Ian Austin

David Lammy's apology should count for nothing

He was praising Corbyn as recently as 2020

January 04, 2022 13:33

David Lammy’s belated apology for nominating Jeremy Corbyn to for the Labour leadership falls short for so many reasons.

Speaking at Limmud, the new shadow foreign secretary confessed: “I regret nominating Jeremy Corbyn and if I knew what I do now I never would have nominated him. I never believed he would become leader. That was a mistake and I am sorry for that.”

A ‘mistake’ is when you go to the shops and forget the milk or neglect to empty the washing machine.

I have made decisions I regret in politics, but recklessly nominating someone completely unsuitable for the leadership of one of the most important institutions in the country cannot be excused as a mere ‘mistake’. It was a catastrophic error of judgement that caused huge – possibly irreparable - damage to the Labour Party and its reputation.

And even this apology raises a number of other issues.

David Lammy claims now that he took the disastrous decision to promote debate in the leadership election and because the other candidates were “all a bit samey”.

First, David Lammy and Labour’s other MPs were trusted with drawing up a shortlist of suitable candidates for the members to choose from. No one in any other walk of life would decide to interview someone for a position of leadership to widen the debate.

Second, no one who devoted a second’s thought to what the public might think could have imagined for a moment that someone like Corbyn who had spent his entire time in politics on the hard-left fringes telling the same activists in the same campaigns the same simple slogans should be nominated to lead the party.

Third, many people suspected he backed Corbyn because he was running for Labour’s nomination for London Mayor and wanted support from left-wing members in the capital. That is presumably why all the candidates apart from Tessa Jowell (but including the current Mayor Sadiq Khan) also nominated Corbyn.

And most important of all, what Jeremy Corbyn believed and the people he associated with was very clear from the outset.

In August 2015, during the leadership election I wrote this in an article warning members not to vote for Corbyn:

“He called the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and described Raed Salah, a man convicted of the racist blood libel, as an “honoured citizen”. He invited Dyab Abou Jahjah who said he considers “every dead American [and] British soldier a victory” to Parliament.”

Elsewhere in the article, I talked about his views on the IRA and Putin’s Russia. Whilst we might not have known about the mural in East London or the wreath in Tunisia, we knew all this and much more that should have disqualified Corbyn at the time.

Anyway, even in 2017, two terrible years in to Corbyn’s appalling leadership, Lammy was still praising Corbyn, saying: “This speech is bloody brilliant. @JeremyCorbyn is heading to No 10”.

And remarks unearthed by the Spectator’s Stephen Daisley show him praising Corbyn as recently as 2020:

“There is no one more appropriate than Jeremy Corbyn to deliver this lecture. It's really because of that relationship and that friendship that, back in 2015, when Jeremy was what you would describe as on the fringes of the parliamentary Labour Party, I said to Jeremy, “Please will you come up and launch my election campaign in Tottenham?” And, being Jeremy, up the High Road he came on his bicycle and he launched my campaign.

“A few years— a couple of years later, we— or, we got out of that election, so it wasn’t a couple of years— it was a month or so later, and he said, “David, I need your support.” I said, “What do you need my support for?” He said, “I want to be on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee”. “Of course, I’ll give you my support.” “And then shortly after that I want to lead the Labour Party.” It’s
because of these relationships, it’s because of these histories, and what the South Africans so wonderfully articulated — the struggle — that we’re all here in a spirit of kinship with Bernie Grant.

“I’m very, very grateful that Jeremy Corbyn has given up his time to deliver this lecture. I know the words are going to be powerful. I can’t wait for every single sentence, and I hope that, in time, this speech and a few others will be published by the man who has led the Labour Party for this last period.”

Imagine saying all that in 2020. After five terrible years of the hard left’s toxic takeover, all the extremism, the racism, the intolerance that had poisoned the party.

Imagine saying it after Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger had been bullied out of the Labour Party, after the EHRC had announced its inquiry, after the leadership had targeted Margaret Hodge and others who had tried to do something about it all. Imagine saying it after the brave whistle-blowers had put their careers on the line and shown much more bravery and principle in tackling anti-racism in their party than so many of its most senior members, many of whom are now in positions of leadership.

Imagine saying all that after nine out of ten British Jews said they couldn’t vote Labour under Corbyn, and the late Lord Sacks said Corbyn was an antisemite who had “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate”.

Of course Labour is in a better position under Keir Starmer than it was under Corbyn, but it will take a long time to repair the damage caused by the disastrous decision taken by Lammy and other MPs to nominate Corbyn in 2015. That has left Labour members obsessed with Israel and large parts of the membership still believing allegations of antisemitism were exaggerated or a smear.

And voters will be justified in worrying about the judgement of people who nominated Corbyn or campaigned to make him Prime Minister.

If only David Lammy had known in 2015, 2017 or even as late as 2020 what he has discovered now that Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader.


January 04, 2022 13:33

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