By Janet Albrechtsen
The Weekend Australian
December 14, 2019
The British election was decided early on Friday in the former mining region of Blyth Valley on England’s Northumberland coast.
Foreshadowing a stunning victory across the country, the Conservatives took a seat held by Labour since its creation in 1950.
As the BBC’s Andrew Marr said as the numbers were called: “If I wasn’t talking … my jaw would be on the floor.”
And then the Conservatives took Workington, another deep red seat held by Labour for 97 of the past 100 years. “Workington Man” didn’t just speak, he hollered. When Wrexham, a large town in northern Wales, turned from red to blue, a different BBC host said he never thought he’d see the day when Wrexham voted for a conservative government.
And then Don Valley fell too, and on it went, the red wall crumbling brick by red brick.
Conservative leader Boris Johnson won the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. And not just any victory. For a third time a majority of the British people voted to assert their national sovereignty.
Is this third people’s vote enough democracy for the Remoaners, the Brexit wreckers, large swathes of the media, Hugh Grant and John Bercow to accept it is time to get Brexit done?
There won’t be any celebrations at The Guardian either, where its election eve editorial announced Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn deserved to win because, though he was “not perfect”, he was “progressive”. That a major newspaper could endorse Corbyn, a diehard socialist and anti-Semite who campaigned on policies so deeply regressive, tells you the danger of Corbyn’s ideas lingering in the soppy brains and bleeding hearts of people who have university degrees but little common sense.
It is an abomination that better educated Brits could not, or would not, see through a socialist and anti-Semite. That, and more, is why the rise of Corbyn should never be forgotten. That half a million Labour members made him leader of their party, that he lasted as long as he did, and that he was the preferred choice as prime minister for many in the so-called intellectual class is a reminder that not enough people have learned the lessons of history.
Despite delivering Labour a thumping loss, the question remains: how did so many apparently smart people vote for him at all? The answer, in large part, is that despite the repeated failures of socialism, the ideology has conquered the universities.
The left’s ideological march through British universities is surely complete when the most well-educated Brits chose Corbyn and Corbynism.
Witness Corbyn’s Labour Party winning a genteel seat such as Putney, home of Britain’s well-heeled and well-educated. They voted for a man who will go down in history as the devious face of 21st-century socialism. But, then, is there any other kind?
The most radical Labour leader in British history used the language of equality and fairness during the election to sell a set of pre-Thatcher ideas to redistribute income, property, ownership and power. The same socialist policies brought Britain to its knees in the 1970s. Back then, Britain was routinely described as being in the last-chance saloon.
Looking back on the country that Margaret Thatcher inherited from Labour, Graham Stewart writes in his book Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s that rubbish was piling up on the streets, nurses and ambulance drivers were striking, schools were closed, trains were not running. Even the BBC was shut down thanks to the striking electricians’ union. Contingency plans were made to throw dead bodies into the sea because of unions picketing cemeteries.
Corbyn’s regressive economic policies would have taken Britain back to that bleak place. Worse, he was conniving in his ideological class-war hatreds; he understood that education was the most effective tool to inculcate those same hatreds across future generations.
His education manifesto, like his economic plan, was aimed at dividing people by fuelling grievances and distrust. Corbyn, the ugly face of modern anti-Semitism, understood that, having secured the universities, the left’s next battleground must be the schools. His Race and Faith Manifesto launched in the fortnight before the election set out his mission to fill the school curriculum with the evils of colonialism, capitalism and Western power; the aim, again, to create a deeper and wider class of aggrieved Brits, a generation taught by government directive to loath the West in general and the Jewish state of Israel in particular.
Corbyn’s departure from British politics is a reason for celebration, but not for an ounce of complacency. As University of London history professor David Feldman wrote recently in Haaretz, we need to draw a distinction between ideologically committed anti-Semites and a more diffuse anti-Semitism that runs deep in our political culture.
“Rather than conceive anti-Semitism as a virus, we will do better to think of it as a deep reservoir of stereotypes and narratives, one which is replenished over time and that can be dipped into with ease. This is the nub of Labour’s problem,” wrote Feldman, who was vice-chairman of the Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the British Labour Party.
While the Institute for Jewish Policy Research estimated in 2017 that a tiny minority of British people are anti-Semites who openly dislike Jews, JPR’s research shows 30 per cent of British adults ascribe to one or two anti-Semitic attitudes, for example believing Jews get rich at the expense of others or hold too much power.
Corbyn’s anti-Semitism was a deliberately crafted breeding ground for anti-Semitic stereotypes. The man who described Hamas and Hezbollah as friends, defended a street mural in east London that depicted an “elite banker cartel” of the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers and the Morgans hunched over a Monopoly-themed board game propped up by dark-skinned men.
Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein exposed how the Labour leader wrote a foreword to a new edition of Imperialism: A Study by economist JA Hobson that presents Jews as controlling banks and the media. Hobson’s anti-Semitism was well-documented by the time Corbyn endorsed the new edition in 2011 foreword.
While Corbynism has been halted in Britain, we shouldn’t imagine the battle to defeat socialism or anti-Semitism is won.
That the University of Sydney has played endless games with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation over teaching a course on our great books exposes the deep cultural rot at the centre of Australia’s poshest sandstone universities. Instead of learning the lessons of history, students are taught the divisive, toxic politics of envy and identity.
If the next battleground is our schools, then thank goodness for Vic Alhadeff. He is working harder than ever to tackle anti-Semitism in Australian schools because, like Corbyn, he knows this is where it starts. And we know once anti-Semitism gains a foothold, the door is open to broader and deeper forms of identity politics where every person must be classified as victim or oppressor. Alhadeff is the passionate, indefatigable and big-hearted chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the elected representatives of the Jewish community in NSW. Going on a decade, He has been combating anti-Semitism, speaking to hundreds of students in schools across NSW, public, private, from the city to Coonabarabran.
For example, early last month, Alhadeff contacted a principal of a high school on the NSW central coast to express concern about a teacher who asked a Year 10 history class to consider the extent to which the Nazis were responsible for the murder of six million Jews.
That falls squarely within the globally respected definition of anti-Semitism that includes “denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (eg gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II”.
On top of reports of anti-Semitic remarks aimed at Jewish students at the same school, Alhadeff offered to speak to students at the school about the Holocaust and the importance of speaking up against all forms of bigotry.
The principal said he would “consider” whether this offer was relevant when school reopened next year. Alhadeff responded by letter describing this as shortsighted and irresponsible: “Postponing resolution of this issue for approximately four months … does little, if anything at all, to seriously address the matter for the students who participated in the so-called discussion on the culpability of the Nazis.”
Then, two weeks later, the principal and his superior suggested they meet Alhadeff to work out a constructive response to the episode that would include Alhadeff speaking with the Year 10 students. That’s how to deal with anti-Semitism. Quickly. Forthrightly. Honestly.
Alhadeff’s crusade against anti-Semitism in schools is one subset, albeit an important one, of the many lessons we must learn from the British election. The only way to make sure there is not another Corbyn, and that Corbynism is defeated too, is for our schools and our universities to teach the next generation that if we forget history, whether it is about socialism or anti-Semitism, we will be condemned to repeat it.