Picket of Labour HQ: Mr Jones was nowhere to be seen

We deserve better

Owen Jones has a dodgy record and still shows no understanding of what the anti-Zionism equals anti‑Semitism big lie is all about, says Carla Roberts

Should we care that Owen Jones has just resigned from the Labour Party, after 24 years of membership?

He has not exactly been an ally of the left during the Corbyn years and it is no coincidence that he is one of the very few self-declared socialists who have not been witch-hunted. As can be expected of the rather harmless go-to-lefty for the establishment, he is a keen supporter of plucky Ukraine, which is fighting a “just, defensive war of liberation against a murderous invasion launched by a kleptocratic, chauvinist, far-right autocracy”.1 But with over 495,000 subscribers on YouTube and a staggering 1.1 million followers on X, the answer is: yes. His resignation video alone has been watched 243,000 times, as we go to press.2

We are not sure how many people actually take a political lead from what he is saying (hopefully not many). But he certainly has reach. And perhaps he wants to use that reach to do something more than just blow his own trumpet in the pages of The Guardian - there are rumours floating about that he is looking for a way to get himself into a position of influence in the ‘Corbyn party’. More on that below.


His whole video is about how he seems to feel personally insulted by the fact that Sir Keir Starmer ended up going back on his ‘pledges’ and the promise to continue some of Corbyn’s policies. Jones complains:

A pledge is a solemn promise of undertaking. He also promised unity and an end to factionalism. No leadership campaign in Britain’s democratic history has been that dishonest or even close. You can’t trust his words on anything.

It is rather questionable if Owen - who, after all, once served as staffer for John McDonnell MP - really believes that Starmer was about to deliver Corbyn’s policies, or indeed bring ‘unity’ into the Labour Party, for the first time ever. Lenin called it a “bourgeois workers’ party” precisely for the reason that there has always been a left and a right in the party, with the militant rank and file on one side and the majority of Labour MPs, trade union bureaucrats and apparatus jobsworths on the other (with various flotsam and jetsam in between). The Labour Party is an arena of the class struggle and there was absolutely no doubt on which side Starmer positioned himself when he stood against Corbyn’s proposed successor, the lacklustre Rebecca Long-Bailey, in the leadership elections of 2020.

Still, Owen says he bought Starmer’s weasel words. And he admits in his video that after his victory he wrote in his Guardian column that “Starmer can succeed and he deserves our support”.3 But, although the toolmaker’s son clearly took on the role of leader in order to transform the Labour Party once again into a safe pair of hands for capitalism, it took Jones a staggering four years of non-stop anti-left purges, policy dilution and sucking up to big business before finally making his grand final stand.

He moans: “I’ve voted Labour under every single leader for 21 years of my life.” But apparently none of them were as bad as Keir. Least of all Tony Blair - you know, the guy who led Britain into a war which killed over a million civilians and tens of thousands of soldiers, based on the made-up claim of the existence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’. But our Tony did not lie, you see! As proof, Owen shows a 2020 clip of the fragrant Margaret Hodge: “Starmer is triangulating like mad. Somebody said to me, ‘I don’t care what he does as long as he beats Rebecca Long-Bailey.’ And I thought, you know, Tony never did that.”

So even Margaret Hodge could work out that Starmer was spinning a yarn to do a particular job - ridding the party of Corbynism by first getting the Corbynites to vote for him as party leader. But then, the ‘leftwing’ Owen Jones was never much of a fan of Corbyn, famously stabbing him in the back, just before the 2017 general election: he used his Guardian column to publicly urge Jeremy Corbyn to resign.4 The Labour Party went on to win 40%, of course - its biggest share of the vote for many years. Not always with the finger on the pulse, is Mr Jones.

He was arguing then - and is still arguing today - that “it wasn’t the policies that led to Labour’s defeat in 2019”: ie, it was Corbyn, who was just the wrong man for the job. Jones fully bought into the campaign to smear Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. He also acted as a rather prolific witch-hunter, publicly cheering the expulsions of Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson.

