Successful political parties are coalitions of interests. The Labour Party was founded as the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 to bring the socialist movement together under one banner to fight parliamentary elections. The first members of that committee contained trades unionists, members of the Social Democrat Federation, Fabian Society and Independent Labour Party: an assortment of hard-headed campaigners for workplace rights, middle class Christian idealists, disenchanted Gladstonian liberals and intellectual disciples of Karl Marx.
While the Labour Party has always had room for adherents of outlandish forms of socialism, it has scored most electoral success when presenting itself as a party that can deliver social justice within a broadly capitalist economic framework. In 2017 the stars could have aligned for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn’s high energy campaign nearly galvanized enough voters to pull off a triumph; he struck a chord with a younger generation of voters who felt locked out of the opportunity to get ahead in a system which stacked housing and student loan costs against them.
Younger voters thought they could get a swift correction to intergenerational injustice, but many seem now to have woken up to the fact that they were being duped. Mr Corbyn was triangulating in a fashion that could have made even Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson feel proud. His beliefs only coincided with theirs on the narrowest band of issues. The intervening years have revealed an advocate of Venezuelan-style nationalisation, an apologist for Iran and Russia, a leader too reluctant to root out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party for fear of losing regard among his fellow travellers for his ideological purity.
Anti-Semitism may be as old as the Torah but Labour has contained anti-Semites from its inception. SDF founder Henry Hyndman (who wrote the first popularisation of the ideas of Karl Marx in the English language, England for Allin 1881) would frequently denounce the ‘capitalist Jews’, who he believed were central to a sinister ‘gold international’. Hyndman soon left Labour, going on to form a new National Socialist Party, just as Oswald Mosley left in 1931, to form the New Party and then the British Union of Fascists.
In those days, anti-Semites used to get fed up of the Labour Party and leave it. But today, it is the Jews who are leaving. Mr Corbyn is responsible for this situation by encouraging hostility towards the state of Israel. With his outriders on social media spreading anti-Zionism, some Labour members are so radicalized that public abuse of both Israel and Jews has become routine. Stand by for deselections of sitting Jewish MPs in the months to come.
The foundation of Mr Corbyn’s world view is anti-Americanism. His personal hatred of American imperialism has led him to the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament and to sympathise with the terrorists of Hezbollah, Hamas and the IRA as well as with the governing regimes of Iran, Venezuela and the Kremlin. In this respect, his views are extreme and completely out of kilter with those of the mainstream majority of British adults.
Yet Mr Corbyn remains unperturbed. It does not matter to him if Labour no longer contains the broad assortment of people and organisations that it once did. It is more grist to his mill that talented right-wing Labour members such as Chuka Umuna and Chris Leslie have left the party. It signifies the ideological victory that his comrades have achieved.