The header of this article may upset followers of Jeremy Corbyn, as the comparison between the MP for Islington North and the former Conservative Prime Minister may seem to them as drawing comparisons between Jesus and Satan. Likewise, many Conservatives probably won’t look favourably upon equating the Iron Lady to Corbyn which they will regard as, well…. comparing Jesus to Satan.
Before members both ends of the political spectrum take their knives out in unison: I have my reasons. No, Corbyn did not curtail the power of the unions, nor did he drag the UK into war and neither did he cause the end of Britain’s mining and manufacturing industries. The comparison lies somewhere different.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, it is difficult to fathom for non-British people how deeply Margaret Thatcher has divided British society – some revere her as Britain’s best ever Prime Minister, whereas others gladly sung ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ when she passed away. Decades after her stint as PM, Thatcher is still causing many arguments in British society today. This divisiveness has made sure that the jury, comprised of the entire British populace, is still out on whether her soul should spend eternity in a temperate or scorching hot climate. Though thoroughly unfit for the title ‘Lady Marmalade’, Maggie Thatcher is wholly deserving of the moniker ‘Lady Marmite’ – you either love her or hate her.
But if there is someone who has stepped up to the plate to earn the title of ‘Lord Marmite’, it is none other than Jeremy Corbyn, although the dislike of Corbyn crosses political boundaries. It comes as no surprise that the political right in Britain nurture an intense dislike for this democratic socialist and are eager to paint a highly unfavourable picture of the former Labour leader (leading to the Sunday Express dedicating an entire front page to Corbyn’s (good heavens) diesel car). However, within the Labour ranks, Corbyn is just as divisive.
His ideas for a fairer society and bringing important services back to state ownership made him very popular with a large part of the political left. However, on the other hand, plenty of progressives were not so enamoured with him – not only did they did they fear that his ideas on society and the economy would scare voters off, but also his changeable stance on Brexit did not appeal to Leavers and Remainers alike. Ultimately, he declared Labour to be ‘politically neutral’ on Brexit in November 2019 – making Labour as attractive as a wet newspaper for the many voters for whom Brexit was the most important issue. The Tories stuck to their ‘Brexit means Brexit’-mantra, which meant absolutely nothing – but at least they were consistent.
Labour suffered their worst election since 1935 a month later. Throw persistent rows about antisemitism into the mix, and voila, the position of Corbyn had become wholly untenable immediately after. But over a year later, the wounds within Labour have far from healed – a mere mention of the name ‘Corbyn’ on Twitter will guarantee that you’ll end up in heated debates between people who are glad to see him gone and others who would have loved for him to stay on (and presumably lead Labour into third consecutive General Election defeat). These debates turn rather nasty very quickly.
It has now even led to a breakaway party being founded – the Northern Independence Party or NIP (its followers already being referred to as ‘nipples’ by their detractors). They will undoubtedly occupy a similar role to UKIP in British politics – perhaps they’ll win a seat in the House of Commons, but they’ll mostly only serve to take votes that would normally have gone to Labour – which will therefore aid the Conservatives.
With new leader Keir Starmer thus far having failed to steady the ship, the immediate future for the left in Britain looks bleak. However, the future for those who love pointless, volatile arguments looks brighter than ever.