The unbelievably hilarious collapse of Corbynism

When will the left learn that if you screw over the working class, there’ll be a price to pay?

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

Want to read spiked ad-free? Become a spiked supporter.

Schadenfreude is an unbecoming emotion, I know. But if you think I am not going to derive at least fleeting pleasure from the fact that the Corbynista movement went from being on the cusp of government to fighting tooth and nail to hold on to one poxy constituency in north London, then you are off your rocker. We must all find mirth wherever we can in this drabbest of elections. And I find mine in the staggering contraction of Corbynism, the almost total collapse of this cause that was once so beloved of every trustafarian Trot, Glasto wanker and they / them fruitloop.

It’s nearly too funny for words. Five years ago, Jeremy Corbyn and his crew were eyeing up Downing Street. They were in the running to run the country. Now they’re entirely concentrated in Islington North. Corbyn once commanded vast crowds of affluent youths at Glastonbury, basking in their posh chant of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!’. He had whole armies of time-rich tweeters who put their expensive education to good use by barking at us ‘gammon’ about how ‘Jez’ was ‘the absolute boy’. Now he can just about rustle up a few score political anoraks to go canvassing for him in a little bit of north London. It would require a heart of stone not to laugh.

Much has changed for ‘Jez’ in the past five years. He was leader of the Labour Party back then. Now he isn’t even a member of the Labour Party. He was suspended in 2020 after he said the scale of Labour’s anti-Semitism problem under his leadership from 2015 to 2020 had been ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’. Then he was officially expelled this year after he announced his intention to stand as an independent in Islington North, the constituency he represented for Labour since 1983. The man who wanted to be PM is now fighting for his life to remain an MP. We’ve gone from ‘socialism in one country’ to ‘socialism in one constituency’.

Die-hard Corbynistas are flocking to Islington North as if it were the Paris Commune under attack from Versailles. They’re beating the streets to plead with constituents to return the absolute boy to parliament in order that socialism might yet live. The list of starry names Corbyn has dragooned to his door-knocking cause reads like a Sky News producer’s rolodex of wankers. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, anyone? Yes, I’m sure her post-truth bollocks about ‘all white people [having] white privilege’ will go down a treat among the white working classes on the council estates of Archway.

There’s Grace Blakeley, too, a privately educated flapper-girl socialist who thinks flouncing out of a book festival is ‘collective action’. That’s how she described her decision to withdraw from the Hay Festival over its receipt of funds from the investment management firm, Baillie Gifford. Tweeting ‘I’ve decided not to go to Hay’ is the well-heeled millennial’s Battle of Orgreave. Perhaps Ms Blakeley will compare her class-war wounds with those of some old Irish fella she meets in a pub in Holloway when she’s out electioneering for the boy.

And of course there’s TV’s Owen Jones. The man who puts the soy into socialism. The man who thinks fighting for the right of men to poop in the women’s loo is the modern equivalent of Rosa Parks sitting wherever she damn well pleased on the bus. Jones is free to campaign for Corbyn because he himself ripped up his Labour membership – a membership his mum bought for him for his 15th birthday: cringe! – over Labour’s early support for Israel’s war on Hamas. So he was happy to stay in Labour when it was causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan but he bounced when it said Israel had the right to defend itself against the anti-Semitic scum of Hamas.

There are also oddballs from CND, the social inadequates of Socialist Worker and those sharp-suited gammon-haters of Momentum, all pounding on doors for Jez. It’s like Islington is suffering an invasion of the zombie left. The wilted remains of British radicalism have puffed themselves up into something approximating a movement for one more sad, forlorn stab at power. Well, a stab at securing some space for Jeremy Corbyn’s arse on the green benches of the Commons. ‘Our demands most moderate are / We only want the Earth’, James Connolly famously said. The dusty husk of the British left is going to be lucky if it gets one corner of Islington.

It’s Islington’s voters I feel sorry for. The most the rest of us will have to endure upon opening the door to a party canvasser in the next two weeks is a sleep-inducing mini-speech on NHS waiting lists or potholes. Our wretched brethren in Islington, in contrast, risk a wind tunnel of invective about ‘GENOCIDE IN GAZA’ and ‘Tory scum’ and ‘Keith Starmer’ if they commit the grave error of answering the door without first taking a peep through the letterbox. My tip for these good people: if there’s someone at your door with blue hair or ‘Literally a Communist’ earrings or a ‘Free Palestine’ badge or a fucking keffiyeh, get that Chubb lock on.

How has Corbynism come to this? How did a movement that was in control of Labour five years ago end up clinging for dear life to one constituency? Simple: they betrayed Britain’s working class, and they’re paying the price. There’s a reason Corbyn and his Labour Party won 40 per cent of the vote in the 2017 General Election and just 32 per cent in the 2019 General Election. It’s because in 2017 they promised to respect the vote for Brexit, and in 2019 they said they’d void it and make us vote again. They turned against democracy, and so we, the demos, turned against them. It was the finest example of FAFO in British political history.

Between 2017 and 2019, Corbyn’s Labour was completely taken over by a pseudo-radical middle class that loathed Brexit and sided with the cultural establishment in every single battle in the culture war. Brexit voters are pig ignorant, Britain is institutionally racist, worrying about immigration is fascism, people with penises can be lesbians, women who want their own spaces are selfish bitches… there was not one idea that emanated from the cosseted and intolerant new elites that the self-styled hard boys of Corbynism did not fully agree with. And so, working-class voters looked elsewhere. They preferred to take a punt on Etonian fop Boris Johnson than give the levers of power to overeducated leftists who hated them.

That was Corbynism’s greatest ruse: disguising its class hatred as class politics. They pulled on the garb of Old Labour, and their Novara Media ‘Marx’ t-shirts, and their workwear chic, to hide the truth of their boiling contempt for actual working-class people, especially the ones that voted Leave. They used the language of revolution to pursue the entirely reactionary cause of thwarting the largest act of democracy in our nation’s history. They styled themselves as rebels against capitalism while feverishly seeking to frustrate the truly rebellious strike against EU neoliberalism enacted by 17.4million of their fellow citizens.

Corbynism was a carnival of middle-class reaction dolled up in Marxian language. It was a defence of globalism disguised as radicalism. It was identity politics snuck under a cover of left universalism. And guess what? The pig-ignorant, gammon-toned, tabloid-reading plebs saw right through it. The supposedly dumb rumbled the graduate elites. They sealed Corbynism’s fate with the electoral drubbing they gave it in 2019, ensuring that this bourgeois experiment in identitarian idiocy would swiftly fizzle out. That’s what’s funny about Corbynism’s transformation into a tragic one-constituency campaign – it is the handiwork of working-class voters who really don’t like being taken for fools.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Melanie Phillips and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

Melanie Phillips and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation


Wednesday 26 June – 8pm to 9pm BST

This is a free event, exclusively for spiked supporters.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today