It is strange how often current events can be likened to past events in history and the spectacular impasse in the Labour Party is no exception. The architect of Labour’s woes, Jeremy Corbyn, has an unlikely parallel in history in the form of Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire. It seems a strange and almost ridiculous comparison but bear with me. Nero, like Corbyn, was unpopular and unwanted by most of the establishment around him, as well as being thought completely unfit for power with his radical views. The starkest comparison between the two has to be what, allegedly, made Nero so infamous.
Rome was burnt to the ground in 64AD, it is commonly believed that Nero had the fire started so that he could rebuild Rome in the way he wanted the city to be. It is not difficult to draw comparisons to what Corbyn and his followers are doing in the Labour Party to this 2000 year old event. Whether it is his weak leadership, his “New Politics” from the 1970s or his tolerance of anti-Semitism and misogyny, the opinions polls show that Labour is indeed burning. The leadership election this summer will be the fiercest part of the blaze engulfing Labour ever more each passing day and if, as is expected, fireman Owen Smith fails to dampen the flames, we will see in the months ahead just how Corbyn will rebuild his Party from the smouldering embers in his image.
Precisely what he will do with Labour is becoming evident through the smoke of the Party’s burning carcase. Threats of deselection hang over the heads of all those who dissent against the leader, the threat all the more real with Momentum, the appointed fire-lighters of the Corbyn regime, infiltrating Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) across the Country to ignite the Corbynite fire and burn away the remnants of the old electable Blairite institution the Labour Party once was. What is more worrying is the true face of Corbyn’s “New Politics” is beginning to show, threatening or trolling moderate MPs and the use of full-scale violence in the case of Angela Eagle, who received a brick through her office window.
As recent as two years ago it would have been inconceivable that a major Party of power could be infiltrated and warped in the way Labour has under Corbyn. This cult of personality that has surrounded the Labour leader, much like the personality cult around Nero, viciously fights any objection to his rule and his supporters launch verbal retribution on social media against the likes of Hilary Benn, Owen Smith or the Eagle sisters.
Events have yet to reach the stage where Corbyn carries out purges of the Parliamentary Labour Party to consolidate his power in the way the erstwhile Emperor Nero did in Rome, but with the grassroots take over by Momentum in the CLPs, many moderates must feel the knife lining up behind their back as mandatory reselections draw near. What is striking about Corbyn’s leadership is in the same way as Nero’s, his ruthlessness and drive while inflicted on his own team is not reciprocated onto Labour’s enemies, namely my Party, the Conservative Party. His dire Commons performances, coupled with his aversion to engaging on key policy issues, shows he has no intention on challenging the Government or expanding Labour’s influence. Like Nero and his hold on Rome, Corbyn wishes to have total control of the Labour Party but no ambition of achieving anything more. While from a Conservative point of view this might appear desirable, on the contrary I believe this, over time, will have a detrimental effect on the Government who will not be accountable, creating an unhealthy situation.
On a more comical note, one of the main similarities between Jeremy Corbyn and the Roman Emperor, which caused me to use Nero and his reign over Rome as a comparative metaphor for Labour’s crisis is the two leader’s similar views on defence. It is believed by ancient historians that while handling a rebellion amongst Imperial Roman legions, Nero (Who was a prolific Singer and Actor as well as Emperor) stated to his Generals that he would sing to the enemy and that the song would show them the error of their ways and down arms. Corbyn’s policies of Nuclear disarmament or his desire, as he once stated, to disband the Armed Forces would only leave us with singing as a form of defence. I cannot say I hold much confidence in a quartet of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” fending off the Islamic State.
To summarise, while I have managed to apply Nero’s Rome to Corbyn’s Labour, the major difference between the two, at the moment, is their conclusion. While Nero’s supporters deserted him, the Senate impeached him and ultimately he forced his closest advisor to kill him, Corbyn’s situation on the other hand is the complete opposite. Even with all his incompetence laid bare, his supporters remain fanatically devoted to him, he continues with 80% of the Parliamentary Labour Party voting no confidence in him and if we are sticking with the Nero comparative, I cannot see John McDonnell being convinced by Corbyn to kill him. Corbyn and his followers are running an insidious operation within the Labour Party, forcing out the old pragmatic approach of the politically Third Way New Labour era and replacing it with a strictly enforced, narrow, collectivised view. It is almost reminiscent of a 1984 style One Party, One Mind mental state where outside thinking and political difference is suffocated in favour of pure socialism.
The time window in which the moderate wing of the Party can still viably and realistically oust Labour’s Nero is dwindling. Of course moderates have moved against Corbyn, but I fear in the delay and multiple abortions of launching rival leadership bids, the challenger Owen Smith has only shown he is even more incompetent then the incumbent incompetent regime Corbyn offers. When, as is widely expected, Corbyn is re-elected with a big mandate, the great flames of Corbynism will engulf Labour, like Nero’s did Rome, and those of us in the political world will wonder, few with hope, but many with fear and exasperation, at what Corbyn will build in place of the old.