Rosie Duffield is a history maker. As the city’s first Labour MP she is symbolic of Canterbury’s transition from CofE provincialism to the most talked about metropolitan outpost in the Home Counties.
I got to know her well during the 2017 election campaign, but never thought she would unseat Sir Julian Brazier.
As such, I didn’t bother going to the count. Upon hearing the result when I woke around 4am that day, I texted the new MP the words: “Oh. My. God.”
- Landlords offering free rent in exchange for sex, say students
- Gang of thugs jump group walking through park
By 6am, I was in the office writing the first copy of this game-changing result. As I watched television pictures of the result, I began to wonder how life would change for this previously unheard of woman.
Not only was she entering the bizarre world of the Westminster bubble, but she was doing so as a member of a Labour Party in its weirdest and most outlandish phase for more 30 years.
That, it seems hard to deny, is due to its leader, the people he surrounds himself with and those who supply his most deliriously adulatory support.
The motion by some 20 members of the Canterbury Labour Party to censure Ms Duffield over her principled stand against anti-semitism thus comes as a reminder her just what this organisation now is.
Firstly, it is evident that the hardliners behind the motion do not accept that there is terrible anti-semitism within the hard left element of the party.
Secondly, they regard its being raised as part of a plot to destabilise the leader of the cult to which they are maniacally devoted.
Finally, reading the motion carefully one senses that the petitioners believe there is only one possible opinion to hold: their own – and that any deviation from it is an act of heresy, which, in Ms Duffield’s case, should have necessarily lead to her formal censure had it not been withdrawn following an earnest debate.
Nonetheless, we are seeing similar actions taken against moderate Labour MPs across the country.
So why should this be happening? And why now?
The central reason is that party of Corbyn is not the same as the party of Blair or Brown or even Miliband. Corbyn is a very different kind of leader and attracts a very different kind of following.
As a result of his ascension, the hard left is now the most noisy and dominant element of Labour. Thus, the problem for moderates such as Rosie Duffield is that they do not and cannot represent the furious and belligerent hardliners.
Their political focuses do not align. We have seen in recent weeks a number of tweets stating exactly this: that 15 months from her historic election victory, Ms Duffield now occupies the territory of the most scorned foe
One tweet from a particularly shrill and odious woman read: “The Labour MP I and many others campaigned for does not speak for me…We voted Corbyn. Duffield was just the candidate.”
In order to properly understand such expressions of rage against a woman who made history in Canterbury and forms part of a strong Labour opposition to a minority Conservative government, you have to understand the mindset of the hard left.
Extremist movements of both hard left and far right vacuum up people of a certain psychological persuasion: the angry, the resentful, the perpetually aggrieved, people at odds with themselves and with the world around them, capable of blaming any personal misfortune on someone else. (Read Eric Hoffer’s masterpiece of political philosophy The True Believer for a brilliant exposition of this).
If you’ve ever studied any meeting of the far left you’ll see that such occasions attract every kind of crank, reprobate, social misfit, tragi-comic weirdo, pathetic loser and 70s sad act still dreaming of revolution.
Radical political activity, therefore, makes it possible for people with personal frustrations to project their neuroses on to society and try to resolve them there rather in themselves.
What kind of mind, for example, scrawls “Kill Tory Scum” on a war memorial or walks down a street during a protest with such a sign?
What kind of severe psychological dysfunction compels a man to turn up at the family home of Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to scream and shout and tell his young son that people hate his father?
Last year hard left activists openly plotted on social media to attend the summer fete at Sheldwich Primary School to pelt a mother-of-three of with eggs. Why? Because she is Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham.
We see in such activities a diabolical confluence of uncontrollable rage and visceral hatred.
The problem for moderates like Rosie Duffield is that this sort of thinking and activity is no longer confined to outer edges, the lunatic fringe, of Labour.
A few years ago Shadow Chancellor – and, some would say, de facto party leader – John McDonnell told a Unite the Reistance rally: “I want to be in a situation where no Tory MP can travel anywhere in the country or show their face anywhere without being challenged by direct action.”
Well, direct action now follows not just the hated Conservatives, but any person or group regarded as an enemy and therefore worthy of the most devastating fury.
Ms Duffield admits she has seen it directed against Jewish friends and colleagues: “They have been systematically abused and trolled and had hideous comments and even death threats by people, some within our party, and that’s not OK.”
The emphasis of Ms Duffield’s words should be placed on “some within our party”.
We are told Labour has a problem with anti-semitism. It doesn’t. It has a problem with Jeremy Corbyn and the increasingly deranged and fanatical cult which idolises him.