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.