He supported Jon Lansman in his undemocratic takeover coup of Momentum, railing openly against the “Trotskyist sectarians” and “saboteurs” that needed to be rooted out.5 He went on to interview Lansman about the made-up “anti-Semitism crisis” in a cringey video for The Guardian, nodding along seriously when Lansman claimed that the phrase, ‘I hate Israel’, “is clearly anti-Semitic”.6 (The same Lansman who has recently joined the openly pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, we should add.) Jones often argued and campaigned for John McDonnell to replace Corbyn. After all, McDonnell was much ‘tougher’ on the false charges of anti-Semitism: ie, he fully folded to the right, suicidally promising “zero tolerance”.

And, rather incredibly, Owen is still at it. He laments in his video that “Starmer promised an all-out war on anti-Semitism”. But, sadly, he did not deliver on that pledge either. Because “when it’s politicians loyal to him, it’s a different story”. Another hint that Jones does indeed know that there is a constant civil war raging in the party - which the right has clearly won, at least for the time being.

Jones lists as one of the main reasons for his departure the leadership’s support for Israel’s genocidal politics. He still fails to understand that the main objective of the campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism - a campaign he still vigorously supports - was exactly the current situation in Gaza. While it was undoubtedly used to get rid of Corbyn, this campaign was designed to delegitimise any criticism of Israel.


Let us have a closer look then at what Jones dubs “the alternative”: He wants us to vote for

… the Green Party or an independent candidate who stands for asking the well-off to pay more tax, our services and utilities being run by the public, candidates who want radical action in everything from the housing crisis to poverty, to the climate emergency, and, you know what, candidates who aren’t complicit in war crimes. That might mean some of the surviving decent Labour candidates if they’re not booted out by then.

Hardly indistinguishable from the Socialist Party’s front organisation, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; or from the For the Many Network, Left Unity, Transform, etc, etc. But, rather than supporting one of the many, many left-of-Labour grouplets that have sprung up in the last few years and that campaign on exactly the kind of motherhood-and-apple-pie demands mentioned by Owen in his video, he has rather curiously been plugging the campaign We Deserve Better. In fact, he is not just plugging it: in his video he rather grandly presents it as “the alternative” to the Labour Party.

I must admit I had never heard of it. We Deserve Better is not exactly a beacon of transparency. It is run by a “committee”7 of two: Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim of Green New Deal Rising (GNDR) and former Manchester Labour Party councillor Amna Abdullatif, who resigned from Labour in October 2023.

Until a few days ago, it also included one “Hamza Ali Shah, British Palestinian journalist, writer and political researcher”. Busy Twitter detectives quickly worked out, however, that a few years back, Hamza not only agreed with George Galloway that “abortion is murder”, but had also posted a number of racist posts, including “Sikhs? Clean hearted?”, followed by a dozen laughing emojis. Perhaps most problematic for the openly gay Jones is that he also posted clearly homophobic messages like “Looool, imagine getting banged by a fag”.

Incidentally, this debacle was gleefully exposed on Twitter by the execrable Paul Mason8 - formerly a long-standing member of the Trotskyist confessional sect, Workers Power, who has speedily overtaken Jones on the right. While he totally agrees with Jones on the anti-Semitism smear campaign and how “heroic” Ukraine is, he has also been openly cooperating with rightwing, security-linked forces to smear socialists and their media outlets and has become an out-and-out cheerleader for imperialism.9

He campaigns with the Tories to increase defence spending to “at least” 3% of GDP to fill the “deterrence gap”10 and says on the subject of the alleged attack of Chinese cyberhackers on the Electoral Commission: “It is done by a state that despises our democratic values.” Our democratic values! He obviously does not mean the working class, but, you know, the justice and democracy so generously granted and promoted by Britain’s ruling class.

