By Dawn M. Sanders
Narrated by Alexei Sayle, this Platform Films timely documentary, emerges on the cusp of local elections and a general election scheduled for next year, as Labour leader Keir Starmer has said nothing of his vision or manifesto for wins in either local council seats or a general election – preferring to fixate on a combative campaign against his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn won an overwhelming majority for Labour leader in 2015, where the chronicle of this former leader’s tenure unfolds with staunch hostility, not from the governing Tory party, but within Labour itself. After his mandate for Labour leader, Corbyn made his way to party HQ, receiving a Lukewarm, less-than-welcoming reception, as he was the furthest left, most Socialist of any Labour leader and the trouble began.
A chorus of prominent voices, from Andrew Murray, Corbyn’s political adviser from 2017 to 2020, Jackie Walker formerly of Momentum (a grassroots campaign group within Labour) and Chris Williamson, former MP for Derby North, spoke of Corbyn reviving Labour. People who had never been bothered by politics, were inspired by his people-centred policies and advocacy for disenfranchised communities. With Corbyn as leader, Labour membership grew from 190,000 to 515,000 – an influx of 325,000 within the first year and a half of his leadership. However, by 2016 with Brexit as our steady diet from mainstream media every day and government obsession preceding the referendum, a prominent figure within Labour’s shadow cabinet emerged – Keir Starmer. As Corbyn appointed Starmer as Shadow Brexit Secretary, the film snapshots him riding the wave of the Remain Movement. Yet, Brexit wasn’t the only thing Starmer and Corbyn clashed on, as Starmer’s team comprised Labour right-wingers. At this time, there were leadership challenges and a vote of no confidence against Corbyn, but nothing worked to oust him as the establishment so desired. ‘Nothing had gone to plan. Everything had gone into overdrive’ someone mused within the documentary. As the 2017 election brought Corbyn close to winning, it would prove too close for comfort for the right of the party, shocked and dismayed, who were countering Corbyn’s leadership with every step. As Theresa May’s snap election presented Corbyn’s Labour with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the popularity of his policies and manifesto, it also presented the perfect opportunity for forces within the party to stop Corbyn in his tracks, as the issue of antisemitism within Labour, hatched as the golden egg of scapegoating a Palestine-supporting Socialist leader. There had been complaints of antisemitism and Jews who felt ‘pushed out’ by Corbyn’s political position, but this was the trigger for the right within the party to snowball the situation. Dawn Butler stressed, it was the only important racism, as MPs of colour came under attack. Corbyn’s, who has stood against racism all his life, only defence was ‘sorry’ for offending, but didn’t change his convictions and was upset at the issue of antisemitism. However, the harder he tried to rectify the problem, the more hostile actors within the party exaggerated the issue – providing the mainstream media with the means to vilify Corbyn unscrupulously. From the BBC’s Panorama programme, the Guardian, Channel 4 and tabloids, personal/political attacks flew at Corbyn from all directions.
Despite his unwavering integrity and steadfast resilience, Corbyn’s biggest political blunder was riding the fence on Brexit – this, along with too many pledges to please everyone, dealt him the devastating loss of 2019’s general election. By 2020 with Keir Starmer taking over as leader of Labour, he not only suspended Corbyn for saying the truth of how antisemitism was exaggerated, Starmer and his new right-of-centre cabinet and party officials ruthlessly removed anyone left-wing for little or nothing at all. In a strategic bid to block Corbyn from standing for his long-held seat for Islington North, Starmer recently tabled a motion based on Corbyn losing in 2019 – the National Executive Committee (NEC) a power base within Labour, secured the vote in a done deal. Starting with Rebecca Long-bailey’s sacking, Mike Cowley’s blocked effort to run as an Edinburgh counsellor or Christine Tongue’s suspension simply for wishing Chris Williamson well on Facebook – the examples of exterminating the left are endless and undemocratic. In this article, Andrew Murray points out a depressing and dismal truth – particularly of how the left have failed to challenge Starmer’s ire within the party or mobilised beyond pinning all hopes and aspirations on one man – Corbyn standing as an independent. The Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) – a group of left-wing MPs within the party have delivered eloquent, impassioned speeches on Youtube at conference fringe, but where’s the revolt against the ‘hostile environment’ Starmer has created? Where are the lawsuits for preventing left-wing members from standing for council seats? If left-wing members haven’t been purged, thousands like me have left in disgust at Starmer’s visionless, uninspiring, absence of principle, Tory attributes or willingness to stoop to gutter level to prove himself. From the EHRC’s findings to the Forde report out in July of 2022, Starmer, together with the establishment, has bypassed revealing findings which prove the sabotaging of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Reflecting on this travesty of one of the few decent politicians left, this story is one of the worst political injustices of our time. Corbyn has withstood multiple character assassinations and all but been exiled from the party he has represented since his teens, if these reports are anything to go by, as Labour implodes – the left might not have to do much, as Labour self-destructs before our eyes – inside the party and outside with the wider electorate. Voters might acquiesce to voting Labour in the locals or GE next year, simply to get the Tories out; other alternatives might be sought, such as the LibDems, Greens or smaller parties, as Labour could lose in their current trajectory – who can predict. As for the film, a collage of interviews and vox pops strung together at a jaunty pace, it was impossible to capture key quotes, not knowing who was speaking. As I sat taking notes and my tablet died, I wished I had someone next to me pointing out who was who. That said, the truths spoken were indisputable! This documentary, like every other hidden truth about Jeremy Corbyn, should be ‘out there’ – not shown to a room full of lefties in a preaching-to-the-converted exercise. Shown in alternative/independent cinemas for a modest ticket price, proceeds could go to homeless projects, food banks or other initiatives Corbyn cares passionately about as he is not yet to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Editor’s note: thanks go out to Norman Thomas for helping with background info and filling in the gaps.