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Whatever you think about Corbyn, it's time to think about something else.

12 Dec 2020

Jess Wilson

Whatever you think about Corbyn, it's time to think about something else.

There’s no doubt it’s been a wild couple of months for Jeremy Corbyn. After unlawful, antisemitic activity in the Labour party was exposed by an EHRC report, Corbyn questioned the report’s overall findings, saying the extent of his party’s antisemitism problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. He was subsequently suspended from the Labour party. 19 days later, Corbyn’s party membership was restored, but his whip was not.

Every step of this journey was accompanied by deafening reactions on all sides of the political spectrum, and in every Labour faction. Many moderate Labour members seem to hate Corbyn more than the truest of blue Tories ever could, meanwhile the Labour left appear to be willing to defend him with their lives, and left the party in droves in solidarity with him.

Personally, I think it’s clear that the Labour party has an antisemitism problem. It also has a racism problem in general, and a misogyny problem, and a homophobia problem, an Islamophobia problem, an ableism problem, a transphobia problem...you get the picture. I can confidently say that bigots of various forms reside in the Labour party, and in every other party (indeed, every other institution) in the UK.

It’s also clear that one form of bigotry in one faction of one party is being exposed, while other forms of bigotry in other parties, and in other Labour factions, are being neglected. This is immensely frustrating, but anger aimed at the EHRC report itself, and the decisions made consequently, is misplaced. The neglect of other problems is what should be driving our fury, not the exposure of this one, or what it has meant for Corbyn’s career.

The Labour party is also home to a great many passionate, intelligent, energetic left-wingers. If these members are true to their principles, they’ll use their voices to protest the genuine injustices in our party, rather than leaping to the defense of one man. What happened to Corbyn is significant, but it lies within the remit of normal party politics. Racism should not.

I count myself as part of the Labour left, and I understand the significance of Corbyn’s work to the faction. But Corbyn is just a person, just a politician. If the left’s entire worth and work is really encapsulated in one individual, without whom we are nothing, then we urgently need to ask ourselves if we’re doing enough.

Politicians should serve the people, not the other way round. It’s been hugely disappointing to see some members of my own faction show more solidarity with Corbyn as he faces a career downturn, than with Jewish members facing antisemitism. Corbyn can stay in the party or leave, he can have the whip restored or not. Either way, we have far bigger things to think about.