Saturday 21 September 2019

Cancelling Tom Watson

For a brief, beautiful moment it appeared as if the stitcher-in-chief had become the stitched. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Jon Lansman's surprise move at Friday evening's NEC to abolish the Deputy Leader post, and therefore dump its awful incumbent fell. Overnight too many people got cold feet, were spooked by the promise of bad press, and fretted it would push more Labour MPs out of the PLP, so instead of an unexpected but welcome defenestration we got a review. And now we will have to endure another episode of wrecking when Tom Watson takes the stand for his slot on Tuesday. Is he going to thank Jeremy Corbyn for saving his bacon, or glory in a confected legend of seeing off the "hard left"? We know him too well to put the answer in any doubt.

In his usual disingenuous way on Radio 4 this morning, he called on the members to decide his fate, knowing full well there is no mechanism to recall him and there being as much a chance of refreshing his mandate as, um, him deciding to refresh his mandate. And we all know why: he would lose. Like many others I voted for Tom Watson in 2015, stupidly and naively thinking his battles with Murdoch might mean he'd be more outward facing and combative versus the Tories. This despite living in the WestMids and seeing shenanigans and dirty tricks performed by the regional office at his behest. As Watson has broken the terms on which he was elected in word and deed, if there was a shred of decency about him he'd tender his resignation.

There is no such decency.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Corbyn project is its conciliationism. Initially, Jeremy was right to try and forge a shadow cabinet formed out of the differing wings of the party. As a general rule, talent has to sit with factional balance, and giving your opponents to buy-in is a trusted way of keeping them on-side. But after a year of scabbing, counter-briefing and guerilla warfare culminating in the failed coup, keeping these cretins happy should have ended there and then. No more favours, no more olive branches. The left had the opportunity to sweep wide and sweep hard with Stakhanovite enthusiasm following after the election: then was the time to make the necessary changes. Instead, Corbyn proved magnanimous in victory, which was paid back by MPs in the cynical exploitation of anti-semitism and using Brexit as a wedge between Corbyn supporters and the leadership's attempts to pull politics back to other burning questions. Sometimes, literally burning.

Why now then, why make the move against Watson after filleting Labour Students? Well, nothing breeds success like success. A double blow against the Labour right while their main support base, the parliamentary party, are facing reselections. Which, it's worth noting, makes Twitter threats of a leadership contest in response nothing but bluster. Timing then was important, and would be long forgotten in the build up to an election a couple of months hence. How about the suggestion of the left's weakness? The argument goes that some in Corbynism's upper echelons fear defeat at the next general election, whenever it arrives, and this is about getting all the left's ducks in a row in time for the next leadership contest. Possibly. Then again, the left does need a succession plan come what may, whether Labour is defeated at the next election and Jeremy steps down or after a successful period of government. The fear has to be the annoying appeal someone like Keir Starmer has for the softer end of Corbynism, the part of the movement who, despite everything, feel the pull back to how things were when politics was "safer". Faced with the likelihood of him becoming leader next, the left's revolution has to be made permanent should he try unpicking it. Which he will.

Ultimately though, while Lansman and Unite backed away and are content with the compromise motion, what this episode underlines again is the historic weakness of the Labour right. When Labour Students was cast into the abyss parliamentary alumnus of its ranks cried publicly and made threats, but nothing was forthcoming. Another prop of the right was annihilated. And had the bombing run on Watson released its payload, they'd have complained to the papers, on condition of anonymity of course, and that would be that. No splits, no action, plenty of chuntering, but uneasy quiescence as MPs attend their trigger ballots.

Despite all this, my fear is the left will rue the day the move against Watson wasn't followed through. Sharp pain now would, in all likelihood, avoid torture later on. Instead, and not for the first time, the hardest, most pitted road has been chosen.

Image Credit


Shai Masot said...

"... the cynical exploitation of anti-semitism."

Is Mark Wadsworth an anti-semite? Come clean!

Dipper said...

Westminster voting intention:

CON: 37% (-)
LAB: 22% (-3)
LDEM: 17% (+1)
BREX: 12% (-1)
GRN: 4% (-)


Chgs. w/ 13 Sep

1729torus said...

Jeremy Corbyn is giving Tom Watson and friends a platform from which they are slowly but surely annoying the Labour party as a whole. This will destroy these types more surely than any kind of purge directed from above by the left.

Speedy said...

"The argument goes that some in Corbynism's upper echelons fear defeat at the next general election..."

You think?!

qwertboi said...

I agree, sharp pain now, recovery forthcoming. An imminent election is maybe just an excuse for procrastination. Appeasing the 3rd Way right would be counter-productive, confirming atrocious anti-semitism, weak leadership and worse.

