Monday 15 July 2019

Facing Up to the CHUK Up

Writing at the beginning of the month, I hoped never having to put pen to paper, or finger to key, about Change UK and their progeny ever again. That was a bit of a fib, because there are few things more joyous than picking over the carcass of an arrogant, bankrupt project doomed to failure at the outset. Told you so ain't big, ain't clever, but it's always good for a laugh. Having written more times than I care to link to about the prospects of a new (self-defined) centrist formation, it was clear they risked getting pulled under by the eddys of turbulent politics because a) they did not understand Corbynism, let alone the political world as it exists in 2019, b) assumed a mass constituency for centrism was out there gagging for representation, and c) lacked the first clue about organising a party. Therefore after the crashing and the burning I approached this piece from Gavin Shuker with some interest. How do the CHUKs, now spread across three parties, make sense of their failed enterprise?

In a flourish of nonsensical boosterism any ex-Trot would be familiar with, despite the failure of Change UK, our Gavin says "that we pulled that off [i.e. the formation of a new organisation] was a testament to the desire of millions of people, feeling as politically homeless as the MPs that jumped, for something hopeful." Um no, Gavin. Getting a few like minded parliamentarians together and having a press conference is no more an achievement than registering a company, or putting a leaflet through someone's door. Had CHUK launched, immediately set about recruiting hundreds of thousands of new members, and struck a chord in the country at large then your project would have been a "testament" to "the desire of millions", instead of an escape pod for a bunch of useless scabs.

He goes on, acknowledging CHUK was ground down by forces much greater than it but aren't, by themselves, capable of solving the Brexit thanks to the move to four-party politics. Well, that is debatable and is likely a transitory moment - all the polls save YouGov are suggesting movements away from it, but even so. Why did CHUK fail when the discredited and disgraced Liberal Democrats surged instead? Why did the shiny, new centrist project come unstuck despite attracting greater media coverage and the yellow party went home with the bacon? Apart from being "premature" (an act of hubris no less, says Gavin), having a daft logo, and splitting the remain vote are the reasons. The real reason, of course, is that the LibDems are a proper political party with deep roots, a campaigning profile, and persistence over time. CHUK was and is a fly-by-night vanity project for a bunch of careerists without careers, and the electorate ignored them accordingly.

With a complete inability of getting to grips with his own failure, Gavin hits his stride when occupying the only territory that elicits passionate politics from the Labour right: attacking the left. Jeremy Corbyn is evil as that Panorama attests. And from his position as a former member of the party's elite, stuff like reselections, member input into policy, and introducing more democracy and accountability into the party means "the shutting down of democratic processes and debate". Hmmm. Gavin really needs to stop mistaking Twitter for the Labour Party.

Nevertheless, he does make an interesting a point eventually. He acknowledges that Corbynism is now much stronger in the party than when the parliamentary party pursued its coup against the membership. And unless Labour MPs do something, Corbyn could - horror of horrors - gain more seats like last time and perhaps even form a government at the next election. "If you're going to stay and fight", chides Gavin, "you're actually going to need to do both". Ouch. All putative Labour rebels need are 52 MPs to launch a new leadership challenge, and Gavin signs off with the challenge: "History is not just shaped by action, but by inaction as well."

What to make of this? Gavin and his mates are last night's chip paper. Well, all except for one, of course. They have no power nor influence save whatever friendships they've salvaged with the backbench grey blurs of the Parliamentary Labour Party. And, while Gavin has the political sense of an amoeba, he does have enough of a clue to realise a rebellion of Labour MPs in 2019 has no chance of removing Jezza. Corbynphobic MPs realise it too. They know if they make a move, they might as well head to the railway station and buy themselves a one way ticket on the deselection express. No one wants career suicide, so they're content to let the cold coup rumble on in the hope they can survive the trigger ballots, the next election, and make some sort of life for themselves after Jez steps down. Labour MPs know this, we know this, and Gavin and his sad little squad know it too. Which makes his pleading all the more desperate and pathetic. The whole article is a valedictory wail of despair. Our would-be rebels cannot save their skin, and in their hour of need they cling to the delusion that Corbyn can be forced out and the CHUKas be let back in, job for life restored. That Gavin Shuker chooses to humiliate himself in this way shows that perhaps the penny has finally dropped. Sad for him and his ilk that no one cares.


Shai Masot said...

"... in the hope they can survive the trigger ballots." Hmmm. I'm probably missing something here, but most of the PLP are behaving in a way that would suggest that they aren't, in the least, afraid of deselection. They tear Labour apart every day on our TV screens and seem confident that, by posing with a few gormless members holding leaflets back in their constituencies, they'll see any local threat off.

Boffy said...

You seem to have forgotten one obvious alternative. Faced with trigger ballots in which all of these right-wing Labourites, along with the soft-lefts should get deselected - though on past performance of Momentum et al, its not clear there will be a sufficient push to do so - they will have an incentive to elave, not now for the always doomed Chukups, but for the now revitalised Liberals, who are also continuing to attract Tories also facing deselection, and opposed to a No Deal Brexit, if not any Brexit.

Even a moderately sizeable defection of Tories, and Labour MP's to the Liberals in the Autumn, together with their growing alliance with the Greens, SNP and Plaid to stop Brexit could given them a decisive voice in parliament, and make them the only credible alternative in elections to the Tories for the majority of the population that wants to stop Brexit.

With the anti-Semitism weapon being used to whip up yet another coup attempt against Corbyn, and with Watson as the obvious alternative Leader in open combat against the official Party leadership it seems fairly obvious that the next coup will not be a vain attempt to unseat Corbyn in a leadership election, but to seize control of the PLP, Labour name and so on, and then make a formal coalition or merger with the Liberals purely for electoral purposes.

Given the division of support shown by the polls even on the most favourable for Labour that would be devastating as votes got shared between the Tories and this new National Government Party/Alliance.

The only hope Labour has of preventing that is to be the hardest of hard Remain supporting parties so that it builds momentum behind itself on that basis, but time is running out for it to have a credible position on that, before others seize that ground.

Kenneth Billis said...

This is a line from the Wikipedia entry for "our Gav":

"In June 2019, he left Change UK (The Independent Group) to sit as an independent MP. In July 2019, Shuker was a founding member of a loser grouping of MPs called The Independents"

I suspect that "loser" was meant to be "looser" but is just as accurate.

Boffy said...

Its notable that the 60 scab Labour Peers who have taken to the bosses press to attack Corbyn and the LP, did so, whilst using Labour's official Rose logo, even though they were not writing in any kind of official Labour capacity. That shows the tack that is being prepared for the next right wing coup, as I set out above, of seizing the party logo, official name for elections, machinery and resources.

Perhaps they could ask Jon Lansman how to do that effectively as its what he did with Momentum.