In the Daily Telegraph today, Boris says We can’t let Corbynistas plant the red flag on top of City Hall! Boris should know, he trounced Red Ken and Ken has just been sidelined from the Labour Party, too much even for Corbyn.Boris begins: “OK, fingers on buzzers, folks. Here’s a question about 20th-century world affairs. A Labour councillor from Luton was recently discovered to have tweeted that Adolf Hitler was “the greatest man in history”. What was going through her mind?
What did Aysegul Gurbuz find so admirable about the Nazi leader? Maybe she has a thing about those Nazi uniforms, or the weird camp salute they used to have. Perhaps she liked Hitler’s lust for world domination. It might be that the budding Labour student politician – she appears to be active at Warwick university – liked the way Hitler was a vegetarian; or his fondness of dogs; or his teetotallism.
If it was any of these things, then the former Labour councillor (she has since been removed) might like to say. Otherwise, we are left with the overwhelming conclusion that the reason she admires him above all other men in history is the reason most sane people abhor his memory – namely that he unleashed genocide against six million Jews. That’s what she seems to find admirable: that he was responsible for the gas chambers.Now, Miss Gurbuz is a young woman; and her defenders would presumably argue that she is naive and easily misled. But for someone to hold those views, and be a councillor for the Labour Party, suggests to me that there is something seriously wrong with the Labour Party.
And there is. There is a cancer in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – and it is metastasising the whole time. Veteran Jewish Labour MPs such as Louise Ellman are being bullied in their constituencies – simply for sticking up for Israel’s basic right to exist. At Oxford university, the hip young students at the Labour Club now routinely refer to Jewish students as “Zios”. Even in the Woking Labour party, the deputy chairman Vicki Byrne has (twice) been suspended – for sending out tweets that were deemed to be anti-semitic. Jewish donors to Labour, hitherto generous, are refusing to give any more.
What is going on? To understand this anti-semitic sickness – this new boldness in the use of virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish language – you must grasp what has happened to Labour. It has been captured by the Corbynistas; and the Corbynistas believe in the most extreme ideology that Labour has ever espoused. It’s not just a question of bringing back the unions or sending Britain’s nuclear submarines to sea without missiles aboard. In the Corbynista worldview, capitalism is wicked, bankers are evil, Tories are scum and most geo-political discontents can be traced to the existence or behaviour of Israel.
To be fair, these views have long been prevalent among some parts of the Labour Party. It is just that they have never been on top; they have never commanded the party before. These views – explicitly rejected by Blair and Brown – are now the driving agenda of the Corbyn Labour party; and the tragedy is that we cannot dismiss them as the foaming irrelevance of a party doomed to opposition.
In less than a month’s time, there is a real danger that the Corbynistas will capture the London mayoralty. Who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership? Sadiq Khan. How did Khan himself secure the mayoral nomination? By ruthlessly outmanoeuvring the favourite – Blairite Tessa Jowell – and sucking up to the Corbynistas. And now – unless we can elect Zac Goldsmith – they will plant the red flag back on the top of City Hall.
And, yes, it matters desperately. The Mayor of London has a spending budget far bigger than many Whitehall departments and he runs an economy bigger than most EU countries. He has unilateral power to raise or cut the council tax. He has absolute control over fares on public transport. He can sack the police chief; he can set the law enforcement and recruitment priorities of the biggest police force in the country. If he wants to build a bridge or a cable car or a tunnel – he can. If he wants to introduce a new low carbon bus, or a new bike hire scheme or a new Olympicopolis cultural centre, he can. He has sole power to greenlight skyscrapers, and he can use his vast planning authority for good or ill.
With no parliamentary procedures and no backbenchers to worry about, the mayor can get more things done – and faster – than any Whitehall department. But he must be responsible with Londoners’ money, and Sadiq Khan is wrong to propose to fund a fares cut by taking £2 billion out of TfL’s budget. That will cost Londoners vital infrastructure investment. People will pay for it in delays and overcrowding. Above all, it will undermine the ability of the city to negotiate with the Treasury. It is a big mistake.
But perhaps the mayor’s most important function is to set the tone for political discourse in the city – to bring people together: to be a force for inclusiveness, and moderation, and tolerance; and that means emphatically not setting community against community. That, alas, is not the Corbynista agenda.
Sadiq Khan has himself belatedly admitted that Labour is afflicted with anti-semitism. He has rightly called it a “badge of shame”. But for years now he has been sharing platforms with some of the most backward and sectarian forces in Islam – men such as Sulaiman Ghani, who has denounced gays and called women “subservient”, and called for the release of al-Qaeda terrorists.
Khan spoke at an event with a man called Azam Tamimi, who threatened reprisals of “fire throughout the world” after the Mohammed cartoons – words Khan dismissed as “flowery language”.
Khan has repeatedly spoken at jihadi flag-waving events sponsored by the Islam Channel, which has been criticised by Ofcom for condoning marital rape. Khan hired a speech- writer who speculated that the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby was staged.
In Islam and the Labour Party there is a struggle going on, and in both cases Khan – whatever his real views – is pandering to the extremists. I don’t want him running our capital. Zac Goldsmith is a man of principle, a passionate campaigner, a One Nation Tory who has served his Richmond constituency so well that he recorded the biggest increase in his majority in 2015. He must win.