“So enthused by @JeremyCorbyn4PM win today,” tweeted the Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser, on hearing of the victorious re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. “The world is a better place for it,” he added, despite the global assessment being somewhat restricted to the delight of the IRA, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Vladimir Putin.
So much of what Jeremy Corbyn longs to realise coheres with the precepts of Christian socialism – or the rhetoric concurs with a form of it. If you believe that the teachings of Christ offer peace through equality, dignity by welfare, and justice for the poor with the end of austerity, then Jeremy Corbyn is the chosen one. He comes to smash all that is Tory and evil, advocating community over individualism; redistribution over capitalism; society over selfishness; charity over greed. He wants to scrap trident, and turn swords into ploughshares: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world, instead of taking pride in the size of their armed forces… abolished their army and took pride in the fact the fact they don’t have an army,” he said at the Hiroshima Remembrance service in 2012. “Surely that is the way we should be going forward,” he exhorted, to the delight of despots and aggressors the world over.
For the undoubted (vast) majority of vicars and bishops in the Church of England, Jeremy Corbyn comes to love the lost, feed the hungry, heal the sick, elevate the poor, and free the captives from a decade of Tory oppression. The Archbishop of York must be delighted that someone else grasps the imperative of the extreme left-wing “theology of where I am coming from“. The rich will howl as the wages of the labourers rise; the wicked will gnash their teeth as the widows and orphans of the world are welcomed in the land. And God help the moneylenders. Jeremy will bring justice; Corbyn commands compassion. At last, the New Jerusalem can be built in England’s re-ordered green and pleasant land (forget Scotland), and righteousness will flow like a statist-socialist stream. It is a liberation theology for mutuality, solidarity and interdependence. Everyone is equally valued; children are educated fairly; all skills are recognised and put to productive use. Who needs the dog-eat-dog casino world of market forces when state-intervention, social ownership, co-operatives and collectives are manifestly more beneficial than gluttony, waste and greed?
The problem is that Jeremy Corbyn is completely unelectable as a national leader. Whatever 60 per cent of Labour Party members believe, the country will never vote for his social programme or buy into his Corbynomic vision. He will not destroy the Labour brand, but he will certainly tarnish it with the patina of the Marxist-Leninist brotherhood. Rumours of imminent revolution may play well on the shop floor or in Guardian comment threads, but the English, the evolutionary British, just don’t do revolution. While the United Kingdom, led by a Conservative Prime Minister, forges a future of post-EU social freedom and economic fulfilment in the world, the Labour Party, led by a Trotskyist, seeks to re-forge a past of social control and economic Marxism.
But none of this is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. No, the Labour Party possessed all the necessary checks and balances to ensure that no left-wing ‘extremist’ could seize the leadership and mould the machine to his (or her) shiny militant likeness. It was the Parliamentary Party who ensured that the name of Corbyn appeared on the ballot paper in order that the party might have a “full debate on policy“. Of course, the 35 MPs who originally nominated him include some un-reconstituted and unashamed ‘Old Labour’ names like Dennis Skinner, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, but “morons” include Dame Margaret Beckett, John Cruddas, Frank Field, Kelvin Hopkins, Sadiq Khan… They genuinely believed that the enlightened, discerning, intelligent party membership would have the good sense to “dismiss the crazy views of the left in favour of a more mainstream candidate”. They’ve obviously never read their Plato.
Democracy is a wonderful thing: the world is indeed a better place for it. But there is no point having good intentions for government if you can’t get things done, like altering a few outcomes and making a few lives more livable. Is the proclamation of pure principle really better than the exercise of accommodated power?