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‘Bring me the head of Jeremy the Baptist’

by ALAN SIMPSON

PERHAPS it should read “…Jeremy the Bastard” or “…Jeremy the Pacifist.” But “…Jeremy the anti-semite” is today’s barely concealed lynching cry. 

And for the moment Labour has complied: suspending him from the parliamentary party and spinning everything into a political confusion that will end up doing Labour no favours whatsoever.

The game plan is as much about hobbling Sir Keir as nobbling Jeremy. 

It would have Starmer silenced on any of the appalling politics of the Netanyahu regime, for fear that he too might fall foul of “anti-semitism” tropes.

But Jeremy’s supporters should also be cautious. The NEC panel that revoked his suspension from the Labour Party did not “exonerate” him. 

What it concluded (unanimously) was that, on the evidence (and clarifications) before them, Jeremy neither rejected the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report nor denied that anti-semitism was an issue Labour had to address.

Personally, I wish Jeremy had just held his hand up and said: “Look, this happened on my watch. I was the party leader, so the buck stops with me.” 

The EHRC report offers harsh criticisms of Labour’s handling of anti-semitism complaints, including criticism of an array of people employed by the party. 

Labour must take these criticisms on the chin and act on them. Not least, this would involve investigating those who, from day one of Corbyn’s leadership, were obsessed with undermining, denigrating and ultimately destroying him.

Today’s debacle, however, needs putting into a bigger picture. Labour cannot afford to be swept along on any Trumpesque tide that purges “due process” rather than embraces it.

Look at what’s happening in the United States. Trump’s zealots, and the outriders in his Maga army, are no longer calling in for a recount of votes in the seats he lost. 

They know this would just confirm Joe Biden’s victory. Instead, they want the disputed results to be “not ratified.” Then, with a series of states left in suspended animation, Trump would declare victory. 

Zealots would be overjoyed, but nothing would be healed or resolved. A nation wounded by a politics that divides and denigrates, builds walls around itself, and dismisses (and vilifies) internal critics, is on the path to implosion not rebuilding. Labour cannot afford to follow suit.

Jeremy has been my friend for more decades than either of us care to count. I shared an office with him in Parliament, was his lodger (twice), and toured the land with him in numerous anti-war, pro-peace, pro-justice campaigns. 

I also witnessed the intense, unremitting vilification he was subjected to by members of the PLP who hated his election as leader. Many are among those still calling for his head.

For the record, Jeremy steadfastly refused all calls (and there were many) to purge such members from the PLP and party. 

He would have no truck with disciplining those who took Britain into an illegal war with Iraq, embraced the follies of PPP funding, or hid behind off-balance-sheet accounting. 

He is not (and never was) either a purger or the Messiah. What Jeremy did was open the door to a different politics. And people poured through this door in their tens of thousands.

Those who flocked to Jeremy’s social-justice and climate-justice campaigning did so out of hope, not vindictiveness. 

Fed up with New Labour’s opportunistic politics of “triangulation,” they wanted to stand for something transcendently better: a party of vision, inclusion, redistribution and transformation. 

Excluding Corbyn from the PLP won’t make this dream go away. It may simply remind people of how out of touch the PLP had become.

Labour has to remember it wasn’t Corbyn or anti-semitism that decimated its support in Scotland. It was the party’s retreat into a superficial, self-serving, machine politics. 

Suspending him from the PLP won’t sanitise the Westminster politics Corbyn threatened.

No community is safe any longer from the climate roller-coaster we are strapped into. 

Every faith, creed and nationality should fear the tipping points we are already crossing. 

If there are answers, we will find them in our togetherness, our common bonds and shared vulnerabilities. 

And if Corbyn isn’t a part of the answer, we will end up still sinking (separately) within the problem.

Alan Simpson was Labour MP for Nottingham South from 1992 to 2010.

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