From Tolerant to Nasty
You’d think the naming and shaming of political opponents within one’s party would be reserved for the authoritarian parties of North Korea, China and their Cold War inspirations. The opposite is true however. Labour, previously a bastion of tolerance, has issued a list of MPs who have dared to cross their dear Corbyn. The list, released by Corbyn’s team, singles out 14 MPs in the party who have undermined the leadership, including deputy leader Watson who called Momentum activists a “rabble”.
The situation proves once again how the party is becoming a kernel for left-wing conservatives who don’t seem able to tolerate an opinion other than their own. Yes, it’s cosy not to hear opposing arguments but it’s not healthy. By writing this list, the Corbyn team comes across as extremely intolerant and authoritarian. “Anyone who questions the leader should be purged” is the attitude that the list conveys. Owen Smith, for instance, was referred to as a “real disunity candidate” presumably because he threatens Corbyn’s position as leader of the party.
It is not the first time Corbynites have shown this attitude. The activist group Momentum, set up to support Corbyn’s power, have been accused of trolling MPs who don’t agree with the leader. In a time when “Blairite” is used as an insult, Corbyn’s “New Politics” proves that newer is not always better. It also suggests that for the frighteningly large group of Labour supporters that is Momentum, power is more important than the principle of debate and democracy since they’re prepared to denounce any uncomfortable opinions as establishment rhetoric and dissent. When “Blairite” and “Blue Labour” are used as snubs, it is clear Labour has, then, gone from a liberal party of debate and tolerance, where views could be aired, to a party where differing views can get you trolled and on a “deselection list”.
With the party struggling to find much to unite on, this list makes any such attempts futile anyway. It undermines any crumbling façade of order that Labour may have had and it is difficult to believe that Corbyn wants to reach a consensus. The deeply divisive list makes the party seem both incompetent as the opposition and unelectable. Despite the poor electoral chances however, the far left still leaches onto the leadership of the party, proving once again that they are more concerned with a sniff of power than real change and accountability – a concept vital to democracy. A united opposition is always important, whichever party is in power. It prevents arbitrary governmental power and overreach, and also ensures debate and representation. Without it we risk an over-powerful government that can avoid acting on behalf of the people.
Even if you look beyond the hypocrisy of the situation – Corbyn, once a notorious backbench rebel, is now demanding backbench loyalty - the situation is deeply disturbing. The party of tolerance is becoming the nasty party, and that’s not good for anyone.