Over the Water – over the Hill
Bill Hartley, in the land of lost causes
There is romance to lost causes that people find attractive. In the North of England, which has plenty to choose from, there is a society devoted to the Jacobites. Judging by the post nominals held by some members, this is a serious historical society which has attracted eminent scholars. However, an acquaintance of mine, a retired academic, tells me that it has a fundamentalist wing.
Not many of us lie awake at night struggling with the question of a monarch appointed by the state versus one put there by the deity. According to my acquaintance though, there are members of this society who believe in the divine right of kings. Clearly, in Britain, there is a group to meet the needs of almost any opinion, no matter how outdated or odd.
In the past, it might take a long time for kindred spirits to find each other and form a club. Things happen more quickly these days aided by social media. For fans of lost causes it is also worth looking on Facebook at the various Jeremy Corbyn supporters’ pages. At first it all seemed light hearted. There was a pre-election call for supporters to get out and help in a marginal seat. No-one seemed to mind when I posted a message saying that I couldn’t find one in County Durham. Post-election, the messages began to change, and the Branch Davidians retreated into the online equivalent of the Waco compound. Originally, messages had been of the simple and supportive kind: Mr Corbyn, decent chap, misrepresented in the media, man of principle etc. etc. The sort of thing you might expect from people rallying behind their leader. Subsequently, they took on a darker hue.
Ruth Smeeth who lost her Stoke on Trent seat at the election stated that Mr Corbyn had made Labour a ‘racist party’. A report quoting her appeared on one page, the online equivalent of being put in the stocks. The mob duly pelted her with missiles. Interestingly, whilst most of the males who commented kept their language moderate it was the females who waded in with the personal abuse: ‘witch’ being one of the more repeatable comments.
These pages have now become portmanteau sites for various grievances. An eagle eyed viewer, scrutinising the audience at a BBC Question Time Election Special, spotted a man allegedly making a ‘white power’ gesture. I didn’t know what a white power gesture was until this person helpfully pointed it out. Suffice to say that it fell far short of a fascist salute and might to a more rational person appear to have been an unconscious gesture. Be careful what you do with your thumb and forefinger.
Trying to understand why they lost has clearly been giving members of the Labour Party a headache. Some believe that the Conservative election campaign had a branch office at the Israeli Embassy. This was nicely summarised by one person with the slogan: ‘England another country controlled by the Zionist fake Jews of Israel’. Someone else assured us that Jeremy Corbyn is not ‘anti semantic’ (sic?). An image of Dr Goebbels also appeared further down but it was unclear whether it was intended to be ironic. On a similar theme, the ‘stabbed in the back’ excuse was also aired, though one suspects that the person who used it was unaware of its provenance.
Another theory was fraud. Members have been asking each other if they bothered to register their postal vote. Someone else wondered why voters were required to use a pencil at the booth. Confirming the fraud theory was the posting reporting that Police Scotland is investigating a claim of voting irregularities. This prompted a member to comment that the Conservative Party cannot win elections, it can only ‘buy them’. He seems to have overlooked the word ‘Scotland’ in the report. If the Conservative Party had been buying votes north of the border then they were short changed.
Overall, a consensus has grown up on these pages, that the electorate were ‘sheep’ led to vote in the way they did by a ‘biased’ BBC, aided by the print media. This is the nearest those who post messages have so far come to analysis. Otherwise the contributors flip flop. Even an opponent of fox hunting gets in on the act. Ultimately no criticism is to be directed at the leader’s conduct. The election was ‘rigged’ and anyone in the party who blames Jeremy Corbyn is ‘disgusting’.
In case you thought that the numbers were in on the general election result there is an anomaly to be corrected. According to some who post here the government has an additional MP, Jess Phillips. She is the MP currently being talked up as a potential leader of the Labour Party. Several posts refer to her as a ‘Tory’ and this is among the milder insults. Once again, the virulence of the comments breaks down along gender lines. The males it seems don’t dare, so the nasty stuff is left for the ladies to deliver. Quite how Jess Phillips supports two parties has yet to be explained.
One post on the ‘Jeremy Corbyn Will Be Prime Minister’ page puts it succinctly: ‘I blame Tory voters’. The same person also quotes a source saying that ‘a number of British Muslims will be leaving the UK over fears for their personal safety’. Presumably Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan, the new MP for Wakefield and the first Conservative to represent the city since 1931, will not be among their number.
A slogan was posted on the ‘Corbyn Will Be Prime Minister’ page. It might well serve both this and the aforementioned Jacobites, to wit, ‘Another world is possible’.
William Hartley is a former Deputy Governor in HM Prison Service