Friday 23 September 2016

Now What for the Labour Establishment?

Unless the entirely unexpected happens - not a first for 2016 - Jeremy Corbyn is set to be reconfirmed as Labour leader tomorrow morning. As that announcement is made, a section of the party will plunge into abject despair. Some shall leave (though I hope most stay), and others must have a serious think about what they do in the party now. Just like the left has done for the majority of Labour's history, in fact. For the most visible wing of our party's establishment Jez-sceptics, the Parliamentary Labour Party, this casting about for purpose and direction is set to play out publicly. In fact, the truth is on this issue the PLP are very divided. Uniting them was an alliance of convenience. Jeremy achieved unity, alright: he firmed it up among his opponents. But as the reality of the leader's win sinks in and his position strengthened, that glue forged in a common opposition could come unstuck. Indeed, following a week of rumour and petulant declarations, the PLP's differences over "managing" Jeremy are likely to come to the fore, and it won't be long until they rub up against each other in tension.

You can discern four tendencies among our Westminster cohort and these have more or less been around since the beginning of Jez's time in office. The main difference between then and now is the reality of the new (with a small n) Labour Party weighs heavy on their thinking. The first of these factions are typified by those Dan Jarvis rumours, that former shadcab members who earlier resigned on the hour, every hour back in June are coming back to serve for the good of the party. That some are willing to put aside very serious reservations and criticism to ensure we have a functioning front bench is welcome, even if one or two might be doing so with an eye to the leader's job themselves.

The second and third groups differ in that they're not reconciled to the new reality (which, to be truthful, is the same as the old new reality), but share a certain quietude. The more obviously defeated and despairing of the two feel like the stuffing's got knocked out of them. Everything is hopeless, there's very little point, so one might as well focus on survival. Local politics, the love-bombing-the-CLP thing, and clearing up dog shit has never looked so important. Heads down at Westminster but heads up in one's patch, the invisibility in one is in proportion to the visibility in the other. Give it a couple of years and a few local campaigns for local people later, and perhaps the selectorate shall forget previous things said and done.

It's the other group Jeremy and friends must pay some attention to. This is the section of the party establishment in it for the long haul. Set to be weakened by a slew of members resigning in a fit of pique, their game is to build up a head of steam around a set of policies and values they believe pass the "electability" test. It will be critical but a touch more constructive than the recent nonsense, using debate rather than chicanery, and recruitment over stitch up, or, to be more accurate, be seen to be doing things this way. In short, for them it is a long march through the institutions, a Gramscian slog for position over direct, frontal assaults.

And lastly, it's our rather boring self-publicising chums from core group hostile. If they had political nous and an instinct for self-preservation, they too would recognise that a period of silence is necessary. Or perhaps for the good of everyone if they learned to sublimate their anger and turn it outwards against the Tories. Lest we forget, they're the ones responsible for Brexit. They're the ones who threaten to permanently weaken the British economy while doing untold damage to our social fabric. The usual suspects have gone quiet of late, though Alan Johnson has talked a good rebellion this last week. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but the penny might well have dropped: constantly running to the press and slagging the leader off in public doesn't make one's position or politics stronger in the party. In fact, it invites its very opposite.

With our overlapping but discernible factions, the question now is how much they work at cross purposes to one another. Continued backbench sniping might inconvenience the leadership, but it might jeopardise the work done by shadcab members trying to make it work. Is the latter likely to look upon this assistance favourably? Likewise, shadcabs and hostiles might appeal to the heads down brigade for assistance with this, that, or the other, and might not find it forthcoming thanks to timidity/disinterest. Not the recipe for a happy family. And already, the unity is cracking. Chuka Umunna wants the Home Affairs Select Committee, probably as part of the shadow shadow cabinet wheeze some are wedded to but, ooops, so does Yvette Cooper. Two leading "moderates" openly scrapping for position isn't the most seemly of sights.

That is where the Labour establishment is. Dethroned and declassed, which way they'll go no one knows. Eternal rebellion, non-cooperation, and deselection. Or cooperation, stabilisation, and survival. What is it to be?


Metatone said...

Yes Minister quote comes to mind: "In defeat, malice. In victory, revenge."

Boffy said...

Apparently Gordon Brown has come out to advise MP's to stay and return to the Front Bench. The only reason I can see for JC taking some back is tactical and short term.

The right know they have no options outside Labour at the moment. That doesn't mean they don't have a longer term perspective. Look at some of the recent commentary, for example on the misnamed "Left Foot Forward" about a Liberal resurgence. The Liberals are deader than the eponymous dead parrot, but they are massively over represented in the House of Lords, and like UKIP are given extensive coverage by the media, who also talk up such notions of a revival and the opportunity for the Labour Right to link up with them SDP style at some point. There is no resurgence, but that doesn't mean that another few months of operations by the Labour Right with media support cannot engender something that enables some kind of lash up.

