How the Right Destroyed Corbyn

Five years ago, on 7th April 2019, the Jewish Labour Movement passed a no-confidence motion on Jeremy Corbyn, adding to charges of anti-semitism that fuelled the Labour right’s anti-Corbyn campaign. Oh Jeremy Corbyn: the Big Lie shows how the allegations destroyed Corbyn’s socialist project, finds Bill Bonnar.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn; the Big Lie did the rounds last year despite the best efforts of the Labour Party to stop people watching it. The ‘Big Lie’ refers to the accusation that anti-semitism was rife in the Labour Party. As a non-member of Labour let me speak on behalf of all those party members still afraid to speak up. There was never any anti-semitism in the Labour Party except that which existed on the fringes of social media where everything exists. Interestingly if I was a member of the Labour Party I would be expelled for simply making this statement.

The film centres on the combined campaign by the media, political establishment, and right wing of the Labour Party to destroy the Corbyn project and by extension Jeremy Corbyn himself. It outlines a hostile media campaign with no precedent in modern political history. The elected leader of the Labour Party was subject to a level of abuse, vilification and lies by the media which was stunning in its extent. Jeremy Corbyn was painted simultaneously as a terrorist sympathiser, pro-IRA, a dangerous marxist, a supporter of Islamic extremism including Isis, a former soviet spy, and generally deranged. By extension, his supporters in the Labour Party and beyond were tarred with the same brush.

This is all well covered in the film. It shows in particular the role played by the right-wing Labour establishment who, given the choice between a Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn and a Conservative Government under Boris Johnstone, were clear in their support for the latter. The film documents the role that the Labour Party machine played in ensuring a Labour defeat in the General Election. No wonder they don’t want the film shown, as it involves many of the current Shadow Cabinet including the Prime Minister in waiting. One scene is particularly telling. On election night in 2017, despite all predictions, Labour gained 36 seats. Watching on are a number of right-wing Labour MPs who look absolutely crestfallen. Another scene tells the story of when Corbyn first visited the Labour HQ as leader. The hostility from staff was coming off in waves. They saw Corbyn as enemy number one.

It is clear that Labour’s right-wing establishment operated a backchannel to the media, continuously feeding them with anti-Corbyn stories. They were also happy to go along with all the anti-semitic nonsense, not because they believed any of it but because it served their purpose. 

The film also delves into the nature of the Corbyn leadership and the Momentum movement which propelled him and his project. Momentum was a mass movement of mostly young people looking for radical change. They flooded into the Labour Party, driving the party to the left and providing the support needed by the new left wing leadership under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Few will forget the enormous rallies of tens of thousands of people enthused by the prospect of real change. No wonder the ruling class were concerned. 

However, the very nature of Momentum proved to be a problem. Was it primarily a movement that joined the Labour Party en masse, seeing it as the vehicle for radical change, or was it a movement sitting both inside and outside the party as neither one thing nor the other? For the right-wing Labour establishment it was clearly an enemy force which had infiltrated the party, yet even the new Left leadership struggled to work out how to adapt this new force to traditional party structures. It would not be long before tensions arose. Some of those tensions are outlined in the film.

The film also raises some criticism of Jeremy Corbyn himself, suggesting that, in his attempt to forge some kind of unity with his opponents, he was too soft. A major blunder occurred when, under pressure from the allegations of anti-semitism, he gave a statement conceding that this, while exaggerated, may be a problem and it would be investigated. This was immediately seized upon by the media who took it as proof that the party was a hotbed of anti-semitism. It was a blunder that backfired spectacularly. With hindsight, Corbyn should have been resolute in his defense of the party on this issue.

Overall the film is a shocking indictment of the right wing of the Labour Party who did everything in their power to ensure the party was defeated at the 2019 general election. For them, the Left within the party were a far greater threat than the Tories under Boris Johnson. The film shows the lengths to which the British state will go in order to ensure that a Labour Party with a radical political agenda could never be elected. Everyone on the Left should try to see this film, although if you are a Labour Party member you will need to go in disguise.