While there were some lines to warm bitter hearts among the PLP's ranks ("Corbyn has no vision for the future of Britain. He offers no beacon to light the way. Politically, he has the candlepower of a glow-worm"), the article is wishful thinking wrapped in illusion. After establishing how awful Jeremy is, Joe indulges the first of his constructs. Jeremy didn't win a majority among the full members, though romped home easily in the registered supporters and affiliates section. So there. Yes, that's right, but to hang significance on missing an absolute majority by half a percentage point is silly, especially as that tiny deficit has been more than made up in the months since. Since the announcement of the results, party membership has swelled again by some 50,000 or so people. And with a handful of centre and right people giving up, Jeremy's support is stronger than ever. Any strategy grasping on a statistic that meant nothing then, and has no utility at all now is something of a non-starter. However, that said, Joe then plays what he thinks is his trump card:
But let’s deal with reality: Corbyn’s total vote was just over 251,000; in other words, approximately one in every 183 people on the electoral register (46 million) voted for him, or 0.5 per cent. In relation to the next general election, that is the only statistic that matters and it should be compared to the nearly 9.35 million who voted Labour last May. The strength of the party lies in the nine million-odd, not the 251,000, and that figure will be dissipated at our peril.Joe falls for the that old Westminster phantasm: constitutional cretinism. We've been here before fairly recently thanks to Mike Gapes, who made the running with a similar argument. Firstly, Joe is not comparing like with like. The nine million plus Labour voters are, in the main, an amorphous mass who happened to have voted Labour back in May. They are numbers on a spreadsheet, not a movement actively engaged in the making and remaking of politics. In substantive terms, they mean nothing outside of an election. They're a comfort blanket for some (not all) of Jeremy's opponents who think in the real world of politics that the members are a necessary inconvenience. Secondly, the PLP as an institution in opposition hardly has the latent power of the trade union movement. As Labour MPs will tell you, being in opposition is crap because there are few chances to check the government and see measures they support pass onto the statue books. Meanwhile, next week junior doctors are going to lead a partial shut down of the NHS. Can Labour MPs do that? Last week, Arriva train drivers wiped out the railways in Wales when they took action. Can Labour MPs do that? At some point, a dispute is inevitable between Transport for London and the Underground workers which will see the network judder to a halt. Can Labour MPs do that? We live in a political system where the average council leader has more power than an individual backbench MP. The PLP's power in opposition is a constitutional contrivance, and an article of faith for those who - for whatever reason - are blind to the substantive exercise of power by those who do not sit on the green benches. And there's also the small matter of the unions supporting the party. While they can carry on without Labour, it's hard to see how the party could do without the unions. In the unlikely event of Jeremy getting deposed, the unions are unlikely to let matters lie - despite occasional spats over Trident between the leader and Unite, and what have you.
It is the Parliamentary Labour Party that represents the Labour vote in Britain, not the 423,000 people, including the ragbag of “registered supporters”, who voted in the leadership contest. And it is up to the PLP to do something about it. Theirs is the true legitimacy. The parliamentary party is the most powerful force in the labour movement, far stronger than the total union membership, a significant part of which doesn’t vote for us anyway.
... Remember, the PLP cannot be dictated to within the party by any outside body. If the MPs decide they want to elect their own leader of the PLP they can do so. Jeremy Corbyn would be entitled to stand, though he might think it wiser not to do so, recalling that he would not have got on to the ballot in September ... He will argue strongly that the PLP is splitting the party, but if the majority of Labour MPs who voted against him in the leadership stood together, it would be he and his loyalists who would be the splitters. His 251,000 would not stand a chance against the representatives of the 9.35 million.
Lastly, returning to those pesky members, while the electorate in the constituency are sovereign in the formal sense, in the real world, for many Labour MPs, sovereignty lies in the constituency party. In whole swathes of the country - and this applies for plenty of Tories as well - the election is the easy part. The selection is the real hurdle. The safer the seat, the more empowered the local party is. Joe is aware of this issue, but dismisses it. However, deselection is a very real threat to a great many Labour MPs thanks to the government's boundary review. You'll have situations where sitting MP faces sitting MP, and complicating matters will be locals locked out of contention by the party machinery past seizing their chances. It's mandatory reselection in anything but name.
This doesn't rule out a PLP coup against Jeremy, but political realities - you know, what the right have historically exhorted party members to face up to - makes one so incredibly unlikely that it only works as a thought experiment. And then you have to draw on fairy tales flattering the PLP's strength, big up the significance of passive voters who pay scant attention to politics between elections, and by ignoring the elementary features of the labour movement. With due respect to Joe, his broadside was all piss and wind. Writing as a Jeremy-sceptic, the only sensible course it to let the Corbyn project play itself out. That is what the party wants.