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Mark Steel: If Jeremy Corbyn had any decency he’d behave like a proper MP and go to a dinner with arms traders or offshore bankers

Published 18/12/2015

Until Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party, we were all wonderfully polite
Until Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party, we were all wonderfully polite

As it’s Christmas, I expect Labour MPs will show even more joy and kindness than normal towards their leader.

Usually they show their affection by leaving a meeting of the parliamentary party to do an interview with BBC News. “Of course I support Jeremy and he has a strong mandate,” they say, “but he made everyone so ill tonight we all shat ourselves.

I don’t envy the cleaners who have to go in there tomorrow, but it’s Jeremy’s fault for saying we should scrap Trident. It makes sensible party members lose control of their organs.”

By this time another Labour MP will be on Sky News, saying: “Jeremy is a man of principle, and I back him completely. But he looked tired tonight, and I couldn’t help thinking it would be better for all of us if he slipped into a coma.”

The former shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint insisted last week that, while she supports the elected leader, what we really need is a leader who can “reach out” to people and provide inspiration.

It’s easy to see what she means: Corbyn’s public speeches only attracted crowds of up to 5,000, and when you’re used to filling the O2 arena like Flint, with tickets selling for £500 on eBay, Corbyn’s meagre audience must seem hardly worth bothering about. “Caroline, Caroline,” scream teenagers, sobbing with hysteria. And when she explains the importance of a measured response to George Osborne’s spending review they all faint.

Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn seem especially angry at the moment because they’ve received abuse from the public. They naturally assume that Jeremy Corbyn is to blame. So they make media statements such as: “Last Monday, a schoolboy yelled ‘wanker’ at me from a bus. I’m warning you, Jeremy, this sort of behaviour must stop.” The online abuse is even worse, and Corbyn is clearly responsible. Until he became leader of the Labour Party, everyone on the internet was always beautifully polite.

It’s only supporters of Corbyn who are rude, of course. I was sent a message by someone informing me: “The only way you’ll ever be funny is if you’re stabbed to death with shards of Aids-infected glass.”

Thoughtful prose; presumably if this person saw me getting stabbed to death with shards of glass he’d shout: “Have those shards got Aids on them? No? Why not, are you a fan or something? I want him to die from the stabbing, then come back to life but die again of Aids.” But luckily this particular missive was sent by someone of a Conservative persuasion, otherwise the subtext could have been quite unpleasant.

Whereas the people sending abuse to Tony Blair’s supporters have been key figures in Corbyn’s office (madanarchistdave24@broadmoor.com, for example), the Blair supporters who’ve been impolite in return – stating “If your heart tells you to support Corbyn, get a new heart” – have been incidental figures in the Blair camp, such as one Mr Tony Blair.

The Conservative MP Lucy Allan must have felt left out of this story, so she added a death threat to herself at the bottom of a constituent’s letter, writing “unless you die” so she could complain about it being violent. This must be terrifying for her, sending death threats to herself like this. She must have Post-it notes she’s written to herself on the fridge that say: “Remember to buy Cheesy Wotsits for the kid’s party. Or I’ll bury you alive, you bloodsucking whore.”

Then Corbyn finally went too far and attended a Stop the War Christmas dinner. Surely if he had any decency he’d behave like a proper MP and go to a dinner with arms traders or offshore bankers instead.

Can’t he see he’s undermining the good work of parliamentarians who go to great lengths to support British Aerospace, trying to stop wars that are essential to the financial stability of the cluster bomb industry?

One complaint about the Stop the War coalition is that it has expressed support for President Assad. This is an impressive accusation if you’re a supporter of Tony Blair, because when Blair was Prime Minister he invited Assad on a state visit at which the President spoke of his “warm personal relations” with Blair.

Then Blair established similarly warm relations with Gaddafi and Mubarak. He was probably trying to tick off all Arab dictators, the way some people like to visit all 92 football league grounds.

None of the Labour MPs complaining about Corbyn said a word against this, presumably because they were so angry they still haven’t finished writing the letter expressing how furious they were. Maybe they asked Sir John Chilcot to help, and that held things up a bit.

But one Christmas dinner with a group accused (though it denies this) of being sympathetic to Assad, and they’re frothing with rage. If you were a cynical type, you might wonder if they have a whiff of an anti-Corbyn agenda.

Some Labour MPs and Blair supporters seem so consumed with fury about him, every comment on any issue erupts into an anti-Corbyn rant. One of them responded to the murders in Paris by complaining about what he thought Corbyn might say about them.

They probably hear the football results and snarl: “I bet Chelsea would do even worse if Corbyn was their goalkeeper.”

It’s like watching someone try to put up a tent, while someone else keeps treading on it, pulling out the pegs and setting it on fire, then runs to BBC News to say: “This bloke’s an idiot, he can’t even put up a tent.”

Independent

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