It’s not just that these rightist reprobates hate Corbyn, they want his party - especially now it has 500+,000 members and is wildly profitable again. There’s an offspring of newLabour at stake.

Self-delusional and incorrigible that’s the Labour right. Not team players. Their way or no-way. They’d rather break the Labour party than allow new management.

If these incorrigible psychopaths persist and no bureaucratic solution can work, then the 500+K membership will need to fix it themselves. Selective in-activity. Never campaign for a candidates whose very existence in our party is a threat. Radical, dangerous and desperate measures, that’s what these delusional 3rdwayer rightists engender. in Labour

And the very second we adopt this dangerous but understandable strategy Labour stops being a party of government. The rightists will have destroyed the party that they CANNOT understand.

Their way is no way. Pain now is better than chronic never-ending irritation and disfunction.

Boffy said...

Lansman, of course, has no chance of being removed as head of Momentum, since like Farage, he has created Momentum as his own private business.

For the last four years, Corbyn and his leadership have failed to support democratic reform of he LP by the reintroduction of mandatory reselection. It means that Corbyn and the 20 MP's, at most, that fully support him are totally isolated and held to ransom inside the PLP. McCluskey wants Shadow Cabinet Ministers like McDonell, Thornbery etc. (well really pretty much everybody other than Corbyn) who back Remain to resign, which would just about put the final nail in the coffin.

Corbyn was backed by Lansman and his Momentum Company in acting as a block on mandatory reselection and the removal of right-wing and Blair-right MP's. Similarly, Corbyn and co stood by whilst Labour members like Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker et al were being witchhunted, whilst Lansman and his Momentum company actively cheered it on!

Now, Lansman comes along with a totally bureaucratic, Stalinist maneouvre to remove Watson, that could only ever act to give Watson even more of a platform. If they wanted to get shut of Watson, and they should have wanted that long ago, the way to do it was to challenge him in a DL election, in the same way the right challenged Corbyn.

My guess is they didn't do that a) because they are incompetent, Stalinoid apparatchiks who appear to be simply towing the Morning Star line, because b) having appeased the right for the last four years, they have not enough support in the PLP to mount a challenge, and c) because they know that Corbyn's pro-Brexit line has now alienated so much of Labour's rank and file, any such election could be seen by them as a proxy for a vote of confidence in Corbyn's reactionary Brexit position, which he would lose.

Boffy said...

McCluskey on Sophie Ridge put forward a thoroughly ridiculous justification of his and Corbyn's line on Brexit negotiations. McCluskey said, that if he as a union negotiator went into negotiations with an employer he would not dream of saying in advance to his members that he would recommend to his members that either they accept or reject whichever deal he managed to negotiate, but would wait to see what came out of those negotiations.

But, that is ridiculous, because when was the last time you saw McCluskey or any other union negotiator go voluntarily to the employer and say "Can we please have worse pay and conditions than we already have?"!!!

If I was one of McCluskey's members and that is his attitude to TU bargaining I would want to get shut of him straight away, because its not the reason most people join a union, so that their union bureaucrats can voluntarily negotiate worse pay and conditions for them!

But, that is precisely what Brexit does. Whatever deal anyone might negotiate, and the EU are far more likely to ensure they gave Corbyn a worse deal than they would offer May or Johnson, it will always be worse than being in the EU!! So, I would hope that any sensible TU negotiator would be able to say in advance, why have we voluntarily put ourselves in a condition of negotiating worse conditions for our members, stop these negotiations straight away. And, I would hope that sensible TU members would themselves say to their negotiators, why are you trying to worsen our conditions, we will stick with what we have and work with our fellow workers across Europe to improve them further thank you ery much.

What is a name between dear comrades said...

"But, that is ridiculous, because when was the last time you saw McCluskey or any other union negotiator go voluntarily to the employer and say "Can we please have worse pay and conditions than we already have?"!!!"

Comrades may be familiar with a union tactic called strike action. It is where Unions say to their members, you won’t be getting paid for a while boys and you might have to live off scraps, but on the other hand the boss won’t be making too much profit. Surely a better analogy of the EU negotiations.

This is a tactic with a long history, admittedly with mixed results.

Here is the Wikipedia page which goes deeper into this concept of the strikes, just for you Boffy

That said, it does make me laugh when someone says no deal has to be on the table because if you don’t threaten this then the EU can hold you over a barrel. These people seem to forget that the same goes for the EU right! So they also have to have the worst possible outcome in their negotiating hand. I know which side I would put money on in that fight!

It reminds of those who say Corbyn would not stand a chance if he was in a meeting with Putin, as if these major deals are decided on which leader has the biggest muscles! Seriously I blame the unfree press for this bullshit. Yes the same unfree press that Boffy lauds from time to time.

Unity of the oppressed, not the imperialist core.