Sunday 9 February 2020

On Flouncing Labour MPs

Up to 50 MPs are planning on quitting the party if Rebecca Long-Bailey wins the leadership election, so writes Rachel Wearmouth over at HuffPo. According to ever-anonymous "party insiders", this bloc of 35-50 (depending on who you ask) would either sit as independents or resign immediately and force by-elections. In an uncharacteristic display of honesty, Neil Coyle revised down the figure and said about a dozen were plotting away. And why? Because continuity Corbynism would be a "recipe for disaster".

Let's unpack this. One of the whingers who put the figure at 50 MPs is obviously bullshitting. When you look at the complexion of the parliamentary party, the mood - if anything - is characterised by an absence of factionalism. The division between remain ultras and Brexiteers has vanished, though largely thanks to the near wipe out of the latter - despite their best efforts. And while demarcations exist between the Socialist Campaign group, the soft left, and the self-described (and identifying) "moderates", those embittered and twisted by anti-Corbyn hatred number, well, about 12 to 15 MPs. Furthermore, these irreconcilables are somewhat marginalised in the parliamentary party. They might be spoiling for a purge-tastic revenge on the left and will be looking for any excuse to launch one (hello EHRC report), but given the torrid five years we've just been through the desire for a witch-hunt is the preserve of the few, not the many.

Why are they moaning then? After all, at various points in the past we had been assured that the policies weren't the problem, Corbyn was. Or the variant of domestically the party's on the same page, the difference instead is over foreign policy and defence. Well, RLB's platform is where most of the party is. So much so, Keir Starmer and Lisa Nand are helping themselves to select morsels. And yet she hasn't made any noises about withdrawing from NATO, abolishing the secret services, or handing over the launch codes to the Kremlin. Perhaps they were lying all along about the domestic policy consensus and believe the counter-productive policies of 20 years ago are just the ticket, despite getting roundly rejected in 2010 and 2015. Or, as is more likely, they can't stomach serving in a party where their eminences goes unrecognised and they have to submit to mandatory reselection. And perhaps they're not pleased by RLB's pledge to deal with their shenanigans "ruthlessly" should they carry on their scorched earth nonsense.

Whatever the cause of their beef, there's no reason to try and treat with them because, as Wes Streeting(!) observes in the same HuffPo piece, the Change UK failure demonstrates there's no viable future outside of Labour for a centrist split. It's much worse than that four our would-be splitters, I'm afraid. As Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry found after abandoning their parties, the lobby hacks just weren't as interested in listening any more. If your relationship to the media is built on being a reliable leak-happy "insider", making yourself a rent-a-quote outsider is like signing the redundancy papers. If Margaret Hodge, Neil Coyle, Liz Kendall and whoever go on their merry way they can look forward to a very quiet five years on the back benches without even the excitement of knife edge Commons votes temporarily puffing up their importance. And what is more, they do not represent anything but themselves. Remember how pitifully their anointed one did? Seeing them depart Labour's ranks contains nothing but upsides for a RLB-led Labour Party. A pity then that for the reasons just mentioned few if any will resign themselves to anonymity and sadly, no focus-grouped visits to Nando's.

Do things change if one of the other candidates wins? Yes, in the sense they won't be petulantly dropping resignation hints every five minutes. But no because they will find other reasons to rag on Lisa or Keir, and make themselves the big I am. In the first, it will be Lisa's principled defence of the Palestinians and her chairing of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East. And for the latter, it will be his keeping key Corbynist policies and having some figures from the last five years stay in the shadow cabinet. When the situation requires an anonymous quote, the sectarian right will only be too happy to stump up the goods.

Unity with these people then will only be achieved at the expense of jettisoning Labour's entire platform, becoming a pale pink imitation of the Tories, and looking forward to permanent electoral defeat. And the price of keeping them in the tent is the prospect of interminable factional warfare, the sapping of members' morale, and making Labour look an unserious laughing stock. If RLB wins she should immediately move against them, and if there's anything about Lisa or Keir, they would do so too.


Boffy said...

