Cor­byn’s cult is a re­minder of how dic­ta­tors op­er­ate Stephen Pol­lard

Daily Express - - NEWS - Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor

THIS week­end the Tories gather in Manch­ester for their an­nual con­fer­ence. They may be in of­fice and Labour in op­po­si­tion but there is no doubt which party is the more buoy­ant and con­fi­dent – and it’s not the Tories. However wrong­headed their poli­cies may be Labour ap­pears to have caught some­thing in the public mood, as a deeply wor­ry­ing poll yes­ter­day showed.

Ac­cord­ing to poll­sters Pop­u­lus, up to 83 per cent of vot­ers agree with na­tion­al­is­ing water, gas and elec­tric­ity and half would be happy to see banks na­tion­alised. There is mass sup­port for wage caps and more reg­u­la­tion. The word cap­i­tal­ism is as­so­ci­ated with “self­ish”, “cor­rupt” and “greedy”. In con­trast so­cial­ism was cor­re­lated with phrases like “for the greater good”.

To un­der­stand why such ter­ri­ble ideas are now so pop­u­lar we need to take a care­ful and open-minded look at the past decade and be­yond. But we also need to look for­ward and pon­der where sup­port for such ideas could lead us. The an­swer is deeply dis­turb­ing.

The vast ma­jor­ity of those who now say they like the sound of na­tion­al­i­sa­tion and other such ideas are de­cent peo­ple who ei­ther can’t re­mem­ber the hor­rors of the 1970s or sim­ply feel that they are be­ing let down by cap­i­tal­ism. However that is not the case for many of those who pro­pose the ideas and nor is it true of the hard­core of ac­tivists who have taken over the Labour Party.

JEREMY Cor­byn’s great­est strength is that he comes across as a de­cent man. You hardly need me to re­hearse yet again just how mis­guided that im­pres­sion is. But there is some­thing far more wor­ry­ing at work here too.

I am sure Mr Cor­byn is be­ing hon­est when he says how un­com­fort­able he is with the per­son­al­ity cult that has now taken hold in the Labour Party. But cult-like it cer­tainly is with ac­tivists wear­ing Cor­byn T-shirts, hang­ing Cor­byn pic­tures on walls and – weirdly and, one has to say, scar­ily – greet­ing the start of his leader’s speech with that aw­ful “Oh, Jeremy Cor­byn” song.

This kind of hero-wor­ship is not merely cult-like it is how dic­ta­tor­ships start. Dis­agree with Mr Cor­byn and the gates of hell open on you from his sup­port­ers. I now, for in­stance, have daily, un­end­ing abuse on so­cial me­dia from Cor­bynites for dar­ing to have de­scribed this cult-like be­hav­iour.

It doesn’t bother me – I find it use­fully re­veal­ing – but it can move be­yond the vir­tual world into phys­i­cal threats. A jour­nal­ist who has done nothing more than her job, the BBC’s Laura Kuenss­berg had to have se­cu­rity guards when she at­tended the Labour con­fer­ence.

When one man is el­e­vated as be­ing the repos­i­tory of all that is good, by def­i­ni­tion any op­po­si­tion, or even those who are sim­ply not signed up in sup­port, is the op­po­site: all that is bad.

This is how dic­ta­tor­ships be­have as Mr Cor­byn’s own he­roes, the former pres­i­dents of Venezuela and Cuba, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Cas­tro, show.

And it is the mind­set of the thugs who have al­ready dis­rupted next week’s Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence with their threats. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, ac­tivists have said they will “lay siege” to it and ban­ners rous­ing peo­ple to “hunt Tories” have sprung up around Manch­ester this week.

Tame­side Con­ser­va­tives had planned to hold an event in cen­tral Manch­ester on Satur­day night but have been forced to can­cel after “in­tim­i­da­tion from Left-wing ac­tivists”.

We know what we will see next week be­cause we saw it last year: vi­o­lent thugs at­tempt­ing to dis­rupt the con­fer­ence. This is pol­i­tics Cor­bynite-style.

Typ­i­cally the lead­ers them­selves will have clean hands but there is no doubt in whose name they are act­ing.

We saw this process in action this week in the way Jewish peo­ple who com­plained about the diet of anti-Semitic words and phrases from party mem­bers since Mr Cor­byn be­came leader were them­selves at­tacked as the enemy.

It wasn’t Jeremy Cor­byn who abused Jews at con­fer­ence. It never is. It was his sup­port­ers. And it was three key al­lies of the Labour leader – Unite boss Len McCluskey, film di­rec­tor Ken Loach and former mayor of London Ken Liv­ing­stone – who all said the same thing: that there was no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and that com­plaints about hate speech were re­ally a fig-leaf for plots against the lead­er­ship.

As for Mr Cor­byn, he did not is­sue a sin­gle word of di­rect con­dem­na­tion of this tor­rent of anti-Semitic abuse.

ALL this is deeply redo­lent of that old tool of dic­ta­tors ev­ery­where: the idea that op­po­nents are “en­e­mies of the peo­ple”. In which case the peo­ple – de­fined as those out on the streets in sup­port of the glo­ri­ous leader – have ev­ery right to de­fend them­selves from those who seek to do them down.

Such di­rect action is at the core of Cor­bynite pol­i­tics. John McDon­nell, the Suslov to Jeremy Cor­byn’s Brezh­nev, has said that his mem­ber­ship of the Labour Party is “a tac­tic” since “you can’t change the world through the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem”.

For Mr McDon­nell and his fel­low ex­trem­ists the thugs who threaten Manch­ester and the ri­ot­ers who have pre­vi­ously taken to the streets are “the best of our move­ment”.

More, they are the pre­cur­sor to a rev­o­lu­tion in which the en­e­mies of the peo­ple are put in their place. This is Labour now. And it scares me.

‘Sup­port­ers abuse their op­po­nents’

Pic­ture: GARETH FULLER/PA

HERO WOR­SHIP: Cor­byn greeted by ador­ing acolytes at Labour’s party con­fer­ence

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