Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Reflection on the Parliamentary Labour Party

A re-blog from the Artist formerly known as Splinty.

A thought:

For almost the whole of Labour's history, the party's Right has had a deathlock on the leadership, and dominated the PLP. But it didn't use to be totally dominant at the top, and we're now seeing some of the effects of that long-term dominance since 1994.

To take a very obvious recent example, the fact that 36% of Labour voters voted Leave is completely unsurprising; there's always been a stubborn third or so of Labour voters who were Eurosceptic, and at times it's been higher than that. Corbyn's "Reluctant Remain" position actually puts him much closer to the centre of gravity of Labour voters than, say, someone like Eddie Izzard who *loves* the EU and all its works.

(Actually, I suspect that in his heart Jeremy would have preferred to vote Leave, and if he'd taken that position it could have transformed the atmosphere. But his weak position in the PLP wouldn't allow him to.)

Anyway, my point is that there's a very large Eurosceptic chunk of Labour's constituency that is almost completely unrepresented in the PLP. You don't, any more, have leading figures like Tony Benn or Peter Shore in the Brexit camp. You've got some elderly leftists like Dennis Skinner, some backbench mavericks like Gisela Stuart and Frank Field, and that's it. My point being: the PLP is wildly unrepresentative of its voters on this issue.

That's a single issue, but something similar applies to the Left-Right division in the party. Okay, in the 1990s and 2000s the Labour Left was ageing and in serious long-term decline. I wouldn't have expected there to be a hundred MPs in the Campaign Group. The momentum and balance of opinion was clearly on the Blair/Brown side.

But the Blair/Brown duopoly - leaving aside all their feuds with each other - were extremely efficient and ruthless in monopolising parliamentary selections. A few mavericks slipped through the net in 1997, in seats Labour didn't expect to win, but the next three were very tightly controlled, and the only issue was whether it would be Blairites (via Progress) or Brownites (via union-based fixers like Watson) who would get nominated. You only start to see this change in 2015, when Ed Miliband's loosening of discipline again allowed some interesting people to slip through.

So we'd reached a point where, in Parliament at least, the Labour Left was reduced to a small number of mostly elderly MPs. The Right didn't need to fight them any more; they assumed they just had to wait for them to die out.

But at the grassroots things weren't quite so dead, even before the huge influx of new members in 2015. We saw some of this in 2010, when (from the PLP's point of view) the members elected the wrong Miliband brother. Now, Ed was never very far to the Left - at best he did a good impersonation of a social democrat - but still, they were stunningly disloyal to him. Poor, inoffensive Ed Miliband.

The situation now is that the disconnect has reached a real extreme. I have no idea what the PLP majority are going to do next. I don't actually think *they* know what to do next. Complicating things is the fact that, if they manage to get rid of Jeremy, they're split into factions that hate each other so much, they'll immediately be at each other's throats.

I mentioned the Major government, but in some ways it's a bit like the Tory parliamentary party under IDS. Except that there's no Michael Howard waiting in the wings - and if they think someone as notoriously sulphurous as Yvette Cooper can be a unity candidate, they really are bonkers.

Perhaps there's something more to it that the PLP being ideologically and sociologically disconnected from the base. I think a good part of the problem is that so many of them have followed the same career path from the National Union of Students via non-job sinecures in the third sector into Parliament, that they've very limited experience of the real world. Factional infighting is all they really know how to do.

That, really, is it. Corbyn's reheated 1980s Bennism may not be the answer. But I'm pretty sure that a Labour Party led by the 1994 NUS executive definitely isn't the answer. Put those guys in charge, and you may as well hand dozens of seats over to Nigel Farage, free of charge.

My $0.02, anyway.


BCFG said...

This is how disgusting the Blairites are and the depths they will sink to to get their way.

One MP stormed out of the anti Semitism investigation because someone in the audience said there was a media conspiracy against Corbyn. An evident fact for anyone with half a brain that no serious person can deny. But this opportunist MP decided to to leap at the chance to cheaply link the word conspiracy with anti Semitism, so media conspiracy gets transformed into Jewish bankers ruling the world conspiracy.

This really is a disgusting and desperate attempt to undermine Corbyn by linking him with anti Semitism in the most patently ridiculous way.

How can we take anti Semtism seriously when the Blairite MP's will use it this most ridiculous way just in an attempt to undermine Corbyn.

These MP's really are beyond the pale.

They ALL have to go, before they sink any lower.

Troy said...

It's a very interesting point of view that you've put forth there. Whilst I am dubious about JC's actual wishes over what to vote for (he cannot claim to follow the wishes of the grassroots when it comes to not resigning, yet yield to the PLP on something so important for generations), that last paragraph really defines the nail waiting to be struck into a coffin.

