Tuesday 21 January 2020 6:05 am

Jeremy Corbyn has busted the myth of Labour’s moral superiority

Let’s play a game. Imagine that a Tory-supporting business leader had delivered her company’s worst financial results for more than three decades. 

Let’s further imagine that the company had then, because of significant overspending, had raised the prospect of firing dozens of ordinary workers — while rewarding said senior executive with a bumper new contract and significant additional responsibilities.

Let’s suppose that, while this was going on, this firm had been accused of being institutionally racist, and was under formal investigation — and that this woman had been accused of interfering personally to ensure that grievance cases were hushed up.

Further imagine that she was an extremely close ally, personally and professionally, of the single largest donor to the Conservative party. 


And now let’s imagine that Boris Johnson chose to put this woman in the House of Lords.

What do you think Jeremy Corbyn would say? Would he be aggrieved? Outraged? Would he shout from the rooftops about a corrupt system, the abuse of power, and the need for the stables to be cleansed? You bet he would.

There’s just one problem: the woman in question is Karie Murphy, Corbyn’s chief of staff. And the person who wants to put her in the Lords is him.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, here are the brief highlights. Murphy, one of Corbyn’s key advisers and a close friend of Unite boss Len McCluskey, was at the heart of Labour’s disastrous response to accusations of institutional antisemitism. Last year, her opponents within the high command — including John McDonnell — managed to get her removed from the leader’s office, after a series of vituperative disagreements over strategy and management.

But instead of being fired, Murphy was shifted sideways to oversee campaigning. In her new job, she insisted on a General Election strategy which shunned defending vulnerable seats (and following polling data) in favour of a full-on assault on Tory-held constituencies. 

After the ensuing disaster, she has been rewarded with a new full-time contract and responsibility for overseeing party membership — and now appears on Corbyn’s proposed honours list. Talk about failing upwards.

The truth is that nothing illustrates the hypocrisy of the Corbyn project as neatly as its approach to the House of Lords. 


Having promised that he would not nominate peers, because he disagreed with the existence of the upper chamber on principle, Corbyn changed his mind in order to nominate Shami Chakrabarti — shortly after she published her notoriously lenient report on Labour antisemitism. 

In now appointing an individual who is under active investigation for institutional discrimination, rather than just someone who cleared his party of it, Corbyn has gone from the cynical to the farcical. 

Consider too that the Labour leader has also nominated outgoing House of Commons speaker John Bercow, who was found to have overseen a parliamentary regime riddled with bullying and harassment, and has been accused of mistreating his own staff. 

Labour MPs were previously open about the fact that Bercow only remained in post because he was on their side over Brexit, to an extent which drove a coach and horses through the idea of the speaker as a neutral arbiter.

Yet it is not just in Corbyn’s own office where the smell of hypocrisy is in the air. Consider his activist fan club Momentum, whose founding premise is that “the Labour party must be transformed into a more open, democratic, member-led party”. 

Momentum recently offered its own members a choice for party leader between Rebecca Long-Bailey and Rebecca Long Bailey (add or remove hyphen according to your preference). As a result of this yes-no ballot, the group will campaign full bore for the Notorious R.L.B. on the basis of an endorsement by just 12.5 per cent of its members.

Or consider the wider Labour leadership contest, in which so many of the candidates are insisting on zero tolerance for antisemitism, despite having served— in many cases in extremely senior positions — under a leader who dragged their party into the moral sewer with his refusal to confront the problem or even fully acknowledge that it existed.

The reason all this matters is that one of the foundations of Labour theology — especially the Corbynite strain of it — is moral superiority. Labour are the good guys, the poverty-fighters, the anti-racists. To be a Tory is to be not just wrong, but actively wicked.

If there is no other legacy of Corbyn’s disastrous tenure as Labour leader, let it be the final shattering of that misguided myth.

There is a cavernous gap between the people Labour’s leaders tell us they are, and how they actually behave.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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