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Voices: As the Forde report shows, Labour’s right wing is the source of its problems

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The whole notion of the “Labour right” is such a strange contradiction in terms. There’s no “Tory left”. There isn’t an expectation that a certain percentage of the Green Party will be pro-forest fire. There aren’t interfactional skirmishes between regular EDL members and EDL members who can spell correctly. They just don’t exist.

If you’re right wing in the UK, why even join Labour in the first place? There’s a whole world of mainstream right-wing political parties out there to cater to every nuance and idiosyncrasy of your specific belief system, from frothing-at-the-mouth fascism to whatever comes after the Conservatives.

Joining one of the country’s only nominally left-wing parties as a right winger is like going to your town’s only vegan restaurant and trying to order a Big Mac. Although I suppose in this analogy, the line cook goes out and buys a bunch of beef behind his manager’s back, and then permanently contaminates the grill with no regard for the restaurant’s usual customers.

After the release of the Forde report last week, you can probably see why other parties don’t tend to make a lot of room for people who are directly opposed to their stated goals. According to the report, Labour officials worked against the interests of their own party in order to undermine its then-leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s left wing as a whole, going so far as to divert campaign resources away from winnable seats and towards candidates who were anti-Corbyn.

This conspiracy was documented in a series of WhatsApp messages, in which those involved discussed “protecting the party from Jeremy Corbyn rather than helping him to advance his agenda”.

The report also confirms that claims of antisemitism against Corbyn were weaponised by his internal enemies in order to create an air of moral panic around the prospect of his leadership; a fact that few will find surprising considering that the right immediately stopped pretending to care about Jewish people five minutes after Corbyn was out the door.

The report points to a deep sickness not just in the Labour Party but in British politics as a whole. Corbyn had a huge swell of support behind him from the kinds of party members that Labour is, in theory, meant to represent. His political philosophy can really be summed up as “let’s make things a little easier for the people who have it the worst in this country”. Everything outside of that is obfuscation.

The fact that people within his own party were terrified of him begs the question: which part of supporting the working class did they disagree with? Which part of Corbyn being on the right side of virtually every social issue for the past seven decades had them lighting the warning beacons of Gondor? How is being terrified of social progress not only a socially acceptable political position to hold in this country but seemingly its default?

The real horror of this entire affair is the fact that those factions – the ones that believed it absolutely crucial to attack their own leader in the midst of Brexit chaos and the gradual rise of fascism in the West – won decisively. They are the Labour Party now.

Their legacy is Keir Starmer, a man whose level of ideological opposition to an increasingly unhinged and harmful Conservative Party can best be described as “a complaint to Ofcom about a particularly spicy episode of Emmerdale”. A man who looks like what DALL·E Mini would come up with if you typed in the words “politician” and “default”.

This leads us to ask perhaps the most pressing question raised by the Forde report: what exactly is the Labour Party in 2022? Who is it supposed to represent? What is its purpose? At this point, it feels like a repository for right wingers who are still self-aware enough not to put “Tory” in their Tinder bio.

It certainly operates that way, with large swathes of the leadership seemingly only there to undermine its members. It certainly doesn’t represent the people who canvassed for Corbyn in the rain during the 2017 and 2019 elections, whom the report makes clear were considered the enemy by some of the very people they canvassed for.

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The phrase “Tory-lite” is thrown around in relation to Labour quite a lot nowadays, but that doesn’t really seem fair. The Tories have beliefs and goals outside of complete self-detonation. They aren’t particularly good beliefs, and their goals may be described as “monstrous” at best, but at least they have direction.

Labour is more like one of those bugs that has its brain taken over by a parasite and then tries to get eaten by a bird. It is an organism that exists only to die, over and over again, for the benefit of the surrounding political ecosystem. It didn’t necessarily have to be that way, but that is the path its right-wing contingent chose for it.

It would be nice to think that maybe one day the citizens of this country will collectively realise that undermining the political agenda of people who genuinely want to do good is not an effective long-term strategy for the UK. That perhaps choosing in every situation to elect people who at best will do nothing and at worst will do something horrible is counterintuitive. Maybe they’ll realise that being afraid of healthy and positive change is the logic of a heroin addict, with the difference being that at least heroin has an upside.

With the release of the findings of the Forde inquiry, though, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go before effective change can be made. And when your country’s main political opposition is preoccupied with purging itself of anything that typifies it as an opposition in the first place, where does that change even begin?

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