The comedian Jeremy Hardy has been making jokes about the mental health of Kevan Jones, the Labour MP who Ken Livingstone also famously made disparaging comments about in the same vein. Jones has committed the ‘crime’ in their eyes of supporting renewal of Trident. He has also, and very publicly and bravely, said he has had mental health problems.
Livingstone eventually, grudgingly apologized. Hardy on the other hand has refused.
What made Jeremy Hardy’s “jokes” into more of an issue was because they were made as part of his set in the so-called “JC4PM” tour, organized to support Jeremy Corbyn (although apparently without any involvement by the other Jeremy).
When I tweeted about this – and demands Jeremy C disown Jeremy H – a colleague emailed me to ask why I was so down on Corbyn when Cameron regularly says vile things and gets away with it. This did make me think – so here’s an [slightly edited] version of what I wrote back:
“Well, I can only speak for myself but I am guessing some of what I think applies to others.
It’s a matter of expectations. I don’t expect Conservatives to be especially concerned about discrimination, inequality, poverty etc. I have met far too many racist, sexist and homophobic ones (in roughly that order the numbers get bigger). So if Cameron uses ‘vile’ insults it doesn’t surprise me at all – just shows his inconsistency. (I hasten to add there are a lot of fairly civilized Tories who would never dream of being so disgusting – some of them have been friends of mine. But as a Party they have hardly covered themselves in glory when it comes to liberal social values.)
Socialists on the other hand claim to hold to higher moral standards. Especially people like Corbyn who have been doing the ‘holier than thou’ thing for decades. Incidentally I used to know him, and his brother Piers, in the 70s. I stayed at Piers’ squat in Elgin Ave in London several times – we were in the International Marxist Group (IMG) together.
Unfortunately some of the “comrades” seem to have rather large blind spots. So, for example, I remember people refusing to condemn Cuba for persecuting gays. Or some of liberation movements who had appalling policies towards women. The crunch came for me when a lot of them started cozying up to radical islamism after the 1979 Iranian Revolution (which was against the ‘Great Satan’ America and therefore OK, according to them.) There were other outrages – like the ‘comrades’ who wanted amnesty for the black Brixtion ‘rioters’ who raped white girls. This was apparently part of the ‘uprising’ and therefore could not be condemned. I could go on, there’s quite a list.
(Additional note: this sort of thing has a long pedigree. The Bolsheviks organised something called the ‘Congress of the Peoples of the East‘ in Baku in 1920 which included some pretty unsavoury ‘anti-imperialist’ forces).
I broke with what had been my “comrades” over that and other issues around 1980. I’d come to realise these weren’t aberrations but were part and parcel of a politics that was so obsessed with anti-capitalist anti-Americanism that nothing else mattered – human rights, women’s rights, democracy, were all secondary to them. If the “oppressed” do horrible things like terrorist acts, oppress women, murder gays, you can’t condemn it because that would be siding with the oppressors.
That’s why when Jeremy Hardy makes sick jokes about mental illness in order to score points against a Labour MP I find it extremely distasteful – not just because of the sentiment but because of who’s saying it. Hardy adopts a consistently morally superior attitude and then uses this sort of gutter tactics and justifies it ‘just humor’ (in the same way racism and sexism get justified as ‘just banter’ by internet trolls and others). Really?
Does Corbyn bare any responsibility for this? Not directly of course. But as Labour Leader and someone Hardy was supposedly campaigning to make PM (it was the JC4PM Tour) he surely could make it clear he doesn’t endorse this sort of stuff and he’d rather people didn’t ‘support’ him in this way. But he doesn’t. You have to ask why not?
I guess part my own anger is at my younger self – I used to tell myself the same sort of comforting lies to justify the unjustifiable that I now see all to many ‘comrades’ indulging in. On the plus side, I can spot this sort of double-thinking a mile off.
Anyway that’s my tuppence worth. I am nowadays a convinced social democrat so I don’t like Corbyn’s politics anyway. ‘Socialism’ is dead and it’s about time we let it RIP. But that’s another blog post (coming shortly).