The latest polls in the Labour leadership election suggest that Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn has his nose in front. It is hard to trust the unattributed briefings reported in the New Statesman this week, but one “campaign staffer” (presumably, although the report does not say so explicitly, a Corbyn supporter) said “he is in a commanding position … he is on course to win.”
Bookmakers’ odds tend to give a more reliable picture than anonymous quotes, and here too the picture is pretty clear: www.oddschecker.com shows that the best price you can now get on Mr Corbyn’s victory is 4-1, and even for that you must move fast: several are quoting him at 3-1 . At the start of the election you could back the hirsute Marxist at 100-1.
Mr Corbyn’s standing has been helped by a campaign led by, amongst others, Toby Young. Young is an unlikely Corbyn supporter. Indeed, he is generally sympathetic to the Conservatives, and for all I know he may even be a Party member. He is particularly well-known for helping to found the excellent West London Free School.
He did so in the teeth of opposition from people like Mr Corbyn, whose support for comprehensive education is so strong that he is said to have divorced his wife at least partly because of his insistence that his son should be sent to a failing inner-city comprehensive rather than the grammar school in a leafy suburb that his wife favoured. Mr Corbyn does not just oppose grammar schools, he also opposes free schools (like the West London Free School) and academies which he believes should be brought back into local authority control.
The reason Mr Young and some others are backing Corbyn is that they think a Labour Party led by him would be completely unelectable. I am sure they are right. As Mr Corbyn told readers of the communist Morning Star, he favours renationalising the railways, electricity, gas and water companies. He is in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. He is a familiar face on picket lines and at protests of all sorts. He invited two convicted IRA bombers to Westminster just two weeks after the Brighton bombing. He has spoken sympathetically of Hamas. Leo McInstry put it crisply: “he has never seen a left-wing campaign he did not like, nor a capitalist enterprise he did not despise.” And as if things could not get any worse, the man is also, apparently a supporter of homeopathy, on the weird basis that like conventional medicine, homeopathic ones “come from organic matter.”
Because they think that a Labour Party led by Mr Corbyn could never win a General Election, his Conservative supporting supporters have hit on a clever plan, which exploits the fact that Party rules allow not only Labour Party members, but also “registered supporters” to vote in the leadership election. Registration is a very simple matter of visiting the Labour Party website, completing a short form, and paying a minimum contribution of £3.00. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph even had a useful “cut out ‘n’ keep” guide to doing so, and helping to make the Labour Party unelectable. Spectator editor Fraser Nelson says he knows of at least one Tory donor who has registered under 5 different names in order to vote for Mr Corbyn 5 times.
According to the Labour Party, 42,550 members have joined it since the election. That does seem a suspiciously large number, although it may include Trade Unionists who have been encouraged to join as individual members. However, it might not take many of Mr Nelson’s false flag entryists, especially those registering in several different names, to have a significant effect on the result of the leadership election.
There is however a problem, and quite a significant one, with following Toby Young’s advice. Anyone registering to vote has to sign, or rather click on, this declaration:
“I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”
It may be that the “aims and values” of the Labour Party are sufficiently vague to mean that quite a lot of people can sign up to them without too much problem. I would certainly be hard pressed to say exactly what they are. They range from a sort of warm, woolly feeling that we should all be nice to each other, right through to a taste for fratricidal back-stabbing.
But its aims are, at least in one respect, quite clear: obtaining power at the next election.
And whatever else its aims may be, they certainly don’t include, as the Telegraph puts it, “dooming the party forever.” Indeed, given that probably the single most important aim on which all Labour Party members agree is winning the election, you could not honestly sign the declaration if you were registering in order to ensure the Party loses the election by lumbering it with a barely reconstructed Marxist.
What is more, if you are a member, or a supporter, of the Conservative Party, you would also be unable, in honesty, to sign the declaration that you are “not a supporter of any organisation opposed to” the Labour Party, because as a Conservative supporter that is exactly what you are.
In other words, if you want to embarrass the Labour Party with a ghastly neo-Communist throwback you can do so, but only by lying about your intentions. If you really want to hurt them then you can, like the Tory donor mentioned by Mr Nelson, lie about your identity too.
In fairness to Mr Young and The Telegraph, both suggest that in the (optional) answer to the question “Why did you sign up as a Registered Supporter?” Corbyn backers should reply:
“To consign Labour to electoral oblivion.”
If they follow this advice they may be wasting their time registering as it should be easy, and would be entirely proper, for the Labour Party not to allow them to vote. As far as Mr Young and the Telegraph are concerned, perhaps they are just having a perfectly legitimate bit of fun at the Labour Party’s expense.
Those seriously wishing to send Labour into oblivion with Mr Corbyn will have to conceal their intentions; or rather they will have to tell a blatant lie that they “support Labour’s aims.”
For anyone, and particularly for any current or aspiring politician, it is probably not a terribly good idea to try to do down the opposing party by telling lies. It is also a particularly stupid thing to lie about your intentions towards the Labour Party while simultaneously handing it your name, address and contact details. If you conceal your identity, it may be even more stupid and it is certainly even more dishonest.
Does it really matter? Perhaps it is all just a bit of fun. And it would, at least for a day or two, be quite funny if Corbyn, a man described by the Telegraph, with complete accuracy, as a “bearded voter-repellent”, became the Labour leader.
But I don’t think I am being unduly po-faced and humourless to find this particular campaign by some of Labour’s opponents to be somewhat distasteful.
If the ultimate result is that those false friends trying to elect Corbyn are eventually revealed as rather foolish liars, they will have no-one but themselves to blame. One would hope that at that point any Conservative Party members found to have lied in order to vote for Corbyn would face disciplinary action from their own party. Indulging in electoral fraud is the sort of thing that ought to result in immediate expulsion from any political party.
Moreover, as Fraser Nelson says, a strong Conservative Party needs a strong Labour Party. The entryists’ tactic won’t just be bad for Labour. They will be bad for the Conservative Party and, most important of all, bad for democracy.