Jeremy Corbyn's alleged villainy.
If you read the papers, especially those run by the more right-wing empires, you might arrive at the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, is a monster.
He is variously described as communist, antisemitic, hypocritical and authoritarian. He's extensively criticised for his own actions and those of his friends, allies, colleagues and even opponents.
I'm going to take a look at these claims and try to put them into context; to find out if Mr. Corbyn is the villain he is frequently made out to be.
Let's deal with the most ridiculous claims first.
It has been repeatedly claimed that he was brought up in a mansion on a country estate and therefore is hypocritical in claiming to represent the working Briton.
For the record, he was brought up in a mansion on a country estate. He also, somewhat disingenuously, refers to it as a farmhouse. Yes, it is technically true, but it is no longer the working farmer's house, having been separated off with its surrounding land to make a large and impressive country home. While his futile attempts to minimise the wealth of his upbringing are somewhat irksome it is absolutely not his fault that he was born to wealthy parents, nor that he grew up in a large country house. It in no way prevents him from being a representative of the working class, nor does it make it impossible for him to listen to other people's concerns and act with their interests at heart. He does have a track record of traditional Labour activity in broad support of this position and he is not a hypocrite for an accident of his childhood.
He is accused of being an enthusiastic fan of traditional socialists and even communists. Even his style of dress seems reminiscent of the revolutionaries of old.
Well, yes. All true. None of it makes him incapable of offering a modern take on these old ideas, nor is there anything inherently suspicious about having regard for the philosophy of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky or anyone else on the left of old politics. Again, there's truth in the underlying allegation but, again, it's only used as a criticism by people who are looking for an excuse to dislike him or his politics. In many ways this sort of approach is akin to bullying. Bullies try to find something to pick on, which may be accurate, but it's only in the minds of the bullies that they are actually a flaw or weakness.
So, how about the more problematic accusations?
Mr. Corbyn does have an unseemly habit when it comes to the way he leads the Labour Party. He has a serious problem with the traditional collective decision making associated with the party. In essence he leads Labour in the manner that has always been used by leaders of the Conservative Party, but not traditionally how the Labour Party is led. This seems like it would pose a problem for him, since the institutions that make the party function are not really designed for this kind of leadership, but he's managed to form an entryist group around him that supports his positions uniformly. This group is known as Momentum.
At its heart Momentum is a group of political activists who share a common belief in socialist values. If that was all it was then almost nobody would ever have heard of it. It is also an organised entryist group within the Labour Party. In essence it has been independently gathering members and then joining the Labour Party en masse. Members support each other in gaining seats on key committees and operate like a party within a party. Many Momentum members would describe this activity as being no more suspect than the 'New Labour' movement of the 1990s, but there's an absolutely key difference. Unlike New Labour and much more akin to the Militant Tendency of the 1970s and 1980s, Momentum members are not necessarily Labour people who support an organic group within the party, they are members of a faction that recruits and promotes membership of the party as a way of supporting Momentum objectives.
The easy way to see the difference is this. New Labour was a proposed approach to getting Labour members to agree to a more liberal manifesto with the stated aim of making the party more electable. New Labour was, therefore, the Labour Party.
Momentum is a group trying to gain control of the party from the outside, because its values are most closely allied to the Labour Party. It is an undeclared political party trying to take control of an existing one. Momentum is, therefore, the Momentum Party, but it pretends it isn't.
It's easy to see the difference in the way Jeremy Corbyn describes his own relationship with Momentum. Where Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party as a figurehead for New Labour, Jeremy Corbyn claims he isn't a member of Momentum, and he's probably telling the truth. What people seem to miss, however, is that that isn't a good thing. If Momentum was actually the direction that Labour was going then the leader of the party would also be a senior figure in Momentum, or alternatively would be clearly distinct from them if they hadn't reached the level of party support necessary to put one of their own in the chair. That's what happened with New Labour. Instead Momentum is a group of people who resolutely support 'Corbynite' policies but both they, and Mr. Corbyn, claim no formal affiliation.
In modern politics the closest equivalent is the way the TEA Party has been taking control of the Republican Party in the United States. This is an external group that has gained immense influence within an existing political entity.
