What exactly would an alliance with a frosh back-bencher in America do for the leader of the Labour Party in the UK? Jeremy Corbyn initiated a 45-minute conversation with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yesterday afternoon. Bloomberg reports it as the Labour leader’s attempt to create an alliance with the fresh face of American progressivism:
Jeremy Corbyn has congratulated the Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her election to Congress as the pair held “wide-reaching” talks in a telephone call on Sunday evening. …
It is understood the pair spoke for 45 minutes and discussed the US government shutdown and their joint condemnation of Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall at the Mexican border.
The two exchanged pleasantries on Twitter afterward:
Great to speak to @AOC on the phone this evening and hear first hand how she’s challenging the status quo.
Let’s build a movement across borders to take on the billionaires, polluters and migrant baiters, and support a happier, freer and cleaner planet.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 3, 2019
It was an honor to share such a lovely and wide-reaching conversation with you, @jeremycorbyn!
Also honored to share a great hope in the peace, prosperity, + justice that everyday people can create when we uplift one another across class, race, + identity both at home & abroad. https://t.co/7qnz42I8du
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 3, 2019
It’s not tough to see why Ocasio-Cortez would highlight this phone call. When was the last time a newly elected member of Congress got a 45-minute phone call from the leader of the UK’s opposition party, a man who might be the next Prime Minister if Theresa May manages to make her Brexit faceplant complete? It’s quite the political coup for the Democratic backbencher.
Or is it? CNN pointed out that Corbyn’s call comes with considerable baggage:
It’s unusual for the leader of the UK’s main opposition party to publicize a phone call with a new member of Congress. According to the UK Press Association, the pair spoke for about 45 minutes, discussing the government shutdown in the United States and the proposed wall along the US-Mexican border.
But it wasn’t all good vibes. Several Twitter users replied to Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet, pointing her to longstanding issues with antisemitism within the Labour party. Corbyn has faced criticism for his handling of the anti-Semitism crisis that has engulfed the party.
Ahem. Corbyn isn’t “handling the anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour Party; he is the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party. Corbyn participated in a 2014 memorial service for the Palestinian terrorists that conducted the 1972 Olympics attack on unarmed Israeli athletes, for Pete’s sake. Under his leadership, the Labour Party’s rhetorical attacks on Jews have become so common that British police are investigating forty-five potential hate crimes by Labour activists and party members.
Anyone with a lick of common sense would have known that came with a Corbyn embrace, which might explain why Corbyn chose Ocasio-Cortez as the target for his alliance. After getting some flak on Twitter from fellow progressives over her Corbyn greetings, Ocasio-Cortez backpedaled a bit:
How could she not know about this before taking Corbyn’s call? Either she did and didn’t care, or she’s too green to understand how to protect herself. I’d go 20/80 between the two options.
What’s even more peculiar is why Corbyn bothered in the first place. What possible good would it do to ally with a backbencher whose own party is already considering a primary challenge next year to remove? Ocasio-Cortez isn’t setting policy; Corbyn would be better off talking with Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, or presidential candidates like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Of course, they’re all probably too smart to take his calls, and certainly wouldn’t be dumb enough to promote such a call on social media afterward.