Traditional Labour voters don’t care about the civil war that brought down the party’s erstwhile leader.
Al Jazeera’s new documentary, ‘The Labour Files,’ enabled by thousands of leaked documents, emails, and WhatsApp screenshots, is an in-depth look at the internal struggle within the UK Labour Party during the years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. It reveals how a figurative civil war broke out within the ranks over the British Labour movement’s political ideology.
At the time of writing this, Keir Starmer, the current Labour leader, was giving his speech to the Party Conference in Liverpool. In it, he valiantly proclaimed that the horrors of anti-Semitism and racism that had recently plagued Labour were over – while at the same time one of his MPs, Rupa Huq whose constituency is Ealing in North London, has just had the whip removed for saying at a fringe meeting at the conference that Kwasi Kwarteng, the newly appointed Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, is ‘superficially black.’ According to her comment, for which she has since apologized, Kwarteng, a Conservative, doesn’t sound like a black man on the radio because of his education in “the top schools of the country.” Rupa Huq, like many of her colleagues, seems unable to understand the class system in Britain, and that Kwarteng’s ‘proper accent,’ and his private education is about his class, not his race. The Labour Party’s self-centred focus on identity politics (which ties naturally into the Jeremy Corbyn ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal) is actually one of the reasons it’s been losing popularity amongst the British working class – which is one of the important things left outside the scope of ‘Labour Files.’
The two of the three parts shown so far in the ‘Labour Files’ series cover the subject that has been viscously fought over for the last seven years. In 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected to be the leader of the Labour Party. The established bureaucrats and Party apparatchiks disliked him and his followers intensely and so they went to war. At the centre of the conflict were accusations of anti-Semitism by both sides and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state. One episode focuses on a BBC Panorama programme that was aired at the height of the inter-Labour conflict in July 2019, when some Labour party employees claimed that under the leadership of Corbyn his army of followers had racially abused them. The ‘Labour Files’ both proves their claims were mostly unsubstantiated and gives Corbyn supporters a right to reply which had not been given by the Labour Party or the BBC.
The documentary also makes links to Jewish Labour supporters of the Israeli state to the far-right group the EDL (English Defence League) and makes a point that an elite political institution such as the Labour Party is fundamentally full of nepotism, corruption, and those avaricious for power, though I’m not sure we needed a three-hour documentary series to tell us the latter. The documentaries go from claim to counter claim as the Palestine/Israeli conflict completely overtakes its narrative, which is fine if that’s your politics – and it appears that for the Corbyn civil warriors it is.
I have no doubt at all that the Labour Party bureaucrats connected to the centrists within the party did everything in their power and beyond to discredit the Corbyn leadership and to some extent they succeeded. But the Labour Party suffered a colossal defeat in the 2019 general election, losing 80 ‘safe seats’ in the de-industrialised communities of the midlands and the North, and anti-Semitism and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict had little to do with it. The Labour Party had been losing working-class voters since 1997 and Jeremy Corbyn was derided mostly in the North for being a schoolteacher-like middle-class idealist from North London, and having no connection to their lives. The same is being said about Keir Starmer, in that he belongs to a North London political elite that could never live or understand a day in the lives of the British working class.
I am sure that the ‘Labour Files’ will be cathartic for Corbyn’s supporters. It may even spur them on to continue their civil war from within for another seven years. But the British working class, who are concerned about how they will afford to heat their homes, feed their children, and find somewhere affordable to live, know that the civil war within the Labour Party has never been about them. As it continues spiralling, it will seem ever more distant and elitist in the same way as the Conservatives appear today.