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4 July 2016

Besieged and looking more bewildered by the day, just how long can Jeremy Corbyn struggle along at the helm?

As someone who has always avoided a fight, how Labour's leader must be suffering, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Is it time to send in the police to storm Labour Party HQ and release the prisoner known as Jeremy Corbyn? In the past few weeks, Corbyn's been looking increasingly like a prime candidate for a home for the bewildered.

As someone who has always hated the EU but had been forced by his party to argue for Remain, he had a lacklustre campaign that did little to stem the flow of Labour voters to Leave.

As members of his front bench began resigning on the grounds that he wasn't up to the job, he looked defiant, but as they were joined by dozens more and he became a national laughing-stock, he looked desperate.

For someone who has deliberately avoided confrontation all his life, this must be unendurable.

An MP since 1982; until last year, when he accidentally became leader, Corbyn avoided spending any time with people whose politics he didn't share or who might criticise him.

When he wasn't marrying, divorcing and having affairs with the likes of Diane Abbott, who is as thick as he is and ten times as smug, Corbyn was industriously making speeches to small gatherings of the socialist faithful, demonstrating in favour of any anti-West or anti-Israeli cause that came along, and hosting meetings with supporters of such terrorist organisations as the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Now, with his party looking as if it might disintegrate, he has been given several chances to resign with dignity, but it's clear the hard-left are insisting he stay in his job.

Resignation rumours were swiftly slapped down by his chief aide, that implacable product of Winchester and Oxford, the class warrior and communist activist Seumas Milne, whose lifelong admiration for Stalin must be an inspiration in how to impose his will on others.

An article over Corbyn's name in the Labour-supporting Sunday Mirror said he would be staying on.

The most extraordinary development was a quote that same day from "a senior Labour source" said to be close to Corbyn, explaining why Tom Watson, elected as his deputy leader, who has been trying to broker an agreement, was being blocked by the leader's inner circle from seeing him.

Knowing that Watson's aides wanted him "to be on his own with Corbyn so that he can jab his finger at him", they decided this must not happen.

"He's a 70-year-old man," said the source.

(Actually, he's 67.)

"We have a duty of care."

There is, he added gravely, "a culture of bullying."

So we're being told by his supporters that the man who aspires to be Prime Minister is too old and fragile to be left alone with his deputy.

Talk about the Department of You Couldn't Make it Up!

Loyal Labour supporters are beside themselves, unable to make hay at the expense of a divided Conservative party because their party's plight is not just much more serious, but actually ridiculous.

But we shouldn't feel too sorry for Corbyn.

There is no doubt where his loyalties lie.

From the perspective of him and his intimates, unionists were - in Diane Abbott's words - "an enclave of white supremacist ideology", and the constitutional nationalists of the SDLP were beneath contempt.

Like John McDonnell, who also bosses him about, Corbyn was an enthusiastic speaker and supporter over many years at innumerable events commemorating "armed struggle", dead IRA terrorists and any violence against their state.

In 1984, Briefing, a hard-left magazine of whose editorial board Corbyn was general secretary, published an article in support of the Brighton IRA bombing that had killed five and injured 31.

Last week, having seen Corbyn ignore the bullying of a Jewish MP at a meeting on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, Tom Harris, a Labour MP from 2001 to 2015, wrote that he no longer thought him "a nice man".

"Corbyn is a coward", he wrote, "who values the praise he gets from the wild-eyed Trots and misfits of Stop the War and the Socialist Workers Party far more highly than he values his duties as the leader of the country's (for now) second biggest political party".

Maybe, after all, the police should stay away and leave the prisoner to the tender mercies of his colleagues.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards