We have a duty to gloat about Labour’s humiliating loss
BY TOBY YOUNG
I had dinner with Douglas Murray a couple of days before the General Election and he said that if Labour lost – which looked likely, even with the Conservatives’ poll lead shrinking in the final week – we had a moral duty to crow about it.
“Because we’re nice people, we’ll want to be magnanimous in victory but we must resist that,” he said. “We must gloat. Spend weeks gloating – months, if possible. We need to make sure this defeat is so humiliating that Labour never again makes someone as unfit for public office as Jeremy Corbyn the leader.”
He was in deadly earnest. His main concern was Corbyn’s failure to deal with the anti-Semites that have infested Labour since he became leader in 2015, as well as his casual endorsement of numerous anti-Semitic tropes. But he was also appalled by Corbyn’s warm relationship with different terrorist organisations, his acceptance of money from Iranian state TV, his hostility to our security services, and his enthusiastic embrace of an ideology that has been responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people.
“Never again,” he said.
I took Douglas’s words seriously. Tempting though it has been to act graciously and extend the hand of friendship to the likes of Matt Zarb-Cousins and Aaron Bastani, I have managed to conquer this charitable impulse and, through gritted teeth, do my duty. I gloated on the night, gloated the following day, spent the next week gloating and, through sheer force of will, am still gloating to this day.
Among other things, I have been feverishly re-tweeting all the memes and videos rubbing Labour’s nose in it, of which this is the funniest:
But there are numerous other goodies, such as the map of Labour’s gains:
It was the sheer scale of Labour’s losses – the worst defeat since 1935 – that made Corbyn’s claim that he’d “won the argument” so funny and gave birth to a thousand gags on Twitter, such as this one by Telegraph sketch writer Michael Deacon:
There was this story about the residents of Dudley North who live on Corbyn Road and have applied to have the name changed. Then there was this piece in the Guardian by Ash Sarker, published two days before the election, entitled: “It’s a myth that Labour has lost the working class.” I retweeted the hell out of that one on December 12th. Finally, there were all the fabulous cartoons, such as this one of Boris dressed as Churchill:
In the days following the election I enjoyed reminding Owen Jones of our debate on Channel 4 News back in 2015, when Corbyn was still just a candidate for the leadership. Back then, I pointed out it would be electoral suicide to make someone as left-wing as Corbyn the leader, given that only three leaders in Labour’s history have managed to win overall majorities – Attlee, Wilson and Blair – and they were all on the right of the party. Whenever Labour has been led by someone on the left, such as Michael Foot, it has suffered catastrophic defeats. But Owen was having none of it. He maintained that the success of the SNP in the 2015 General Election demonstrated that there was a real appetite for radical, let-wing policies and Corbyn was just the man to win back those lost seats in Scotland. So it was particularly satisfying when Labour lost a further six seats north of the border last month, bringing its total down to one.
The reason I was invited to debate Owen is because I had led the #ToriesForCorbyn campaign, encouraging Conservatives to become “registered supporters” of the Labour Party for the sum of £3 – one of Ed Miliband’s disastrous party reforms – and vote for Corbyn. On the application form asking me why I wanted to take up this offer, I’d written: “To consign Labour to electoral oblivion” – and blow me if I haven’t succeeded.
However, when Douglas Murray enumerated Corbyn’s sins over dinner, I did experience a pang of guilt. It seemed like a bit of a laugh at the time, but in retrospect it was reckless. Corbyn came far too close to becoming the head of a minority Labour government in 2017 and, who knows, if Boris had had a disastrous campaign and events had conspired to help his opponent – a winter flu epidemic that plunged the NHS into crisis – Corbyn might now be the Prime Minister. Yes, it all turned out alright in the end, but I feel a bit like I do when one of my children does something stupid, like runs across a road without looking, and it’s only because they got lucky that nothing bad happened to them. It’s a feeling of relief mixed with fear.
As Tim Montgomerie said recently, I want to be mildly disappointed if Labour wins an election, not gut-wrenchingly, bone-chillingly terrified.
At the time, I justified my #ToriesForCorbyn campaign by claiming that Corbyn’s inevitable loss would be so devastating it would teach the Labour Party a valuable lesson – Labour can never win from the left, only the centre. The debate that Labour had been having with itself for more than 100 years about whether it can ever get elected with a raft of hard left policies would finally be over and it could reconcile itself to becoming a sensible, social democrat party. And something like the same rationale is behind Douglas’s pro-gloating argument.
But as the Labour leadership contest gets underway, it’s clear that the party’s lunatic fringe has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It still thinks it can triumph at the polls with the same barmy policies if only it puts up the right champion. Doesn’t matter how catastrophic the defeat was this time and – sorry Douglas – it doesn’t matter how much we taunt the intellectual titans of Novara Media. Corbyn’s whole rag tag army of deluded followers have been mugged by reality – it’s Venezuela all over again – but their response has been to double down on their crackpot Marxist ideology. History is on their side, capitalism is doomed to fail and, eventually, the proletariat will triumph. No need to start a #ToriesForAbbott campaign or a #ToriesForLavery. The poor boobies will consign themselves to electoral oblivion without any help from me.
Which means there really isn’t much of an excuse for gloating. We should have a bit of compassion and treat them like outpatients at a hospital for the politically insane. And I’m going to try – really, I am. It’s just that rubbing their noses in it is so much fun.
Toby Young is a broadcaster, writer and journalist. Follow him on twitter: @toadmeister