IN 2016, I joined the Labour Party. It was a decision I wrestled with – although naturally sympathetic towards Labour in its centrist form, I’ve always believed journalists shouldn’t be joiners. Independence of thought and practice – what Graham Greene called the “splinter of ice in the heart” – is the writer’s most precious possession. There are times you need to wield the blade, and that’s easier to do if you’re free.

That June, Jeremy Corbyn found himself facing a leadership challenge less than a year after being elected to the post. His short reign had been marked by one calamity after another. He had failed to use the weight of his office to campaign for a Remain vote in the Brexit referendum. As a hopeless Tory Government flailed around in the wake of the referendum’s surprise outcome, he showed no capability of or interest in holding it to account. He clearly wasn’t up to it. Labour MPs passed a motion of no confidence in him by 172 votes to 40.

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Britain needed – needs – not just an effective and mainstream Labour Party, but an effective and mainstream official Opposition. It has never needed it more. It was this, more than the silly juvenilia that makes up the hard Left’s political credo, that convinced me to break my iron rule. It felt less like a choice than a patriotic duty. Corbyn and his useless coterie of privately-educated Marxists had to go.

It didn’t work out, obviously. The cult was too strong – as with Donald Trump, there were too many fanboys caught up in self-important, quasi-religious rapture –and he was, disastrously, re-elected that September. I cancelled my direct debit immediately.

But here’s the thing: however briefly it lasted, I liked being a part of Labour. I’ve kept my membership card, and have it in front of me now: number L1484592. When that small red rectangle arrived in the post I understood the seductive pull of belonging to a noble cause – to carry in your wallet something that connects you directly to Hardie, Attlee, Bevin, Gaitskell, Healey and Blair is no small thing. To be one digit among many that in their totality form one of history’s great social movements provides a real charge to your sense of yourself. Solidarity is a cool feeling.

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And so I think I understand at least a little why today so many good people find themselves unable to walk away from Labour. Those moderates who have devoted their adult lives to the cause still cannot come to terms with the hard-Left coup. They think they will in time regain control and just have to wait it out. They can’t give up on Labour any more than they could give up on a son or daughter who had gone wildly off the tracks.

There is a problem, though. Their Labour no longer exists. The people are being cleared out. The rules are being rewritten. The locks are being changed. This Labour – Corbyn’s Labour, John McDonnell’s Labour, Jon Lansman’s Labour, Len McCluskey’s Labour, Seumas Milne’s Labour, for they are the masters now – is a grotesque bastardisation of what once was. This Labour is a moral black-hole, an apologist for many of the world’s worst regimes and a defender of anti-Western sentiment. This Labour is firmly in the grip of people who, for good reason, were previously banished to the fringes, and they’re not giving it back.

This Labour is so toxic, so bereft of decency, that it tries to excuse foreign powers carrying out hit jobs on Britain’s streets, and caused Britain’s Jews to gather outside Westminster last night to protest the anti-Semitism that now runs like an open sewer through the party. An open letter from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council declared that “enough is enough”. “Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.” It is, remember, just 70 years since the Holocaust – no time at all. How on earth has Labour got itself into this grisly state? How can those good people tolerate being associated with it?

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The usual suspects have tweeted their horror, of course: the Chukas and Yvettes, the moderate former Cabinet ministers and frontbenchers who have seen their careers derailed by the Corbyn ascendancy. Indeed, they regularly share with us on social media their frustration and disagreement with the party leadership. Many of them turned out in Parliament Square last night.

But in the end, their words must count for less than their actions. For them, Corbyn and the worldview he represents are demonstrably not beyond the pale – how can they be, if they accept him as their leader? They will campaign at the next General Election for a Labour government led by Corbyn and McDonnell, in full awareness of what those men believe and the damage they could do. They continue to sit meekly behind this front bench, legitimising it through their presence and timidity. There is something overpoweringly unpleasant in the self-justification and shabby contortions that accompany such choices. Meanwhile, Jews feel they have no choice but to take to the streets.

These MPs could have resigned the whip, they could have sat as a separate block in the Commons, they could have moved to set up a new party, they could have openly, loudly, consistently and jointly denounced what has been done to their party and refused to lend their name or their presence. They’ve done none of these things, and it will not be easy to forgive them.

As I say, I’ve kept hold my Labour Party membership card. In a hotel room last week, I stuck it in the slot that turned the lights on. At least it’s still useful for something.