Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Leader of the Labour Party, Peter Oborne writes, “has vindicated everything he has ever done and said as a man and a politician”. No, it hasn’t. The support of a majority of Britain’s socialist does not make anti-capitalism, republicanism and third worldism right, reasonable or justified. Mr Oborne, who claims to speak “as a Tory”, should know that such people, on these matters, are none of these things. “Even as a Tory,” Mr Oborne says again, as if the reader will need convincing of his conservatism, “I wish [Corbynism] all the luck in the world”. Really, Mr Oborne? Even in a general election?
Turning to Twitter one finds leftist after leftist saying that Oborne is “the only tory journalist with a conscience” or “the only Tory journalist I really like“. For them, the fact that a conservative admires Corbyn is clinching proof of his essential goodness and talent. I am cautious when ideological dissenters are commandeered by their outgroup. It is, of course, inevitable that one agrees with different people on different issues but sometimes – as, say, with the professional ex-leftist Nick Cohen – commentators simply leave the reservation. In Oborne’s case, for example, were he that much of a Tory, he could have said both that Corbyn has been dishonestly and disproportionately criticised (he has) and that he is a radical socialist with a disgraceful tendency to sympathise with people who attack Britain.
Mr Oborne rightly and properly loathed Blairism, in its style and its substance: the slipperiness of its PR maneuverings and the arrogance and carelessness of its internationalism. I am sure he was appalled to see both baleful tendencies manifesting themselves in the Tory Party. Nonetheless, rather than offering a conservative alternative he has been sadly willing to embrace cranks and frauds, from the far left, like Mr Corbyn, to the fringes of British-based Islamism.
Mr Oborne believes (as, years ago, did I) that Muslims in Europe are the victims of a new McCarthyism, and extends his sympathy to some of their most obnoxious ideological trends. The theocratic Muslim Brotherhood, for him, is a “great movement”, while the Ayatollah Khomeini was “one of the greatest theologians of all time”. Oborne’s eccentric Islamophilia was epitomised, I think, when he wrote a bumptious article complaining that Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon had “concentrated on persecution of Christians” and not mentioned, say, the oppression of Muslims in the southern Philippines. The Archbishop’s sermon, as it happens, paid broader tribute to “every displaced people group, every refugee, every single human heart” but even ignoring Oborne’s blatant misrepresentation one must ask why authorities of the Christian church should not take a special interest in suffering Christians.
Oborne appears to think that Muslims are demonised for being socially conservative. When Trevor Phillips hosted the programme “What British Muslims Really Think” Oborne huffed that the opinions on display were not dissimilar from those held in rural Norfolk. Perhaps, but Aylsham has not been noted for honour killings, female genital mutilation, religious sectarianism, clerically-sanctioned domestic abuse, child marriages and other practices that, while abhorred by millions of Muslims, suggest that Islamic ethical and social doctrines are not equivalent to East English traditionalism. There are, in other words, to put it mildly, real issues to be addressed.
The lowest point of Oborne’s activism came, I think, when he promoted the Islamic Human Rights Commission’s annual Islamophobia Awards. Not only should Oborne have known that IHRC is a Khomeinite front group but he failed to retract his endorsement when these morbid characters took the opportunity to mock the dead employees of Charlie Hebdo, who had been massacred in their offices just months before.
Oborne has been admirably stubborn in his refusal to be led by the liberal conservative mainstream but his associations and obsessions reflect not a principled alternative but a crankish acceptance of the age-old assumption that his enemy’s enemy is his friend.