While this does not rise to the level of deceit, after all a person's political views are their own, it is this attempt to disguise the holders of the levers of power within the party that makes Jeremy Corbyn appear Machiavellian in his leadership.
Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party. This is not a controversial statement. It is, however, a somewhat inaccurate statement. Jeremy Corbyn is actually the leader of the Corbyn Party and that political entity is not exactly the same thing.
Labour has traditionally prided itself on a very democratic system for deciding its policies. The manifesto is debated and approved at conference and Labour members and officers sign on to support it.
At least that's how it used to be. Now we find the astonishing sight of the Labour leader only giving his public support to positions that he, personally, approves. Admittedly most of these differences are relatively obscure internal matters, but in recent years two issues that have become of national importance have demonstrated this problem very clearly.
The first was the Brexit campaign and the following period of chaos.
Jeremy Corbyn has always been an opponent of the EU. The Labour Party overwhelmingly supports EU membership. A Labour leader would have taken the party's instructions at conference and energetically campaigned to remain in the EU. When the vote went the other way and Labour began to support a second referendum, or Parliamentary action to limit the dangers of a poorly planned exit from the EU, a Labour leader would have pursued those options with equal vigour.
Mr. Corbyn did not. He decided to be almost invisible during the referendum campaign. When pressed by journalists he would state that it was party policy to remain in the EU, but he didn't offer much in the way of original speeches in support of the position and he, time and again, made it abundantly clear that while party policy favoured remaining, he did not. This ambiguity of message and grudging response was the best he could do. The reason for that is that the Corbyn Party is adamantly opposed to the EU and Jeremy Corbyn's loyalty is to that party, not to Labour.
The second problem that has come to raise its head is the ongoing and damaging accusations of anti-semitism in the party.
The Labour party does, as has become painfully clear, have a serious problem with anti-semitism. Over and over again senior figures in the party, including Mr. Corbyn, have had to defend their stance against these accusations. Over and over again these figures show themselves to be deeply and dangerously anti-semitic.
Obviously Labour has a huge number of members and I'm sure that the vast majority are genuinely not anti-semitic, so we have to ask how this problem came about.
As is often the case there are two competing theories for how Labour got into this mess.
In the first version Jeremy Corbyn is constantly beset by powerful enemies who will use anything, including a trumped-up charge of anti-semitism to hurt him or the party. These enemies include the media, the Tories, the Labour members who aren't his supporters and, in a bit of a clue as to how this conspiracy theory originates, a global Zionist conspiracy.
In the second version Mr. Corbyn is, while not perhaps a traditional anti-semite, nonetheless someone who for personal or political reasons holds Israel and Jewish people to an impossible standard while cheerfully excusing the behaviour of others, placing him firmly on the anti-semitic spectrum.
Without going needlessly (and potentially disgracefully) into the minds of the Corbynites it has become very clear over time that Jeremy Corbyn and his avid followers are, very obviously, anti-semitic.
Before we go any further let's put to rest a few of the canards associated with this reality. Mr. Corbyn is not anti-semitic because he believes that the human rights of Palestinians are being limited or trampled by Israel. He is not anti-semitic because he is willing to speak eloquently on the behalf of suffering Palestinians and he is not even anti-semitic, though I personally find it distasteful, when he attends memorial events for alleged Palestinian terrorists.
A few years ago, prompted by party members, not by external pressure, Labour's executive voted to declare that the party found anti-semitism unacceptable and grounds for punishment or expulsion within the party. They voted to accept the globally recognised definition of what anti-semitism means, a definition the UN, the EU and pretty much every other group has used as the basis of their definitions.
Before it became policy, however, Mr. Corbyn decided it needed amending a little bit.
He made a few changes to the wording to allow a few, rather specific, forms of anti-semitism to be permitted within the party. If he thought nobody would notice or care then he was wrong. If he thought, as I suspect he does, that the general definition of anti-semitism is a little too broad and that his own position would be prohibited by it then he was right. If he believes, as again I suspect he does, that his little corner of belief is not actually anti-semitic and that's why he had to change the wording, because he knows better, well, then he's not only anti-semitic but deceitful about it. This, I think, is the unvarnished truth.
Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic.
The, fairly narrow, piece of wording that proves it is his insistence that the definition he was willing to include in Labour's documents excluded a few examples of anti-semitism. One in particular. He ripped out a line that declared it anti-semitic to attack the existence of the state of Israel.
But surely, I hear you cry, that's politics, right? I mean criticising Israel isn't anti-semitism?
No, it isn't. Criticising the policies of Israel, the government of Israel, the military of Israel and so on and on is not anti-semitic.
Criticising the fact that Israel exists is anti-semitic. Allow me to explain why.
Every nation on the globe came about through some combination of war, conquest, treaty or similar. There is no justifiable reason for any nation to exist, they are all artificial constructs and are overwhelmingly the result of war and savagery.
Israel is a nation with a relatively civilised formation. It was formed by the same piece of law that also founded the Kingdom of Jordan. There's no doubt that, since its founding, Israel has been embroiled in more than its share of wars and controversies, but it was formed under a legal deal. In fact, thanks to that, Israel certainly has more legitimacy as a nation than those formed by the random winds of historic violence like, for example, the United Kingdom.
Jordan is an authoritarian monarchy and one with an amazingly poor human rights record. In particular its brutality towards Palestinians is horrific. By comparison Israel, hardly a model of human rights either, is at least a democratic and constitutional nation with free citizens.
In the Middle East, of course, anti-semitism is public policy. Several nations have legal documents that declare the illegality of the state of Israel. In the democratic west we might think we're beyond that but yet, Mr. Corbyn insists that Israel's very existence can be questioned while he expects nobody to question the existence of the UK. In fact, as an anti-EU nationalist, he's willing to reinforce the national status of the UK even at the expense of its citizens. He, in other words, holds Israel to a standard that he does not apply to his own nation.
In 1972, during the Munich Olympics, a group of Israeli athletes were taken hostage by a Palestinian terrorist group called 'Black September'.
Tragically, during an attempt to rescue the athletes, a bloodbath led to a heavy death-toll. It's a fairly well-known story. It's a very familiar narrative, in fact. Palestinian terrorists (by my definition of the term, if not Mr. Corbyn's) attack Israelis to gain international recognition for their cause and, at the same time, murder some Jewish people. Their group, Black September, took its name from a brutal suppression of a refugee camp full of Palestinians. Again, I doubt anyone would be much surprised.
Most people don't know that the Black September atrocity, the original one, the massacre of refugees in a camp, was perpetrated by the Jordanian army.
In the Middle-East this is a routine understanding. It's easy there. If you live in one of a number of nations that are ruled by various different Islamic administrations then every problem, every discussion, every doubt and every question is simply an excuse to try to expel Jewish people from the region, something that requires the single-minded focus on Israel as the enemy. It doesn't matter if Israeli policy is justified or unjustified, it doesn't matter if Israel is responsible for an event or someone else is. Everything is just grist to the mill and the mill spits out anti-semitism unashamedly.
Jeremy Corbyn changed the wording of the document to ensure that, irrespective of Israeli involvement in any event or action, he would always be able to demand that Israel itself be deleted from the maps.
And here's the thing. He's demanded this freedom in only one case. He has only ever criticised the existence of Israel. Not Jordan, created by the same document. Not the UK, created by waves of conquest. Not the USA, created in war and founded by slavers and genocidal white-supremacists. Not any of the South American nations founded by European settlers through the slaughter and sometimes extermination of the original residents.
So, I'm forced to ask. There must be something that makes Israel different, right? It isn't its formation, nor its conduct, not its foreign policy or human rights record, not its system of government or the rules it has for the adoption of lost kittens. In all these areas Israel is not remotely unusual or exceptional.
In fact I can only think of one thing that makes Israel unique: It's a Jewish state.
And that, right there, is how I can say with absolute certainty that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-semite.
I can declare it without any fear that anyone can correct me, because, once you actually follow his reasoning, it's self-evident. It is actually the same reasoning that led the original definition of anti-semitism to include the example that it was anti-semitic to criticise the existence of Israel.
It's because people who say that are anti-semites.
Like Jeremy Corbyn.