defeat of our ideals.”

They won’t protest. Nor would anti-racist activists after Corbyn sacked Thangam Debbonaire in such a contemptuous manner. Debbonaire’s colleague Chi Onwurah, one of the few other BME women MPs, said he might have been up “before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal”, aggravated by racial discrimination, if he were a normal employer.

From the Jacobins onwards, women’s rights and every other right have been subjugated to the cause of the revolution. On the rare occasions when revolution has come, it has, as a result of that subjugation, created societies that were worse than what went before.

• Comments will open later today


Nick Cohen

The GuardianTramp

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