Monday 7 August 2017

Silly Season Factionalism

With silly season in full swing and without a factional Labour dispute in sight, it has become necessary to invent one. Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North and shadow fire safety spox yesterday tweeted that he was on his travels. This is what he had to say.

Not the sort of thing you'd expect to spark a factional kerfuffle, eh? But it has. Chris's tweet drew the following response from Lucy Powell.

Ah, jolly old Parliamentary convention. It's a big no-no for one member to visit the seat of another without informing them first. Especially if they sit for the same party in the Commons. Except there was no such breach of etiquette. As Chris himself explained:

Phew. Problem averted? Well, no.

Anna Turley of Redcar has taken exception. Not that she minds there's a Momentum group now set up that covers her constituency. She's been at pains to say that doesn't bother her. It's the principle of the thing. First it was an unannounced visit to her constituency, which didn't happen, and now it's the annoyance of another MP setting up a faction in her patch.

Okay, let's unwind the spool of the politics underpinning all of this. Let's start off with Parliamentary convention.

Yes, it is true that there is an expectation, not a rule mind, that when a MP visits the constituency of another in a political capacity of some sort, be it for the party or in an official role, the incumbent be notified. This convention however tends not to be strictly observed. During my time carrying bags, Stoke Central had not a few visits from ministers. Some of them notified us beforehand, others not. In the "not" category was the then Prime Minister. Likewise, as my MP was somewhat prominent there was a lot of demands for him to speak, and there were plenty of occasions when he did so. Were the sitting MPs of those seats religiously notified? Not at all.

As with a lot of things Jeremy Corbyn-related, minor issues are only matters of earnest principle when it suits. I don't mind Anna, and thought she did a very good job around the campaign to keep the Redcar steel works open. But her hurt behaviour reminds me of the sexism furore over the "four great offices of state". When Blair and Brown had men as PM, chancellor, home secretary, and foreign secretary there was nary a peep. When Corbyn didn't (initially) it was another example of Jeremy's "misogyny". Something tells me Anna wouldn't have minded not being informed had another MP rocked up in the constituency next door to address a Progress or Labour First meeting. Nor, if she wasn't bothered, would she have expended a great many tweets on the topic.

Ultimately, what Anna and Lucy's prickly response betrays is a deep unease a lot of Labour MPs feel. Corbynism hasn't won total control of the party yet, but the old certainties are on the retreat and the Labour right are falling back. Unable to out-recruit Corbynism and lacking a political rebuttal to the challenge it presents them, their anxiety over their future as Labour MPs finds expression in moaning on social media. Anna is definitely not the first, nor is she going to be the last.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MPs indignation whilst everyone else gets on with the business of real life- most of us don't have that time. How much do they get paid these days?