Lenin advised flexible tactics. Throw your opponent off guard, by making very short term alliances with one section of them against another, and then switch sides and so on. The PLP proposal for elections to the Shadcam, is designed to isolate Corbyn. But, he could take a few back to break the ranks of the opposition, and then replace them in a few months time. They are careerists. Set them against each other in competition for these posts, but keep them weak.

In reality, we need very few Shadow Ministers, I reckon at most 10. Its only because politics has become a career that we are told that there has to be 100 front bench ministers. A part of the new politics should be to shrink the size of government, and to delegate many of those functions to wider society, and sections of the party outside Parliament. With half a million members and attendant resources that should be increasingly possible.

But, that means also democratising the Party and democratising Momentum. If it becomes just another vehicle for the sects to fish for members, and to play out their childish fantasies it will quickly go the way of the Socialist Alliance, the SSP and every other potentially forward movement that the sects have wrecked.

Anonymous said...

I suspect many MP's will adopt some form of neutrality. Stay on the back benches, dont criticise Corbyn - they made that mistake last time , dont rock the boat, work hard in Parliament holding the Govt to account and graft away in their constituencies.

If they are smart and want to retain credibility, thats what I think most will do. Corbyn wont suddenly have won their confidence and its highly unlikely he ever will. Sit back and wait for him to fail is I think the strategy that most will employ, which is really what they should have done from the outset last year.

They should also spend the time thinking hard about the kind of party they want and how Labour wins back power. The party desperately needs some fresh thinking in trying to work out the very serious predicament that it finds itself in.

Corbyn's victory doesn't move us any closer to finding an irresistible mix of an electorally attractive, genuinely transforming social democracy.


BCFG said...

By the looks of the interviews on the unfree media the Blairites will just continue with the tactic of sticking the knife into Corbyn at every opportunity and of course it goes without saying that the corrupt media will give them that platform.

If Corbyn fails o view the centre left as THE enemy he may as well step aside now.

jim mclean said...

"I feel a lot of love on this thread"

BCFG said...

There are literally no depths to which the Blairites will not plunge.

A Blairite Jewish Labour MP has said they will be bringing a minder to the labour party conference, inferring that Corbyn's supporters are the equivalent of Nazi Brown shirts and fascist street thugs! This is the disgusting face of the Blairite enemy, who will use anti Semitism as simply a stick to beat down its enemies. This is how seriously they take anti Semitism!

This is what we are up against, an enemy with a smiling face, an enemy that presents itself as the epitome of reasonableness, an enemy that claims it is being abused (see Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips), an enemy that claims it is a victim of evil forces (see Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips again), an enemy that knows no depths.

We can clearly see the new tactic of the Blairites, present anything that doesn't give the PLP total control over the party as bullying, anti Semitism, authoritarianism, infiltration etc etc etc.

Unfortunately, looking at the interviews some of Corbyn's supporters are staring into the smiling, reasonable face of the enemy (see Jess Phillips) and believing this smirking face of moral certainty can be reasoned with.


Speedy said...

It's funny how, after the murder of Jo Cox, BCFG should blame an MP like Jess Philips, who has received 25,000 abusive messages, of somehow manipulating this for her own purposes.

But not funny ha ha.

No wonder she feels she needs protection.

Anonymous said...

BCFG, if you dont think that abuse, bullying and intimidation isn't an everyday experience for many MP's - particularly women - then you really haven't been paying much attention. This is a real, serious issue in the party that shames us all. The fact that Corbyn has failed so lamentably to show support for his MP's, or to bring forward measures that would bring some of this stuff under control is one of the reasons that I regard him as being unfit to lead our party.


Igor Belanov said...

Fortunately there are big differences between disagreement, abuse and murder. If it gets to the stage where one is deemed equivalent or leading to the other, then politics is dead.

David Parry said...


'BCFG, if you dont think that abuse, bullying and intimidation isn't an everyday experience for many MP's - particularly women - then you really haven't been paying much attention.'

Speaking for myself, I'm sure that Labour MPs are indeed often on the receiving end of abusive behaviour. I'm equally sure that it isn't solely a case of abuse of anti-Corbyn MPs by pro-Corbyn grassroots members of the party and that much of the abuse that Labour MPs have received doesn't even originate from within the Labour party. I also know that MPs aren't always the victims of abuse, and are, on occasion, its perpetrators (cough, cough, Tom Blenkinstrop, cough, cough, John Mann, cough, cough).

'This is a real, serious issue in the party that shames us all.'

I've no doubt that it is. However, I'm also fairly certain that it's not limited to any faction of the party.

'The fact that Corbyn has failed so lamentably to show support for his MP's, or to bring forward measures that would bring some of this stuff under control is one of the reasons that I regard him as being unfit to lead our party.'

Why? Did you take the same position in relation to any other party leader? If not, then why not? After all, I'm pretty sure that Labour MPs being on the receiving end of abusive and intimidatory behaviour dates back rather further than 12th September 2015.

Could it be that you don't actually give a tinker's toss about the issue and are cynically exploiting it as a stick with which to bash Corbyn and his supporters? Hmmmm.