Thursday, 6 November 2014

Labour's Leadership Woes

In a little over two weeks' time, the Prime Minister is going to be plunged into the biggest party management crisis his leadership has seen when Mark Reckless wins Rochester and Strood. It will be the Tories Yellowstone moment. UKIP's by-election victory would be one tremor too many. The ground will erupt with hundreds of cubic kilometres of molten bile, showering the government with a fallout so catastrophic and deep that the Conservative Party cannot simply bounce back from. Good times. Yet while the abyss continues casting seductive glances Tories are finding difficult to resist, we find opposition benches beset with woe and grumbling. At least so says the BBC. The latest is two (naturally) unnamed disgruntled MPs putting about their discontent, calling for him to go, and claiming backbenchers are openly gossiping about Ed Miliband. Whoopie-doo. Show me a party leader backbenchers don't gossip about.

And that's British politics at the moment. One party heading for a meltdown and another with a smattering of MPs determined to cause one. Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.

But look. Ed Miliband's not about to lay down his office. The Labour leadership is not going to change this side of the general election. And here's why.

1. Labour's unity, despite the best efforts of lobby hacks and continuity Blairites, is real. Yeah there's griping and grousing. When union leaders make some criticisms, it's supposedly evidence of an insurmountable gulf between the labour movement's industrial and political wings. Yet all wings of the party realise that to lapse into infighting now would flush the election down the bog. Which is why our "unnamed MPs" prefer to skulk in the shadows. The costs to their less-than-illustrious careers and, perhaps, chances of reselection would be very expensive indeed.

2. Labour is not the Tory party. One cannot depose the leader in a palace coup and have a newbie in place before Christmas. If Ed goes, there's the protracted process of mustering support in the electoral college and then the rigmarole of PLP, membership, and affiliate ballots. Remember, the Collins report doesn't come into force until after the general election. Who possibly gains from a Labour party turned inwards during the crucial months of the long campaign? I wonder.

3. Want to change the leader? Beware the law of unintended consequences. Imagine what the unlikely event of a PLP rebellion forcing Ed from office would say to the membership and our affiliates. Yes, we'll take your cash. We'll have your evenings and Saturday mornings. But we don't want your democratic decision-making, thanks. Whatever one thinks of the electoral college, Ed won the vote fair and square. Do the moaners and the whingers think members who quite like the very modest steps Labour have made to the left will simply swallow their leader's defenestration? Do they suppose the affiliated trade union leaders, the bulk of whom endorsed Ed are going to sit idly by?

Are there problems with Labour's leadership? Yes, of course. But sorting it out cannot be short-circuited by throwing Ed under the nearest Routemaster. It requires a change of political tack and an understanding of what the Labour party is for. That way the road to victory lies.


George Hallam said...

Labour have nothing to offer the people of Rochester and Strood. This is why People Before Profit are standing Nick Long as a candidate.

We are a locally based party but we have proved in Lewisham that we can win the trust of ordinary people.

Anonymous said...

I saw Tristam Hunt on Question Time last week.

The kind of performance that makes you think, 'what is the effing point of the Labour Party?'

No wonder many Labour Party members and supporters have their heads in their hands.

Lucas was very good. It is incredible that some in the Labour Party would rather have a tepid Labour technocrat in her seat than have an MP like her speaking in ways that enthuse many on the left.