Published today, ‘Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn’ by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire reveals the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn led his party to one of the worst election defeats in British political history and into the abyss of antisemitism. In this exclusive extract, the authors describe how Corbyn was personally affected by accusations of being an anti-Jewish racist:
On 13 August 2018, Benjamin Netanyahu waded in to Labour’s antisemitism row. He tweeted: “The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorists who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone – left, right, and everything in between.” Corbyn responded: “What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children.”
But Labour was preparing to accept the IHRA definition in full. It had no choice but to do so. More archive footage emerged on 23 August, in which Corbyn described two British Jews who had heckled a speech by the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the UK as “Zionists”, and said: ‘They clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony.” To his critics, the speech was yet more evidence that Corbyn – and not just those he associated with – had a problem. He insisted that he had used the word Zionist “in the accurate political sense”.
Rabbi Lord Sacks did not agree. He described the remarks as the most offensive by a British politician since Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. Corbyn’s office dismissed the comparison as “absurd and offensive”. Corbyn took it badly.
According to aides, he withdrew.
“He just couldn’t deal with it,” said one. “So he just behaved in a way that made him seem like he didn’t care, and he 100 percent cares – he just looked like he didn’t.’
To the Leader of the Opposition’s Office it appeared he had lost sight of his responsibilities as an existential funk set in.
“He couldn’t see he was the leader of a political party any more, he had a responsibility to reach out and represent people and to reassure people. It was just silence and mistakes.”
Corbyn was physically present but emotionally absent. His office longed for the return of 2017 Jeremy”. To see him struggle under the weight of the accusation that he, too, was capable of indulging racism was almost too much to bear. That there were no easy options did not help either. Even if he and his office acted decisively, they were resigned to the fact that the attacks – from the press, his MPs and the Conservatives – would have continued.
Karie Murphy, executive director of the Labour Party’s Leader’s Office under Corbyn, recalls: “Jeremy was shocked and saddened that anybody could think that about him. It broke my heart for him, and I was so sad for him. I know what it must feel like to be accused of something you’ve not done, so publicly and so unfairly. I don’t use the word weaponised, but it felt to me as if we’d been stabbed from every angle at the time. You know, I was just like, “Oh my God, this is horrendous.”
- Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire is on sale now
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