Could Corbyn, or a Corbynist political programme, ever have won against the forces that were arrayed against them? They had a lot going for them: an enthusiastic political base, especially among the young and (marginally) among women; a popular manifesto, by most accounts; a pretty easy enemy to pick off; and a leader whose transparent honesty and decency by contrast with the notorious duplicity and amoralism of his Conservative rival should have worked in his favour. But none of this mattered in the end. Labour’s fresh young activists could not overcome the stale prejudices of the older generation (mine), who won the election for Johnson; the manifesto was scarcely discussed in the media; and the remorseless personal campaign against Corbyn in the overwhelmingly Right-wing and billionaire-owned press succeeded in neutralising any appeal to his decency by egregiously lying about his supposed lack of ‘patriotism’, his sympathy for terrorism, and – and this was the most wicked of the smears, put about by sections of the Jewish community, whom I’d always up till then considered as a Godly and ethical people – his alleged ‘antisemitism’. It was almost entirely due to this propaganda that his personal reputation became so horribly traduced during the course of the campaign, so that by the end of it he was named ‘on the doorstep’ as one of the reasons why many voters couldn’t vote Labour. Added to all this was the fact that, under Britain’s ‘first past the post’ electoral system, with the winner taking all even with a minority of the votes, it was scarcely a fair fight, or the result a true reflection of the opinions of the people. So Corbyn may have never stood a chance; and it’s unlikely that any alternative leader with similar policies to his (nationalisation and Palestine) could have done so either. Which is far more dispiriting to Leftists and progressives, than if it had been the ‘fault’ of just one man.
The dark forces arrayed against him (and us) have precedents in previous British history, but none as powerful, cunning and apparently co-ordinated as in 2019. Which inevitably raises questions about whether it was all planned or plotted, in a great hidden ‘conspiracy’ between all those vested interests. That’s a dangerous speculation, because it can too easily be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, which no respectable commentator – and especially not a historian – wants to be associated with. As someone who has taken a fleeting professional interest in these things in the past – the ‘Wilson Plot’, for example – I’m unwilling to credit ‘conspiratorial’ explanations of this kind; that is, if they imply secret cabals of people – or extra-terrestials, in some versions – pulling the strings of world events towards some diabolical end.
On the other hand, the comparatively small number of people involved in the propaganda operation against Corbyn – a few giant newspaper proprietors and editors, ex-public schoolboys, financial speculators, the new breed of clever IT people, right-wing Tory politicians, and the ‘Israel lobby’; most of them with similar backgrounds and members of the same London clubs – does make it natural to suspect that they plotted together in some sense; but probably not Guy Fawkes-like. In certain select circles this will have all been part of their normal, open conversation. They will have been encouraged and even aided by members of the American Alt-Right, and possibly – in a subtler way – by the Russians. The BBC hierarchy might have been involved, but only because it shared many of the same backgrounds and values as our select group. Lastly, it seems likely to me that the Secret Services were closely involved, for their own reasons: possibly because they really did think – as Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, claimed publicly – that Corbyn posed a danger to national security. (See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/24/former-mi6-chief-calls-jeremy-corbyn-danger-national-security/.) The spooks were almost certainly involved in the (anti-) Wilson plot of the 1960s and ’70s, and in the 1924 Zinoviev affair. So it would not be altogether surprising to see them here too. Some commentators are starting to lay some stress on this: for example https://www.mintpressnews.com/new-study-reveals-uk-intelligence-smear-campaign-against-jeremy-corbyn/263231/?fbclid=IwAR1DgT7gEAvwjBxwSfHD_NOPng9paEoz7LfwEKLFoSp9BYcBX-GJLrDlXeE#.Xf47s6blqaC.facebook. That’s hardly surprising, in the circumstances.
The main problem with ‘conspiracy theories’, however, is not so much that they can’t be proven, but that even when they can, it can’t be proven that they had the effects – the success – that is claimed for them. I think we can be pretty certain that there were a number of ‘conspiracies’ against the Labour Party in 2019, in a broad sense of the word; but not that these were decisive. Still, it’s important to know who were on the conspirators’ side; and about the anti-democratic powers – for example through the press, and Machiavels like Cummings – that they wielded. Perhaps next time we can find ways of countering them; hopefully without descending to their depths.