Tuesday 21 January 2020

The Miserable Collapse of Jess Phillips

And so the clown car grinds to a halt and the comedy ejector seat throws its occupant against the wall of electoral calculus. Thanking the "tens of thousands" (actually, 14,700) who'd pledged their support for her campaign and joined the party (though no word on what will happen to their donations), Jess concedes it's not her time - she isn't the one who can unite all wings of the party and take the fight to the Tories. Trying to put a gloss on Jess's miserable failure to get anywhere, on BBC News Wes Streeting insisted what she brought to the contest was the "voters' voice". Recalling her very first interview of the campaign in which she suggested Labour should campaign to rejoin the European Union, you have to wonder what exactly this voice was.

A things were, it was exceedingly doubtful Jess would have made it through to the ballot paper. Just perhaps Community would have given her the nod, but to have the usually-reliable USDAW fall in behind Keir Starmer must have been a bitter blow. And there was little chance of her favour getting curried in CLP meetings. If we bracket her awful record of trolling Labour's membership for a moment, why would she gain nominations as a courtesy for widening the debate? In this campaign, apart from her EU gaff and some rambling nonsense about the democratic regulation of social media, she has not put a single policy or position forward. Compare with the outline philosophy proffered by Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy's rediscovery of Chuka Umunna's (admittedly sound(ish)) ideas around the foundational economy and, well, whatever Keir Starmer is offering, for a self-styled big mouth our "bab" had nothing to say.

Why bother? There are a couple of things here. As Owen rightly notes, she was riding high on the smoke blown up her arse by her media mates. You get invited on all the right shows, featured in all the right papers, and are conveyed into all the right parties, and unless you have a good grounding in a movement and its politics it will all go to your head. If there's a hype machine around your person, why wouldn't you believe it? A welcome reminder of why Labour MPs generally and leftwingers in particular should avoid the seductions of profile for its own sake. In Jess's case, despite her contrived everywoman countenance she is entirely a creature of Westminster and the bubble of its surrounds. The reality of the headlines and news bulletins, the interviews and photoshoots, and rubbing shoulders with the powerful, some of whom condescend to have time for her, produces a skewed appreciation of the world out there as well as an inflated sense of self-importance and competence to do things. Again, as Owen notes, our Change UK friends and, late of the House of Commons, Jo Swinson are also victims dashed on the rocks of the real world. Jess went for the leadership because the media told her she'd be rather good at it.

More interesting are the factional forces in play. Most obviously, the organised right in the form of Labour First (who cares about Progress any more?) have gone for Keir Starmer as the anyone-but-left candidate. But of the people Jess managed to recruit, these are the remnants of Labour's scab tendency, the careerists-without-careers (and for a number of her backers, deservedly without seats). Some were variously involved with Labour First but have, at least within the bounds of the parliamentary party, struck out on their own Change UK-style. And unsurprisingly, just like their departed colleagues, they don't know the first thing about organising. All they're good for, and I use that term advisedly, is throwing their toys out of the pram and bitching about colleagues and party members. These are the sorts of people who watched The Thick Of It not as a satire, but a how-to manual, and mistake lots of swearing and dumping on people for ruthlessness and a mastery of the dark arts. They are, in effect, orphans of the Blair and Brown ways of doing things. Friends in high places assisted them into their parliamentary sinecure, and now, long-departed from the scene, the mollycoddling they benefited from finds them ill-suited to run parties, leadership campaigns and, yes, re-election campaigns. Nevertheless, it's interesting how their instinct to group together as a guileless hive mind overpowers the sense of self-preservation or means of coming back, which at least the Starmer campaign offers.

The failure of Jess Phillips then not only underlines what an awful politician she is, but the hubris and haplessness of her parliamentary faction and the minuscule numbers following them in the wider party. Let us hope her humiliation occasions a lengthy period of welcome silence.


Richard said...

An excellent post Phil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz_DNrKVrQ8

James said...

Great post. There won't be a period of silence though, will there. I actually wish she had got through, and then been decisively crushed in the election. As it stands, they will call it a stitch-up, say she was blocked from standing by the bullying left, and the myth of Phillips as popular will live on.

Anonymous said...

Yes another excellent morning post. And who were the gang members running her campaign?

'Life's but a poor player? That struts and frets his hour upon the stage'.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about JP's campaign is the way that she seemed to struggle to get any coverage at all.

I would have expected the hacks to convince her that she'd walk the leadership contest and then just treat her as another potential Labour leader to dunk on but all of those contacts and friendships just disappeared the second she threw her hat in the ring. Proper humiliating.

Blissex said...

«the hubris and haplessness of her parliamentary faction and the minuscule numbers following them in the wider party.»

Replace "government" with "the PLP" and "people" with "membership" for a proposal for truly democratic internal party elections in this famous quote from Brecht:

"the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another?"

Jim Denham said...

I didn't support her and wouldn't have voted for her, but ...Phillips played a better role over the Birmingham schools LGBT protests that most of the "left" (daring to physically confront the bigots) and certainly a better role than Unite's preferred mayoral candidate, Salma Yaqoob (who backs the bigots). She also took a stronger pro-immigration line than any of the other leadership candidates.

I presently can't see any leadership or deputy candidate worth supporting.

Unknown said...

As she claimed her self shes as honest as the days long....and I thought if that's the case it's a very short day