Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Eagle Has Floundered

After the dithering, Angela Eagle has finally confirmed she's standing for leader. Looking tentative and uncertain on both Peston and The Sunday Politics, Angela hardly cut the most convincing of figures. Perhaps because she knows this is a poisoned chalice condemning her to eternal toxicity by a segment of labour movement opinion - a fate few on the left would relish. Her leadership bid raises a number of questions, such as why now, why her, and what she hopes to achieve.

The now is pretty straightforward. Her announcement coupled with the unilateral suspension of talks between the big unions and Tom Watson indicates that they, as representatives of the PLP majority, are pretty confident that Jeremy will have to find the 51 nominations to stand. I'm not so sure about this because the rules, while not entirely crystal, aren't the ambiguous mess we're led to believe they are. Indeed, leaving aside for the moment the idea that keeping Jeremy off the ballot would tear the party asunder as the unions - rightly - take umbrage at the anti-democratic character of such a move, if constitutional shenanigans do indeed cast him to the further reaches of the backbenches then the leadership election could easily descend into chaos. With the biggest beast gone, those reticent about contesting now will throw their hats into the ring. And that's quite a few people. The, I'm sorry to say, almost entirely anonymous Owen Smith would put himself up. As would individuals and multiples each from the continuity Blair and Brown tendencies, the soft left and, who knows, perhaps a more palatable hard left figure. The ballot threshold means only four, theoretically, could make the cut, so expect a few bun fights and awkwardness as Angela comes under pressure to withdraw or finds her 51 MPs deserting her.

Assuming constitutional niceties are observed and should Angela win, the knives would be out almost immediately. And it wouldn't be just-defeated Corbynites preparing to get shut. The MPs to watch are those who've systematically undermined Jeremy from day one. The problem with Angela is as a leadership figure she's not terribly convincing. Like most sad Westminster watchers, I've found her performances at the dispatch box good fun. Every time she's gone up against Osborne, she managed to nail his slippery, jelly-like carcass to the wall. But what works in the chamber doesn't always travel well in the real world. Last year during the deputy leadership hustings, Angela compared poorly against the more polished candidates. Similarly, unlike the the dread Leadsom, her outing during the first televised EU Referendum debate did not draw 'leader-in-waiting' epithets. Polish doesn't matter to me, but it does to others, including some of her present fair weather friends in the PLP. With Jez out the way, how long will it be before they start briefing against her? "She's not up to it." "She doesn't resonate with the voters." "We need a credible leader." You can begin writing the script now. She knows this, of course. She is an instrument, a wedge designed to crowbar Jeremy out of the leader's office. The issue is how can she then step down after having done the deed without causing the party and her friends severe reputational damage. If this has been given some thought, there is no evidence of it as they haven't considered whether members, the unions, and the public would be a-okay with this re-enactment of the PLP's student days.

Why has she decided to bite the bullet then? Having asked around and spoken to a few folks, while there was a coup plot that some were in on, there were others who resigned spontaneously in protest against the character of Jeremy's leadership. To suggest all PLP members are Machiavellian geniuses is to afford them too much credit. Jibes aside there is a genuine mood among some MPs that Jez is just not up to it. To me, it appears Eagle is less ideologically motivated and more governed by practical concerns as she sees them. For her, standing is an act of duty whereas in the case of Owen Smith (again, who he?) it's more a matter of emulating Andy Burnham of the 2010 vintage and getting his name known. While I think her motives are genuine, there is a price to pay. She can probably live with her name becoming mud for Labour lefties, but it could cut her career short. When the time comes for the trigger ballots, not a few branches will get itchy and want full reselections for a good chunk of the PLP. And at the top of that list will be Angela. Possible deselection would have entered her concerns, and I don't doubt some deal has been done so she can later wash up in the Lords, or on the boards of a few Labour-friendly businesses. Or perhaps future high office has been promised in the unlikely event of winning and then standing aside.

The problem with discussing hypotheticals, of course, is they won't necessarily come to pass. And it's difficult to see how in a straight up contest between her and Jeremy how she can win. The only way is by swamping Jeremy's numbers, who grow by the day. For every previous supporter who has come to the same conclusion as Angela and will be voting against, there are others who didn't vote for him last time but are so outraged by the behaviour of the MPs that they are prepared to do so on this occasion. Perhaps Team Eagle can swoop down on wards and constituencies across the land and start out-recruiting Jeremy. The problem there is they've had nine months with nary a move to pick up more centrist and, generally speaking, less politically involved members. Colour me sceptical on that one. And then what happens after Angela loses? Are the PLP going to carry on their strike action? Will the moaners who've been whispering to the press about a new centre party with Remain Tories going to make good their threat? Whatever, the outcome will not be a happy one.

The sombre awkwardness of her leadership launch this morning doesn't suggest to me the kind of candidature likely to be going places. After circling for more than a week, it's not looking good for Angela. To put it simply, the Eagle has floundered.


Paul Trembath said...

It's really hard to believe that anyone resigned "spontaneously" every hour, on the hour. Which is not to say that many of them don't genuinely believe their actions serve a higher purpose, even if I think they're deeply misguided.

Strategist said...

>>>I'm not so sure about this because the rules, while not entirely crystal, aren't the ambiguous mess we're led to believe they are.

