Sunday 9 June 2019

Chuka Umunna and the Liberal Democrats

No sooner have Change UK put themselves to bed, along comes Chuka Umunna with some not-so-shocking news. Within days of announcing the formation of, um, a new formation, Mail Online has it that he's set to join the Liberal Democrats. Considering the contempt he and his CHUKa kin held the LibDems in when their little party was founded, he's gone from sneer to cheer at a million miles an hour, putting even the SWP to shame with his unashamed opportunism.

There are some question marks over whether the LibDems would want him and his pathetic bandwagon. Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston would fit right in, as I suppose Luciana Berger would. They're gormless enough to cut forgettable figures on the yellow benches. But Angela Smith? Gavin Shuker? Don't be silly, of course they would be greeted with open arms, though it's a shame I can't be a fly on the wall when they learn about the mandatory reselection procedures the party employs.

Taking on these no hopers isn't cost free for the LibDems. As a relatively cohesive bloc within the parliamentary party (now only at 11 MPs), they could prove disruptive. We know it wouldn't be long before their deliberations are leaked to the lobby hacks, not that any of them will find an editor who cares enough to give them column inches. And despite the bruising humiliation of Change UK, a "party" built in his image, with his politics, and even uses his bloody name in abbreviation, how long is going to be before Chuka feels the LibDem leadership is his by divine right? Fat lot of good it will do him mind. CHUK's dismal record shows he and his comrades don't know the first thing about organising and so perhaps, after all, the LibDems - which you will remember is a proper party with a proper membership - could handle such interlopers from elsewhere.

And the advantages? A few more seats fits the evolving recovery narrative (the locals, the euros), and if Chuka and friends settle in nicely, the prospect of more defectors from Labour and the Conservatives can't be ruled out, especially if someone rancid wins the leadership race.

There is another too. Out of all the seats Chuka and friends have a shout of holding is Heidi Allen's Cambridge seat, and jolly old Streatham. As Ravi observes, Chuka is a remain MP in a heavily remain seat, has the advantage of incumbency and will have the party label of the remain party appended to him. Labour have the majority and the huge activist base, but even then it cannot be seen as a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately, what the campaign in Streatham is bound to do at the next election is suck hundreds of activists in from elsewhere who want to see Chuka dumped out on his backside. Understandable, but those are bodies that might be better deployed in other London or south east seats. Like Bermondsey, for instance, where the idiocy of Neil Coyle could gift the seat back to the LibDems, or Lewisham. For the LibDems, ultimately Chuka is expendable as long as his fight to cling on drains resource from other targets.

And so, in fewer than four months he's gone from Labour to Change UK, from Change UK to "The Alternative", and seemingly from it to the LibDems. Centrist tourism, eh? And at the end of it all, despite his incompetence and failures, at last Chuka is looking like he might be of some use to someone.


Dialectician1 said...

I'm guessing Chuka Umunna isn't much different from most of the 170 odd Labour MPs who joined the vote of no confidence againt JC. He's like my sitting Labour MP, riding-out the Corbyn Years and hoping that 'events, dear boy, events' will see Corbyn & McDonnell eventually undermined. Except, Chuka mistimed the moment & jumped ship too early. He now sleeps with the fishes.

My MP is a dyed-in-the-wool Brownite. I'm not sure his politics are that much different from Umunna's. He's a social conservative more than a Liberal Democratic. In my series of correspondences with him over his voting yes for the British bombing of Syria, he voiced a strong patriotism and a 'what works' pragmatism at the heart of his politics. He wears his poppy with pride and still fully supports ALL western interventionism in the Middle East. Yet, he effusive in his supports for the NHS and against acadamisation, and he is a remainer. He is more Brown than Blaire; believes in 'equality of opportunity' rather than redistribution; espouses traditional British values (whatever that means); supports a form of prudent welfarism. He does not want socialism, in any guise!

Phil said...

He launched "the Alternative" three months before leaving Change UK, God knows why - see this Spectator diary story from 5th March. It's just that most people didn't notice, because they didn't look at his awful Web site all that time.

PlebJames said...

If the LibDems let him in it will because they were a totally spent force until recently, and they would be flattered that anyone would want to join them. If he goes to them it will be because he is flattered anyone would take him.
After the dust settles and they take a good hard look at one another in the cold light of day, they will both realise how shit each other are.

Shai Masot said...

Chuka didn't want to sign up to the full IHRA definition with *all* the Examples. Why aren't the Press bashing him?

Oboe said...

Good point regarding chukka being a tactical drain on labour activists in London. I'd add that with the appearance of ChUK:TIG as spoilers of a unified remain coalition there will be pressure on the LDs to hold their noses & accept him into the fold to demonstrate their united-against-Brexit credentials regardless of his history as an incompetent wrecker.

asquith said...

This is savage, I voted for the Liberal Democrats in 2019, without much enthusiasm, but because I felt they'd be a more effective & sympathetic anti-Farage force than CHUKa, and I've never had much time for the Greens.

But the very reason I decided not to support CHUKa is that outfit was full of Blairites, who by definition are not liberals; what would Umunna's foreign policy votes be, or how would he vote on civil liberties? Would he simply become Bob Spink II and the party glad to be shot of him? I think so.

I understand the need to oppose Faragism and I might in some circumstances be willing to join forces with people like that for a limited time, but as we move towards a multiparty system (and regret the missed opportunity of the 2011 referendum, in which I was right to vote Yes to the alternative vote as a bridgehead to a proportionate system) there is no need for an ostensibly liberal party to take in Blairites who are among the main reasons why Remain lost in the first place.