The two most direct and visible effects of the Brexit vote have been a financial shock and a political implosion. Post-Brexit economic instability is the result of a panic, and it is reasonable to expect the markets to find a new equilibrium soon. The collapse of political stability in Britain, however, is rooted in more fundamental factors that won’t be resolved quickly. The resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown the Conservative majority into turmoil, but a revolt within the minority Labour Party against its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is also ongoing. It is an ugly reflection on Labour and the left in general that it took a failed plebiscite on Europe to finally wake the party up to what a noxious, paranoid, graceless figure their leader truly is.
Brexit would not have passed as narrowly as it did if it were not for the support of Labour voters to retreat from the EU. That represents a stunning humiliation for the Europhilic center-left Labour and a remarkable defeat for Jeremy Corbyn—although he does not personally view it that way.
Corbyn has always been hostile toward European integration. While conservatives of the “Euro-skeptical” variety tend to cast a suspicious eye on the EU for its anti-market values, Corbyn finds the EU suspiciously too laissez-faire. He voted against the Maastricht Treaty, which created the EU, and the Lisbon Treaty, which established its constitution. He criticized the terms on which Greece was provided loans in exchange for adopting austere budgetary restrictions as being too harsh. “There is no future for a Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage,” Corbyn wrote as recently as 2015.
This stance is remarkably out of step with his internationalist party, and the failure to prevent Brexit appears the straw that broke Labour’s back. In the wake of the referendum vote, the majority of the shadow Labour government has resigned. Despite all these clear signals that Corbyn has lost the faith of his fellow party members, he still insists he will not vacate his post. Even the Labour-friendly Daily Mirror was reduced to begging this “decent man,” in a “heartfelt message,” to resign “for the sake of your party” and “country.” 47 resignations later, the party declared an open revolt against Corbyn—172 Labour MPs voted against their leader in a confidence vote on Tuesday.
Corbyn is a man who by any sane calculation should never have been elevated to his present position. He bemoaned the fate of the Taliban after September 11th, and claimed that there had been a “manipulation” of information by the omnipotent but ill defined “they” to manufacture international conflict. This kind of conspiratorial thinking is not new to the man who became the Labour’s leader. In an article for Labour Briefing in 1991, Corbyn called the Coalition ouster of Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait a “curtain-raiser for the New World Order.”
When the United States finally killed Osama bin Laden in a Special Forces operation in 2011, Corbyn called it an “assassination attempt,” in which no effort was made to capture the terrorist and bring him to trial. That rendered the al-Qaeda leader’s death a “tragedy” on par with the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in 2001.
Corbyn has long been infatuated with radical Islamist terrorists, if only because he approves of their targets. He described the Iranian terrorist organization Hezbollah and the murderous Hamas in Gaza as the West’s “friends,” and supported a total arms embargo on Israel. Corbyn has gleefully shared a stage with the most unhinged European Holocaust deniers and defended those fringe figures who claim 9/11 was perpetrated by the Israeli Mossad.
Under Corbyn, the Labour Party has been implicated in one anti-Semitic incident after another. In early May, the Telegraph reported that 50 Labour members had been secretly disciplined over anti-Semitic and racist comments amid an “influx of hard-left supporters following Jeremy Corbyn’s election.” Formerly peripheral views about Hitler and Israel’s support for ISIS, which were once relegated only to the darkest fringes of society, were out in the open. They had found a mainstream champion.
Corbyn is not the disease but a symptom; a lagging indicator of an ideology gone mad. Labour’s leader has recklessly legitimized conspiratorial anti-Western and anti-Semitic thought. Corbyn represents so much more than the British left’s overcorrection away from Blairite centrism. He exemplifies an unattractive impulse among younger liberals in America and Britain to embrace the perpetually adolescent unreconstructed socialists of the 20th Century as they struggle to comprehend and navigate the challenges of their own time. These formerly marginal figures were once consigned to the fringe for a good reason.
It has long been obvious to all but the most blinkered of paranoid basement-dwellers that Corbyn is unfit to lead the Labour Party. His elevation to his current position confirms the belief that the Western left has become reckless and radicalized. It wasn’t Corbyn’s conspiratorial thinking, his anti-Semitism, his flirtation with violence and autarky, or his apologies for terrorists that robbed Labour of confidence in their eccentric leader. It was his failure to campaign hard enough to preserve European subsidies that did him in. That fact alone exposes how truly deep the rot within the British left goes.