There are more factions and objectives in the Labour movement than protagonists in a global war; with the 'I am grassroots' supporters sometimes seeming to think that Labour MP's are there to represent only Labour voters, with Labour MP's sometimes thinking that they are the policy-setters of the movement, and JC - who seems to be intent on causing a split between the beliefs of the Labour Movement and the aspirations to Labour government.

Many comments I have seen on social media and news sites seem to be attacking the PLP for disloyalty. Surely, they should be acting in accordance with their own beliefs and in the best interests of their constituents? There is no evidence that they are not. After all, when faced with a conflict of party expectations and your own conscience you can ask what JC would do - and he demonstrated where he stood on that idea by not voting as the party wished.

A disorganised, witch-hunting Labour Party manically deselecting MP's who don't agree with the boss will be labelled as a tyranny and will push people away from what should be a proletarian party into the arms of the most rabid right.

I think it's recognition of that risk - which does no favours to the Conservatives - that caused David Cameron's comments about resignation.

Thanks for some greate food for thought.

Igor Belanov said...

'A disorganised, witch-hunting Labour Party manically deselecting MP's who don't agree with the BOSS will be labelled as a tyranny and will push people away from what should be a proletarian party into the arms of the most rabid right.'

By BOSS I think you should say MEMBERS.

Much better to let the current MPs decide who should be a parliamentary candidate. Not tyranny, but certainly oligarchy. It's always good to have a 'proletarian party' that prevents the proletariat having a say over its affairs, but I think Stalin got their first, so it's not original.

Troy said...

'By BOSS I think you should say MEMBERS'.

I thought about it, but really it's not the membership that MP's disagree with per se. They disagree with Jeremy Corbyn leading after he has spent time in leadership during the most important cross=party campaign in decades.

The Party membership selected all those MPs in theory. Now the party is saying that they are all traitors who should not be there? If so, it is not because the MP's have all changed into traitorous monsters seeking career enhancement. It's because the party membership has changed. It is yet to be demonstrated that the massive influx of £3 a vote members are adherents to and believers in a Labour future.

The party selects who it offers up at general and local election. It would make more sense for a leader to be selected from and by those elected.

Direct elections are likely to jar badly in a representative democracy. I would hate to see the UK parliament change to a system where we have a President and they sit constantly at odds with the House because we have a wider political spectrum than the US.

MikeB said...

Troy - as Phil's excellent OP points out, when the Blair cabal determined that it would take control of candidate selection and approval, the PLP became a self-perpetuating oligarchy.

You became a prospective Labour Party candidate on the basis that you fit in with the walworth Road mandarins. They wanted 'people like us' who would owe their careers and their loyalty to those same fixers, and not to their class, the wider Party or their consituents. The existing PLP still reflects that legacy.Only 9% of Labour MPs elected in 2010 were from manual work backgrounds compared with 29% from politics and the media.

So you are right to say that they haven't become 'traitorous monsters seeking career enhancement' overnight. They were never socialists in the first place, and are simply taking the first opportunity to restore the status quo.

BCFG said...

Troy - your attempt to justify this is feeble in the extreme.

No party, whether bourgeois or proletarian can have a situation where the leader from day one is continually undermined by the MP's. the idea is that MP's are the representatives that we send to parliament. The we is the members. the members, as the election and every goddam pol since has shown are very much in steo with the views of Corbyn and reject the long discredit third wayism of New Labour. A third way that has led to levels of inequality not seen since the mill onwers were throwing children under machines. So the MP's are against the members.

Labour has always but always treated the left of the party as a useful idiot and a token, but has always understood that they must be a small %. The tables have now turned, the party has swung to modest social democracy and therefore for the party to rmain functional it is now the right who must be the useful idiots and must play the role of tokens. They must be that ting minority.

So what MUST happen is that the Labour party must have representatives who actually represent the interests of the party and not what we have currently, MP's who represent the comfortable Middle classes most of these MP's spring from.

Corbyn also needs to ensure that any future leadership campaign will include on the ballot a leader who the members can get behind, i.e. at least one who isn't a Blairite.

The only way to future proof the Labour party to ensure it doesn't sink into a dictatorship of the Blairite cabal is to ensure a massive purge of all the traitorous MP's and replace them with people who can properly represent the party. If Corbyn doesn't do this then when he is gone they will never ever allow another modest social democrat to ever stand again.

Because if the Blairites get their way Labour will forever more be a party speaking for the narrow interests of the establishment, a tyranny in other words. A party where only those subscribing to a narrow set of neo-liberal views can lead the party.

Not a broad church as the Blairites laughably claim but there way or chaos and disorder.

Let the purges start now!

Show some balls Corbyn!

Chris said...

The MPs are gone.

They no longer have anything to do with Labour besides the name. It would not be a witch hunt to deselect the majority of them. It would be perfectly sensible.

I don't care if we lose most of our seats in the process. We can't achieve anything with these MPs anyway. Those MPs do nothing for working class people.

We need to go back to 1900 and start again.