When Patrick Maguire of The Times wrote that journalist Paul Mason’s reported bid to be Labour’s candidate for Islington North “tees up a battle for a notionally safe Labour seat [Islington North] that is likely to be among the most gruelling and bitter of the next election campaign,” I fear he was downplaying it.
Gruelling and bitter yes. But also fraught with danger. There is a very good reason why few names have been publicly linked with fighting the seat for Labour, which looks a good bet for any candidate, with or without Jeremy Corbyn in the contest as an independent. And it is not because of feelings of great loyalty to the former party leader.
Out of a sense of well meaning irony, I guess, some have suggested that a prominent Jewish Labour member should stand. Such people have not thought this through. Whoever is brave enough to put themselves forward needs to be open eyed about what they will face.
Every variety of crank, fruitcake, conspiracist, Trot, Tankie, antisemite and nutter from all over the country, as well as every organised and disorganised revolutionary cult, is going to descend on the good people of Islington North for that general election campaign when it comes. It will be a joint convention of the Marxism Festival, the Flat Earth Society and the Holocaust-denying Keep Talking group. Those of us who do not live there should thank the Lord, and pity those residents who will be faced with this barrage.
The Labour candidate will face abuse, harassment and almost certainly threats against them and their family – not from Jeremy Corbyn himself, but from followers he has never shown any real willingness to confront and probably never will. Corbyn will claim to be above it all. He might even denounce some of it and get very angry when asked about it.
But his denouncements will be made in such a way that this eclectic group will believe he doesn’t really mean it. Because without total, clear and direct public condemnation, they interpret anything short of it as a nod, a wink and a sign of approval. Much like Trump supporters. Both are cults.
Despite his hopes to the contrary, most local members will not resign from Labour to join Corbyn’s Finsbury Park revolution. He is going to be forsaking a fairly well-disciplined and experienced local Labour activist base for an army of people whose only experience of political persuasion is shouting into the abyss at the electorate or unsuccessfully trying to flog them revolutionary newspapers.
If Labour are successful in replacing the independent member for Islington North, as Jeremy Corbyn now is – and, unsurprisingly, I hope that they are – that same gang of malcontents will forever target the victor. He or she will be called a stooge of the Zionists and no doubt find themselves placed front and centre of another antisemitic film, possibly titled The Big Lie – the Sequel.
So good luck to any Labour candidate willing to do it. I’ll come and lend a hand, and so will many others. But having lived through some of the personal consequences of challenging Corbyn and his followers – and they were very limited compared with those in stories I’ve heard from MPs – whoever does it will need to be very clear about what’s coming their way.
Update: Paul Mason has responded to reports that he hopes to run for Labour in Islington North by saying he has “no plans” to.
Adam Langleben is National Secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement and a former Barnet councillor.