Labour Should Be Cautious About Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn shows baffling indulgence towards Hamaz and Hezbollah, paralleling the Conservative hard-right Monday Club's 1980s support of apartheid

Robert Philpot

On 5 June 1989,­­ the hard-right Conservative Monday Club held a black-tie banquet at the Charing Cross Hotel. Its guest of honour was Dr Andries Treurnicht, leader of the South African Conservative party, whose bitter opposition to any form of liberalisation of apartheid had led the press to nickname him “Dr No.” Among the Tory parliamentarians present at the dinner was Tim Janman.

Perhaps the voters of Thurrock, who ejected him three years later, cut short what would otherwise have been a glittering political career. But it’s probably safe to assume that, had he been re-elected, few of Janman’s parliamentary colleagues would have queued up to ensure that the views of a member of the Monday Club — which, aside from its support for white minority rule in South Africa, also backed repatriation and had a soft spot for Central American dictatorships — were given a proper airing in any of the Conservative leadership elections which followed the party’s three defeats at the hands of Tony Blair.

Janman may never have made it on to the ballot for the Tory party leadership but, this month, Jeremy Corbyn will find out how he has fared in the battle to succeed Ed Miliband. Fifteen per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party nominated Corbyn so he could contest the election. Many of those who did so publicly stated that they had no intention of voting for the Islington North MP but wanted to ensure that those Labour party members who want to back Corbyn’s dogged opposition to austerity and cuts in welfare have the opportunity to do so.

The problem, however, is that Corbyn is no less a representative of the hard left than Janman was of the hard right. While the Monday Club were cheerleaders for those who thought black South Africans incapable of governing themselves, Corbyn shows a puzzling indulgence for the Islamists of Hamas and Hezbollah who crow about their desire to kill Jews. It was, Corbyn said, his “pleasure” and “honour” to invite “our friends from Hezbollah and our friends from Hamas” to parliament (the Israelis, he went on to note, had prevented the latter from attending). 

Corbyn’s vocal support for Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, when Teresa May tried to deport him from Britain in 2012, is a case in point. Salah, said Corbyn, was “a very honoured citizen” who “represents his people extremely well”. But the voice that Corbyn said “must be heard” was the same one which suggested Jews use the blood of gentile children to bake their bread; wondered why “a suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work” on 9/11; branded homosexuality “a great crime”; and preached that “Jerusalem will soon become the capital of the global caliphate”.

In 1982, a former member, Alan Clark, confided to his diary that the Monday Club had become “a prickly residue in the body politic, a nasty sort of gallstone”. Twenty years later, the Tories finally severed links with the Monday Club and ordered three of its MPs to resign from it. Rather than giving Corbyn a three-month platform, the Labour party might want to think about how it passes a few gallstones of its own.

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