By Jack Emsley
Admit it, you’re secretly very smug about the chaos ensuing in American politics. The era of Trump has ushered in a blend of childish name calling, toxic political tribalism, and wild conspiracy theories against the media, the polls and, most worryingly, the democratic process. Thank goodness we Brits are more sensible. We would never elect such a man to lead a major political Party here, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.
The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn and his Momentum movement (ironically, all that movement has caused is momentum towards the government) has ushered in Britains own Trump era. The Labour Party is currently, much like the Republicans in America, engaged in a struggle for credibility against the backdrop of a new kind of politics. It’s a politics of division, a politics of anger, even a politics of hatred towards certain minorities and ideologies.
Take, for example, the comments made by Momentum activists against British Jews. Just last week, Corbyn supporters blamed the decision by Lord Justice Beatson to uphold the ban on new members voting in the leadership election on the fact he was born in Israel. Others have blamed the mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet as a “Zionist plot”, whilst a prominent Momentum member declared Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was part of a media conspiracy, echoing the charges leveled at Jewish business owners and media moguls during the later years of the Weimar Republic. Trump’s hatred of Islam has, almost inevitably, led to an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in America, in the same way that Corbyn’s normalisation of anti-Semitic politics has led to an increase in attacks on the Jewish community in Britain. Ironically, the same people who vociferously campaigned against the so called dog whistle politics of Brexit campaigners, have themselves enabled hatred of Jews to once again become prevalent within Britain.
But anti-Semitism isn’t the only consequence of a Corbyn led Labour Party. Misogyny is rampant within Momentum, and has manifested itself as a dangerous form of violence against female MPs within the Parliamentary Labour Party. One needs only to look at what happened to the sole woman brave enough to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership, Angela Eagle. Pro-Corbyn activists openly threatened to de-select her, sent vile letters to her and her staff, and threw bricks through the windows of her constituency office. Have similar tactics been used against Owen Smith? Curiously not. Stella Creasy, as well as prominent feminist campaigner Harriet Harman, have too been threatened with deselection and subject to hateful comments online. Similar online threats of rape were levelled at BBC journalist Laura Kuenssburg after Corbyn activists suggested she was biased against the Labour leader. Shockingly, it was reported in the Guardian that new Labour MP Jess Phillips has been forced to install a panic room in her office, and has had to improve security at her family home, following death and rape threats online by people she has named as pro-Corbyn activists. Just as Trump shamed Megyn Kelly during the Republican Primary Debates, Corbyn’s refusal to condemn the disturbing acts carried out by his supporters have too enabled misogyny to take hold within the Party.
And what about a contempt for democracy? Trump supporters regularly accuse media and pollsters of bias against their man, and some have suggested that, should the billionaire lose the General Election, it will have been because of an institutional plot against “the politics of change”. Corbyn supporters have, seemingly oblivious to who they are emulating, dutifully followed tact. Accusations of a Zionist media conspiracy aside, they point to the fact that Labour has over a million members as proof that the polls showing their man as lagging behind Theresa May are false. Similarly, Trump supporters point to the record breaking attendance for his rallies as proof the polls are manipulated to discredit his popularity. It’s the kind of conspiracy theory politics that make David Icke and his Lizard government look vaguely plausible.
So where does this manifestation of extreme politics leave us? In America, the rise of Donald Trump has led to an increase in violence, an increase in hatred, and an increase in polarising and divisive politics. In Britain too, the rise in attacks on the Jewish community, coupled with the bile spewed at female Labour MPs and journalists, can be linked to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and his army of supporters. If this is the new kind of politics promised by both Trump and Corbyn, then it’s a new kind of politics that brings shame on both of our nation’s political systems. Thank God we have sensible women on both sides of the Atlantic to oppose their angry populism.