Tuesday 7 August 2018

Silly Season Centrism

It's generally advised to take the Daily Express's coverage of matters political with the seriousness of their weather forecasts. And yet their big splash today, 'Furious MPs vow to 'COLLAPSE' leadership at SECRET MEETINGS' is worth a look, even if just to laugh at the dramatic capitalisation. At a series of "away days", 12 "senior" Labour MPs have been yapping about their favourite topic - a new centre party - and strategising a way for them to take back the party. Because it's their party, after all.

Who are these people? Name checked are all the people who you would expect. Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Stephen Kinnock and, before he threw himself out of the window, John Woodcock. A proper roll call of the finest brains (well, in fact, the only brains) possessed by the Labour-in-name-only brigade, the cream of the crop of the four-and-a-half per cent'ers. Their cunning plan? Well, there's a bit of confusion. Inbetween the Express telling us what a lovely retreat Fair Oak Farm is ("£144/night ... wonderful gardens"), we see a mangled jostling of strategies One is about waiting for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership to collapse, and then step in and lead the party. Just like that. Another is to wait until Labour wins an election and then separate themselves off, torpedoing the prospect of a Labour government. Just like I said the other day, the left either takes them out now or we allow them to come at us when the power lies with them. And here they are confirming the point. From here they will hook up with remain Tories and the LibDems and presumably make waves with their new party. Though they cannot decide whether to hang on or launch sooner rather than later, to be a go-er before the election so they can build name recognition. Given their hapless confusionism, perhaps they'll take my advice? If any of you are reading this, please, please choose a name like Jolyon Maugham's 'Spring' or something suitably dynamic and progressive-sounding. 'Forward, Not Back' jumps to mind. Also get Blair to front it up - that will work a reet treat.

Later on in the piece, Chris Leslie admits the meetings have taken place but Jeremy Corbyn "didn't feature in the discussions". Of course he didn't, which only adds to an air of unreality about these proceedings. If you cast your minds back a year ago when despairing Blairist MPs thought it was game over, we had the first serious floating of a new centre party. And what a floater it was. Of the five issues such a party would have - the need for money, members, political space, a constituency, and a motive for fed up MPs to quit - only one has been resolved. And that would be the easiest one: money. Simon Franks is the bourgeois booby with more money than sense and has underwritten the project to the tune of £50m. I'm sure another billionaire-backed vanity project will go down a storm on the doorsteps.

What is interesting though is how there are no new names involved, and from the 10-20 MPs Margaret Hodge was threatening to take out of the party a few days ago we're now looking at about a dozen, notwithstanding our unnamed correspondent's insistence that more are involved. Still, and this is worth remembering, there are enduring divisions on the Labour right. The MPs and activists most closely associated with Labour First are mostly of the view that you stay and fight. Perversely enough they take inspiration from the Labour left, who clung on to the party throughout the decades of its diminishing influence only to eventually score big. If it can happen to them, surely the pendulum will swing our way again in time, at least so goes the thinking. So the job is to batten down the hatches, protect existing positions of influence, win selections, and undermine the leadership when occasion (and factional advantage) demands. It can be grandstanding and stirring as per the anti-semitism crisis, and it can be petulent and childish such as the loud talking and prima-donna behaviours at the community organising team's briefing of the PLP a few weeks ago. Also, it's worth noting that within Labour First's allies of convenience, Progress, they too are mostly signed up to this strategy. For every Chuka there's a Wes Streeting, the kind of Blairist MP who does have some loyalty to an abstract notion of Labour and cannot see the viability of an existence outside. I would go so far to say this is the majority view of Progress as well. Besides, were they to decamp, 2,500 members and a glossy magazine wouldn't be much of a boon to a new centrist formation - despite the headlines that would herald it as a significant blow to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

The huddle of MPs desperate for a new party are actually marginalised vis a vis their natural allies in the PLP. And if that wasn't bad enough, they are to a man and woman the most singular mediocrities. Chris Leslie with his absurd manifesto and Liz Kendall who knows nothing about the party whose benches she sits on. With folks of such calibre leading the charge it begs a brutal but honest question: how can they hope to succeed?


Kriss said...

I can't really comment on whether or not it's true, but I'm in Liz Kendall's CLP and she has very firmly denied that these meetings have ever taken place.

Shai Masot said...

I would very much like to meet Stephen Kinnoch in person. But I wouldn't attempt to engage in any sort of political discussion if ever I did. Waste of facking time. I'd just like to slap his head with a moistened palm and call him a Tory. The NEC would probably expel me, but I think they'd let me back in a couple of years down the line post-split and it will have been worth it.

Anonymous said...

The whole Daily Express piece might just be an advertisement for the Hotel.
What ground would this new party cover that is not already occupied by the Lib Dems?

Phil said...

As if by magic, here's the new website for the new "party". Well, the latest iteration of the dozen or so new centrist parties that have already launched. http://unitedforchange.uk

Jeremy Corbyn (Parody) said...

We will just end up with one bunch of Blairites outside the tent pissing in; and another bunch of Blairites inside the tent pissing in. A nightmare of pissing.

Tmb said...

They could be called 'Turncoats' or 'Red Tories' 'The Mediocritists' or 'The Labour Party that appeals to Affluent Middle class people who want to appear radical but want absolutely nothing to change', or going for the jugular 'Fakes, Flakes, Sellouts and Phonies'. Well, you get my drift.

Seriously, Why they don't all just join the Tories, I can't imagine? None of them are particularly charismatic, insightful, inspiring or visionary, they all seem to be journeymen/women hacks who are all in it for what rewards they can pick up.