In a lot of cases, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have a bit of a tin ear for how his actions, or lack of them, will be seen outside his core supporters. To my mind, if you want to foster a new sort of politics in which people debate openly and respectfully in a constructive search for workable answers to the problems we face, you start at home. If you want to fight prejudice and discrimination, you start at home. You create an atmosphere around you and in the people around you which is open, respectful, constructive, and in which people can feel safe. This is not the atmosphere I currently see in the Labour party, and I see no attempt on the part of Jeremy Corbyn to promote such an atmosphere.
But, ah! Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters will doubtless say. It’s not his fault! It’s down to the toxic atmosphere created by his opponents, particularly the PLP and the mainstream media. It’s nothing to do with him! Well, yes, but, no, but. It IS to do with him, in a lot of ways. Take one specific example, the monstering of many female MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn by individuals who purport to support him. Jeremy Corbyn did little to actively oppose this at first, and it was even said in his defence that the online harassment was being carried out by individuals who are not members of the Labour Party, as though this answered criticisms of his lack of action.
This is beside the point. The point is that women MPs, in the aftermath of the murder of Jo Cox, were being threatened online by individuals who purported to support Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone with half a set of cojones, or, indeed, half a clue about how people feel who are being harassed or threatened, would have come out swinging. A real leader would have stood up, spoken up, and made immediately crystal clear that such people were no supporters of his, that there was no place either in the Labour Party or amongst his supporters for anyone who threatened, harassed, or bullied anyone else, and that anyone found doing such a thing would be thrown out of the party, barred for life, and reported to the police, with the Labour Party pressing for prosecution and the maximum penalty if found guilty.
It’s the sort of statement one can easily imagine Barack Obama making. Even London Underground has posters warning people not to harass its staff under threat of prosecution. Jeremy Corbyn’s response? The equivalent of “It wasn’t me or any of my mates”. And this from a man who is standing on a platform of opposition to prejudice and discrimination. This news just in: most discrimination in this country is not carried out by Jeremy Corbyn, or by his supporters, or even by the Labour Party. If he wants to oppose it effectively, he’s going to have to up his sights a bit.