The man is an embarrassment. No wonder he is now touted as a prospective Labour candidate in the general election - he is said to be “Labour’s best chance to defeat Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North”11 - “best chance” meaning that he might get his deposit back (he would get absolutely trounced). We really hope he does stand.

In any case, Hamza quickly resigned from We Deserve Better without any explanation, leaving the committee looking more than bare. Supporters cannot see how much has been donated in total and they will have to trust those two remaining committee members on how they spend the money.

Politically, the campaign is most closely linked to GNDR, which is a self-declared “youth movement” that campaigns for the implementation of the Green New Deal.12 There is no information on how it was set up or who is indeed running it - but it is looking for employees, if anybody is interested. It is centred on the illusion that the Green New Deal would tweak the system efficiently enough to stop the climate catastrophe. No need to talk about boring things like capitalism’s profit system, the need for socialism, the role of the working class or indeed the problem that any such deal would have to be implemented internationally to make any discernible difference.

GNDR’s “plan” consists of five points, starting with the aim to “Elect a Green New Deal champion as mayor of the North East” - ie, Jamie Driscoll, current mayor of North of Tyne, who is apparently “a strong advocate for the Green New Deal in power” and who only resigned from Labour when he was not chosen to run for the North East mayoral position.

This is followed by: “2. Campaign for Green New Deal champions in the general election.” The “champions” are named as the four Labour MPs, Zarah Sultana; AWL fellow traveller Nadia Whittome; Clive Lewis (fan of Trident and Nato13), and centrist Olivia Blake, plus Green Party politicians Carla Denyer (standing in Bristol Central) and Sian Berry (Brighton Pavilion, to replace long-time Green MP Caroline Lucas).

If that is indeed Owen’s “alternative”, consider us underwhelmed. But perhaps his support for this rather odd campaign is just one of his pit stops on the way to pastures new.


Jamie Driscoll, for example, was one of the speakers on the platform at the March 2 No Ceasefire, No Vote conference in London, which turned into the (unofficial) launch of Andrew Feinstein’s campaign Collective14 - with plans to become a “political party” - after the general election (to allow Jeremy Corbyn to campaign as a truly ‘independent’ candidate). It includes Counterfire (ie, former Socialist Workers Party leaders John Rees and Lindsey German), Ken Loach and his For the Many Network and, crucially, Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Campaign (Collective so far limits itself to the campaign’s five policy points, plus the demand for a ceasefire in Gaza).

Perhaps Owen wants to wheedle his way back into the political sights of people like Andrew Murray, former advisor of Corbyn and member of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, who seems to be centrally involved in Collective. Either way we doubt very much that the final outcome will be a properly democratic organisation. Maybe it will be something along the lines of Momentum with its referendums, atomised membership and insipid politics ... but with the addition of standing in public elections.

Frankly, we deserve better.

  1. Tweet, February 9 2023.↩︎

  2. www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxBEaJWJNJk.↩︎

  3. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/04/keir-starmer-labour-leader-committing-policies-the-left.↩︎

  4. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/01/corbyn-staying-not-good-enough.↩︎

  5. theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2016/dec/07/momentum-hope-saved-saboteurs-sectarian-labour.↩︎

  6. www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlZ7Zcoi8wU.↩︎

  7. wedeservebetter.uk/committee.↩︎

  8. twitter.com/paulmasonnews/status/1771493643062333924.↩︎

  9. skwawkbox.org/2024/03/26/exclusive-listen-to-paul-masons-pro-starmer-israel-meltdown-in-full.↩︎

  10. htsf.substack.com/p/uk-defence-spending-debate-gets-real.↩︎

  11. www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13231515/Former-BBC-journalist-touted-Labours-best-chance-unseat-Jeremy-Corbyn-General-Election.html.↩︎

  12. www.gndrising.org.↩︎

  13. labourlist.org/2016/09/terrorism-trident-and-veterans-place-in-labour-clive-lewis-speech.↩︎

  14. ‘Where next for left?’ Weekly Worker March 7: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1481/where-next-for-left.↩︎