Earlier this year an Italian family sold their car, bought a boat and set sail from Termini Imerese in Sicily towards the island of Lampedusa. They were believers in a flat earth, and according to their beliefs, that was where the end of the world was located. They landed on the island of Ustica, were quarantined due to coronavirus, and tried to escape twice. In the end they gave up and went home to Venice. You can read the full story by Sirena Bergman in the Independent below.*
All of us need our beliefs. They give us emotional comfort, a filter to organise the endless flow of data smashing into us, and above all a sense of who we are. If you lived in a society plagued with as many injustices and blatant inequalities as the UK, it is natural for some to believe in something better. That a truly democratic Labour party will seize power, overthrow all evildoers from the Soft Left all the way out to Murdoch and UKIP, and Make Things Better for The Working Classes. It has been the dream of the Left of the party, and its allies since at least 1917.
The story of how such dreams collide with reality is told in Left Out by Gabriel Pogrand and Patrick Maguire. In one flickering moment in June 2017, it seemed that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters stood at the Doors of 10 Downing Street. They had denied Teresa May a majority. The mood of the country, especially the young, seemed to be with them. It was Corbyn who seemed Prime Ministerial after the Grenfell fire, not May. Who still remembers the crowds singing “Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” How did they get from Glastonbury to catastrophe?
Well, you should read for yourselves. The cast of characters is long and lurid: Karie Murphy, Seamus Milne, Andrew Murray, Len McCluskey, John McDonnell, and many others whose names do not begin with M. The story of their wars, feuds, hatreds and bust ups could apply to any group of humans. But it sits oddly with a of group of idealists whose avowed aim was unity and common purpose for all . Together they achieved some remarkably clumsy errors-Skripal, antisemitism, party appointments, and alienating close supporters like John Lansman, to name but a few. At the end, lifelong buddies Corbyn and McDonnell were blanking each other in corridors.
McDonnell comes across as the most intelligent, at least able to moderate his public persona and compromise with outside allies for the sake of the Project. The overall picture the authors give of Corbyn is rather pitiful: a decent, well meaning man “his real interest was activism, not politics.” At the end of the 2019 campaign he seemed to be tired and disillusioned, obsessed with details like the diesel engine in his campaign bus and fighting his staff to see his own appointments for the week ahead.
And the working class? Whatever their faults, and however much influenced by the media, they could see through this crowd at once. They voted in droves for Johnson and the Tories. The Labour Party was destroyed, almost certainly forever. The UK will leave the EU forever. The educated, the young and the progressive must think in terms of generations , not decades, before they can even hope to have influence again in England. Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!
PLeft Out The inside story of Labour Under Corbyn Gabriel Pogrand and Patrick Maguire Vintage 2020
we thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for the Lampedusa story
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