They are perfectly crystal clear for the circumstances. Where there is no vacancy, the challenger candidate needs a nomination of 20% of the PLP. It is perfectly clear that this wording makes the assumption that the incumbent leader is automatically on the ballot paper.

This stuff about 'ambiguous mess' is just spin. Spin from the same people who spun their way into the paramount war crime, and didn't stop spinning when 13 years later a giant inquiry came to the conclusion that they were a bunch of shameless liars.

Speedy said...

While I appreciate there are some supposed Labour supporters who want Jez to stay in charge at all costs - so they can carp from the sidelines in eternal opposition - for the rest of us, it must be evident that any Jez-led party would lose a general election, never mind the by-election results.

This is not business as usual. These are "terrible times" as Stephen Patrick Morrissey might say. The scale of the UK's true fucked-ness is monumental. It might not seem like it now, but the impact of Brexit will deliver a profound blow on almost every aspect of UK life that is important - a 5 per cent drop in GDP, as forecast, will leave the country poorer, more desperate, and more divided.

I realise this is precisely the catastrophe that many on the hard left pray for - to drive the proles into their arms - but it ain't going to happen.

Oh, what's the point.... deluded to the right, deluded to the left. This is the delayed trauma of the loss of "greatness" - and too right, a decadence, but not just the Tories, that runs through society.

Boffy said...


I think you are being too generous to Eagle and others in the PLP.

As I wrote the other day - Where Eagle Dares - she has form. In 1987, my old friend and comrade Lol Duffy, came within 279 votes of unseating the Tory Lynda Chalker in the Wallasey seat. It has been a safe seat since 1918. Lol and others increased the party membership and activity massively. They increased the Labour vote by 39%.

Throughout the campaign, Lol as the official Labour candidate, was undermined by the national Labour leadership around Kinnock, and locally by the odious Frank Field. Despite coming so close and having such a dramatic impact, after the election, the Labour apparatus moved to suspend Lol, and to close down the CLP.

Angela Eagle was then imposed upon the Wallasey constituency, by the national Labour leadership. It set a pattern for the actions of Blair and Brown in later years, which is why we now have a PLP made up of careerists imposed by the party apparatus, rather than reflective of Labour members, or voters.

The PLP plotters must know that their scheme is doomed, however removed from reality they are. This is not the 1980's/90's. They have no base in the CLP's, as the fact that Eagle's own CLP and Branch has shown by passing resolutions backing Corbyn. That Eagle ignored those resolutions shows the contempt with which they hold the members, as does her ridiculous claim on Peston that the vote was down to just a handful of "troublemakers"!

The real plan rather here seems to be for them to grab the official Labour Party label, as they splinter away, possibly to join up with disgruntled Tories, and with the Liberals. But, first I doubt they will get the label, and secondly, if they did they would have so tarnished it that it would be worthless to them.

Their antics have meant that any splinter they form will have no base in the country, and no support from the trades unions.

MikeB said...

I think Boffy is broadly right, and if Eagle fails, the PLP will simply try again and again until they recapture the leadership.

The support base for Corbyn within the Labour movement is highly susceptible to the arguments about "electability". Meanwhile, if it wasn't already clear, the Brexit vote proved that the working class (and young people) have largely abandoned party politics.

Some of them had seen Corbyn as a faint possibility that things could be different. But after the referendum defeat, I have spoken to many who say that Corbyn's showing in the referendum has disillusioned them.

We have to catch up with this disillusionment by proposing a radical post-EU vision - against TTIP and neoliberal trade agreements, pro-environment, anti-austerity, pro-tolerance etc.

Keith Savage said...

I don't think a Corbyn-led party is necessarily less electable than, say, a Hilary Benn one. Nor do I subscribe to the view that Corbyn wants only to be involved in protest oppositional politics. The problem for any Labour leader is twofold I think: How do you address the anger and political disillusionment of large sections of the white working class? Secondly, Corbyn needs to get beyond talking about poverty and inequality - that is not the experience of everyone (thank goodness).

Personality not policy said...

I have also spoken to many Corbyn supporters and they do not blame Corbyn for the EU vote, rather Blairites Murdoch\Racist apologists. Corbyn's reasoning was perfectly straightforward, it is just you can't u do decades of conditions in in 9 months, and with an hostile media and even more hostile embittered Blairites losers this made the job all the more difficult.

Still give him to e and we may well see the nation move in a progressive direction and undo the great damage inflicted on us by war criminal Blair and his cabinet of criminal murderers. Actually if there was any justice there would be very few Blairites left to challenge Corbyn, as they would have been lethally injected by now. But alas justice only comes to those who the I imperialists dictate.

Eagle is a patsy, the real players will come forward soon enough, you know the losers that are Burnham and Cooper. Slippery as an eel in shit, both of them.

Personality not policy said...

Given that the Blairites believe Corbyn does not have the x-factor, those special leadership qualities. He is too scruffy, needs a suit etc. Well in that case I strongly suggest that Eagle urgently seeks the assistance of an hairdresser and if this doesn't sound too harsh maybe a very skilled plastic surgeon. Though we have to accept that even the most skilled plastic surgeon is not a miracle worker!

She should at least ditch the female Boris Johnson impersonations.