Neviim Tovim/TheHaftarah Circle Gillian Gould Lazarus

Diana and Jeremy

Posted on: August 20, 2018

As we approach August Bank holiday, I think of the death of Princess Diana, twenty-one years ago at this season. I remember the passionate grief in the United Kingdom and abroad, following the shock of her untimely death. No doubt the intensity of the public response was inspired by Diana’s superstar persona, beauty, philanthropy and transparent vulnerability. If any provocative journalist, presaging Katie Hopkins in courting opprobrium, suggested that Diana was neurotic, turbulent and not more than averagely intelligent, the response tended be disgust and disbelief that anyone could fall so low.

No monarchist myself, I wept, read quantities of the Dianology then in print and watched all the television coverage. My daughters went up to Kensington Palace to lay flowers and my son, then fifteen, found a place to watch the passing of the funeral cortege. None of us was any kind of royal watcher. We supported Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless, Diana was the archetype of the beautiful and good, dying young.

It all seems a very long time ago.

Last Friday, I watched the Channel 4 talk show The Last Leg, where Jeremy Corbyn was the butt of some quite edgy humour. He was represented by an actor as being naked in a tea cup but I need not explain the why and wherefore. Going by online responses, the fans were aghast, as they were in the face of Tracey Ullman’s comedy sketches lampooning Mr Corbyn, or David Baddiel’s remarks on the Frankie Boyle show.

My impression is that, for his most devoted supporters, Corbyn is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf and, despite the protestations of JK Rowling, Dumbledore. An old man with a beard should be wise, unless he compensates by coming down the chimney with presents – never a very wise choice. Corbyn is also seen as an older Jesus, if Jesus had not died at the age of thirty-three, even younger than Diana.

In common with Diana, Corbyn is a myth and a legend as much as a human being. Both are often perceived as martyrs and particularly as martyred by the press.

Corbyn is also loathed in a way Diana was not.  He is associated with Jew hatred, more now than at the time of the General Election last year. He is regarded as hypocritical yet powerful in the context of the Labour Party where his close associates display a sometimes feral potency. To be on the wrong side of the Corbynistas seems unsafe within the Labour movement, with all the talk of deselection and, more so, the very insulting and belittling language used of political opponents by those supporters who have high visibility on social media.

The Queen has seldom aroused such strong devotion and neither did Churchill in his life time. If the Queen and Churchill were regarded as uplifting symbols of Britsh life, they were not often more than incidental in the lives of the public.

Last year, during the Glastonbury Festival, Corbynmania was a word in all the newspapers. I have not heard it so much lately and it is possible that some of the Gandalfing of Corbyn has fallen away. In the last year, while his myth has been nurtured, he has not achieved very much, other than maintaining his support base and his leadership.

I, of course, have  a horse in this race. I am Jewish and I do believe that the Corbyn movement is injurious to Jewish well-being. My view is precisely the one most loathed and derided by a significant number of Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

This elderly gentleman, resembling Diana perhaps in his prodigious obstinacy and middling intelligence, has aroused love and hate among the public more than any British politician in my lifetime. Enoch Powell would be in the running, but I don’t believe he was ever as popular as Corbyn.

No wonder we loved Diana. She harmed no one except herself.

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