"They might be spoiling for a purge-tastic revenge on the left and will be looking for any excuse to launch one (hello EHRC report), but given the torrid five years we've just been through the desire for a witch-hunt is the preserve of the few, not the many."

It didn't stop Kinnock and co. doing exactly that following even more torrid times in the five and more years from the early 1980's. The main problem is that whoever wins, including RLB, they will be a prisoner of the PLP Right, because Corbyn never pushed through mandatory reselection, and Momentum never pushed to deselect right-wing MP's. They will kidnap the leader, and push to the Right, and in the unlikely event the leader is RLB, if they fail to achieve that, then a large number will split.

A split one way or another now looks inevitable.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What a drag they are. Just leave now and use your great talents.

Shai Masot said...

Strange. I thought it was all over for the Left? Starmer wins. Appoints Yvette Cooper as shadow chancellor. Packs NEC with added councellor (ie Blairite) seats. Job done.

Phil said...

Corbyn's genuine niceness was a big part of the reason why people warmed to, and felt loyal towards, him personally - and why an electoral surge in spring 2017 turned into something more like a youth movement. I wonder now if that was a luxury we couldn't afford. Sort 'em out, Becky.

Anonymous said...

Technically, what would "moving against them" mean? Could they have the whip removed? On what basis? Are there other effective measures to keep them in check?

Boffy said...

Whoever becomes Leader what they can do also depends on the extent to which the half million members organise, and begin to transform the party from its base up. had they been getting shit of right-wing MP's, councillors, and apparatchiks for the last four years it would be more hopeful, but perhaps experience might have taught some lessons on that front, provided demoralisation has not set in too deep.

It also requires a root and branch democratisation of the trades unions both to limit the scope of right-wing union barons, and to limit the influence of the Stalinists. If the PLP capture the leader, but the membership resist, their will be a civil war, and it may be that the PLP just split taking the name and machinery with them. If the membership prevent the PLP capturing the Leader, then its still possible that 150 or so might declare themselves to be the PLP, elect their own parliamentary leader, claim the LP name and machinery, and seek a realignment with the Liberals, and disaffected Tories After all they have up to five years secure in their seats, now, until the next election. Much can happen in that time, if they manage to swing a number of trades unions behind them.

That seems pretty likely if RLB became leader, but its also possible if Starmer becomes leader, given his previous Trotskyist heritage.

Dipper said...

Now that Labour's internal review into the GE has finished and concluded that everyone loved the policies but the media wasn't fair to Jeremy, the party was divided, and most working class people are racist trolls anyway, then repeating the exercise with mini-Corbyn and a united party is obviously the right way to go. Party unity can easily be achieved by getting rid of anyone who doesn't fully sign up to the program.

I'm delighted. But then I'm a Tory.

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

"Party unity can easily be achieved by getting rid of anyone who doesn't fully sign up to the program. "

As the Tories did with their expulsions of course.

Another option is to do what Blair did, pretend you are a broad church and respect every viewpoint. This all came tumbling down when Corbyn became leader, after the Blairites put him up as the token candidate, and the Blairites went into all out war against the broad church! I am guessing that when the next Blairite becomes leader they will be spouting their broad church crap and everyone will nod like idiots!

We see the same at the heart of the empire, in the US the main opponents of Sanders are the centre left. What a better spectacle of centrism than Nancy Pelosi ripping up Trumps speech one minute and then giving a standing ovation to Guido the next.

In the Roman empire Caligula planned to make his horse a consul and in the US they plan to make Guido the president of Venezuela.

The left need to wake up and see their immediate and biggest enemy, namely the centrists. Lisa Nandy, Starmer, Yvette Cooper - these are the enemy!

And must be fought by all means necessary.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that there is a need for internal party discipline irrespective of who becomes the new party leader. We cannot have a situation as before with MPs slagging off the party and the leader in the press.

Anonymous said...

Slag the company, the CEO and the shareholders in the press- and keep your job. Real world? Lets hope we get some change on this front.

Anonymous said...

Like forcing the members to have a second vote because you don't like the result- getting the same outcome but then continuing to undermine the leadership without consequences. Yes I agree this does need to change.