How sad are we, and how sad have we been?
Put aside hyperventilating denunciations for a second. It's clear what has happened here. The two party leaders have been in a sort of dance-off over who will split their party first. May has yielded, largely because nothing she did could alleviate the Tories' existential crisis. That's a partial victory for Corbyn. Partial, because it remains to be seen what will come of their negotiations. Because May has played games before with proffered discussions that went nowhere. Because if it is unlikely that the two can agree a settlement, it is highly likely that the Tories will try to engineer a situation in which Corbyn gets the blame for it.
But, having over-estimated its own leverage, and forced May's hand, the Brexit hard-right has now gone red-hunting. Jacob Rees-Mogg knows very well that this outcome is a result of the ERG overshooting. He argued a week or so ago that they should back May's deal, or risk 'no Brexit'. What they were really risking was that they would lose all influence over the process, and the opposition might get a say in the outcome. Rees-Mogg knows this. What he says in public, though, shrouding moronic hyperbole in upper-class understatement, is: "To allow Labour to run Brexit and to decide you would rather be supported by a Marxist than your own party is unwise."
Arron Banks, foreswearing the understatement, expostulates that May has "put the future of the country in the hands of the Jeremy Corbyn, a Terrorist loving communist". Ian Duncan Smith likewise excoriates May for dealing with a "harsh Labour Party run by a Marxist, whose sole purpose in life is to do real damage to the country". Note: both Rees-Mogg and Smith made their comments in live television interviews. Neither was queried or challenged over these demented comments.
I wish the reactionaries were right. It would be a great thing for this country if its constitutional future really was being settled by a Marxist. But Corbyn is and always has been a parliamentary socialist, and his stated conditions for accepting a deal are extremely moderate. They're, frankly, the bare minimum that any Labour leadership would ask for. Oliver Letwin and the other Tory centrists who are happy at this outcome, know this very well. And May, in seeking cross-party consensus, is belatedly doing what she should have started doing immediately after losing her majority in the Commons. Stitching together a coalition with the ruddy-faced DUP provincials and trying to appease the ERG was always a road to ruin.
May has created this situation for herself. In addition to vilifying 'saboteurs', and denouncing parliament for not signing off on her terrible deal, her comms unit has been demonising Corbyn as a communist, terror-loving traitor for years. Perhaps, prior to June 2017, it was possible to see this as merely a cynical electoral game. But the generalised panic about Corbyn was always excessive, and it didn't stop even when it was shown that it didn't work. This suggests a genuine phobia. It is easy to laugh now at the Czech spy falsehoods, for example, but it's important to remember how extremely seriously this smear was deployed. Senior cabinet ministers were allowed to repeatedly accuse the Leader of the Opposition, a constitutionally important role, of being the paid agent of another country.
This language, rampant during the election two years ago, failed to secure for May the mandate that she needed to deliver a viable Brexit deal. But it did add to a state of generalised right-wing rancour. The British media has been very attentive to, sometimes, the smallest sleight aimed at a junior politician on Twitter. More seriously, it has paid full attention to the mobbing, abuse and death-threats aimed at a number of politicians, from Luciana Berger to Anna Soubry. It is less well-acknowledge in the press how much of this is aimed at Corbyn. In part, this is because abuse from members of the public simply echoes what the media has already been throwing at the Labour leader. But we're not just talking about verbal abuse.
When Darren Osborne conducted his van attack on Seven Sisters Road, he admitted to the court that he had hoped to kill Jeremy Corbyn. His initial plan was to attack the pro-Palestine Quds Day march, where he hoped he might murder Corbyn. Instead, that evening, he chose to drive toward Finsbury Park and carry out a murder there, because it was in Corbyn's constituency. It was just over a month ago that Corbyn was assaulted by a Brexit protester while visiting Finsbury Park mosque. This was misleadingly reported at the time as an egging, a form of protest that many politicians receive and, usually, trivial. A police statement referred to an egg being 'thrown'. But what happened was that a young man shouted at Corbyn to "respect the vote" and then, with an egg in his closed fist, punched Corbyn hard in the back of the head. Just this morning, video footage emerged showing a number of British soldiers in Kabul firing several rounds of bullets into a poster of Corbyn. These people are putting into practice what Rees-Mogg, Ian Duncan Smith, Arron Banks and, until recently, Theresa May, have expressed rhetorically.
Now, this man, whom May, the Tories, the press, and even some Labour MPs have consistently represented as beyond-the-pale, a traitor, is Theresa May's negotiating partner. Is it any wonder some of her people think she's sold out? Is it any wonder the McCarthyism that she has tried to build her political success on, is now coming back to bite her?