Thursday, 3 December 2015

was Hilary Benn also referring to fascism at the British Establishment's heart?

There’s no denying the power with which Hilary Benn wrapped up his Syrian war speech, summarising why Britain should go to war and at the same time reminding his Labour colleagues that they are the inheritors of a proud tradition of facing down fascists.

But was the Shadow Foreign Secretary also referring to fascism elsewhere apart from Syria? I ask because the man whom the coda seemed to be directed against most, Jeremy Corbyn, took the position of Labour leader after an election in which there was no defined electorate, which would seem to be the sine qua non of any democratic process. Instead, you paid your three quid and you got your vote, leading to a satire-transcending farce in which even a journalist’s pet cat was sent a voting paper.

Significantly, a large number of Conservative party members voted for Corbyn, with the Daily Telegraph leading the charge in a strategy they claimed would "destroy the Labour Party", in a move that many Telegraph readers found a step too far, one writing:

Isn’t anyone feeling just a little queasy at a mainstream newspaper calling for a democratic election to be undermined and compromised?

I believe that the Telegraph, the Tories’ in-house paper, was lying about its motives. One key characteristic of the 2015 General Election was how similar the three main party leaders sounded (before the Lib Dems’ parliamentary collapse): in particular, on the subjects of open-door immigration and integration, David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg each became a Nigel Farage mini-me.

Suddenly, Miliband having fallen on his sword, Jeremy Corbyn comes out of the political outback to win the Labour Party leadership, his job to show the faithful that there really is a difference between the Labour Party and the Tories, in an “election” that both of these parties, Parliament’s biggest, participated. In order to keep the Labour party faithful on-board, it was imperative for them to believe that Corbyn represented a different sort of politics, and it was imperative to get the Conservative party faithful behind him to mitigate the effect of labour democrats upon the election. This, I believe, was the Telegraph’s true intention.

The Labour Party leadership election was an example, I believe, of the political cartel in action. This is a system whereby which party is in power takes second place to the “right people” the chosen few from the three main parties, being re-elected. Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s adviser during the PM's first term, took this even further in the Sunday Times and referred to our system as “a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite who are in power no matter the electoral outcome”.

So when Hilary Benn referred to the Labour Party’s tradition of facing down fascists, I have to wonder whether he is referring to the expropriation of the democratic process by figures on both his benches and those opposite. If he is, I hope he’s prepared to seek out friends among democrats of all political shades, as he’ll need them.

Gerry Dorrian

Resources Read Hilary Benn's closing remarks at Hansard (begins on column 486)

Ned the cat votes Corbyn for Labour leader – but llama family misses out - Aisha Gani, The Guardian, 21 August 2015

Why the Telegraph's call for Tory votes for Jeremy Corbyn will backfire - Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 16 July 2015 (original Telegraph article: How you can helo Jeremy Corbyn win - and destroy the Labour Party, 15 July 2015, article attributed to "Telegraph Comment Desk")

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