So much has happened since my last blog and I have been too busy myself to write some of the things I wanted to and then the time for them passed. But this matter is still ongoing and I have the time to write something, at least.
So to recap: The UK voted to leave the EU. David Cameron promptly resigned and the Tories had no apparent idea what to do next.
It is here that we then turned to the opposition parties, Labour in particular, and grab the popcorn. Except instead of training their guns onto the Government, that has no plan and is looking like a rabbit caught in car headlights, the Labour Party decides instead that it can out-disaster them.
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is attacked by his parliamentary colleagues over his supposed conduct during the Brexit referendum campaign. Despite Labour supporters voting Remain in very similar numbers to the SNP supporters in Scotland, Corbyn is blamed for a poor showing, the Leave result and for not being active enough or supportive enough.
Corbyn is even accused of voting Leave, despite Tweeting from outside his polling booth on the day that he had just voted Remain.
If he lied, only the ballot box would know. Or maybe MI5, I suppose…but I digress…
Other factors not taken into account was the relative lack of coverage that the Labour Remain campaign had, as the cameras were more often pointed at the Tory Leave and Remain campaigns, with the newspapers as usual being shrill and right wing, except now they were at setting 11.
Then, as the campaign neared its end and as coverage of the Labour Campaign gained more attention, Jo Cox was murdered. This stopped campaigning in its tracks and clearly had a greater effect on the Labour Remain campaign, which lost momentum.
But that murder was quickly forgotten by the PLP. It was all Jeremy’s fault.
Interestingly, some of those MPs who used this excuse about Corbyn had far worse results in their own constituencies, somewhat begging the question as to who else had been lacklustre in their Remain campaigning. Still, the coup was organised and a few little things like throwing stones whilst living in glass houses weren’t going to get in the way of a very British coup.
Corbyn sacks one member from his shadow cabinet for encouraging others to resign and start a confidence motion, which is followed by a string of resignations, apparently co-ordinated by Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North (http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/30/pr-company-manufactured-labour-coup-part-i/ and http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/28/blairite-labour-coup-plotters-protected-media-giant-tied-tony-blair/).
It is quite clear that the whole thing has been orchestrated in advance. With this realisation (subsequently confirmed by web sites sprouting-up to attempt to get Corbyn to resign having been registered before anything happened), you also realise that this coup was going to occur regardless of the Brexit vote outcome. And I reckon that the primary plan (Plan A) was expecting a Remain vote, but had Plan B for a Leave vote – and we are seeing Plan B.
Plan A would have been more or less the same as Plan B. They would have had a go at Corbyn for the same reason, namely the alleged lacklustre campaign to Remain, but having won, this criticism would have been that much weaker. The Labour plotters would have had a card up the sleeve that was to be used only if needed, that we haven’t seen. Perhaps the criticism of the Labour Remain campaign would have been beefed-up somehow, or the criticisms of his performances at the despatch box (a particular criticism that I have found quite peculiar, given Cameron’s blustering red face appearing so often and the number of times Corbyn has appeared calm and collected in comparison. It seems some prefer the theatre to actual debate – and Corbyn isn’t performing. He’s just making statements and asking questions).
Plan B however enabled the plotters to merely use the Brexit campaign as an excuse on its own. Remain lost – let’s blame Jeremy.
What they evidently did not anticipate was the total chaos ensuing the Tories because of the Leave vote. So busy were they plotting the coup of their own leader, they forgot what their primary job was – to hold the Government to account. And it showed.
They clearly didn’t anticipate that at the moment they were preparing to strike at Corbyn, the country was expecting them to step-up and rip the Tories to shreds for having no plan to deal with a Brexit vote.
Damn, they had already scheduled their coup.
So, proceed with coup or do the job of work they are well paid for?
Coup it is.
So, a long line of resignations followed and a fractious meeting where there was a no confidence motion passed. Clearly the plotters were expecting that this would be too much for Corbyn and that he would resign. Surely a leader with so little support from his own MPs couldn’t carry on, could they? Would they?
It’s not exactly a secret that the Labour MPs that form the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) do not want Corbyn in charge and most are not as left-leaning on the political index as Corbyn, but they are stuck with him because the membership voted for him, and they are clearly more to the left than the MPs that represent them. And only the membership can depose him, unless he resigns.
What also wasn’t that much of a secret was that this coup was coming – and from what direction. Margaret Hodge had been named several weeks earlier as a “stalking horse” and indeed it was she that put in the motion of no confidence.
So Corbyn would have seen it coming. Corbyn would have a strategy. And it was simple: Don’t resign.
The no confidence motion is not relevant to a Labour leadership contest. Not resigning means that the only way Corbyn can be ousted is by a direct challenge to the leadership, and a leadership election then ensues. And Corbyn’s popularity is such that he is most likely to be returned as Labour Leader.
But what happens then? Will the PLP quietly accept it or keep plotting Corbyn’s demise?
But the leadership election, as I write, has not been triggered. The coup was expecting Corbyn to resign and is already getting resistance from Labour members and their constituency parties. The person that was initially touted as the most likely challenger is Angela Eagle, who is the MP for Wallasey in The Wirral, and she has already come under fire from her own constituency who had told her not to challenge Corbyn.
At the CLP AGM on Friday 24th June 2016, delegates asked me to write to you to ask you to reject the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. The meeting was overwhelmingly behind Jeremy continuing as Labour leader. Your appearance on TV during the post referendum programme was mentioned. Your response in putting the question of his leadership aside to deal with the issues was welcomed. The idea that the Labour Party would rather miss the chance to capitalise on the splits in the Tory party by in fighting was not acceptable to members.
On behalf of the constituency I would ask you to make a clear public statement of support for him.
Kathy Miller & Kathy Runswick
Secretary & Chair Wallasey CLP
Eagle, whilst popular with some in the PLP, has some baggage to overcome however. Her voting record is such that ordinary Labour members are hardly likely to vote for in a Leadership contest.
- – According to the They Work For You website she has “generally voted for a stricter asylum system”.
- – According to the They Work For You website in January and March 2004 she “voted in favour of university tuition fees increasing from £1125 per year to up to £3000 per year”.
- – She supported the introduction of ID cards.
- – In 2006 she supported the Blair government’s plan to detain terrorism suspects for up to 90 days without charge.
- – In March 2013 she abstained on the vote about the coalition government’s workfare programme, the scheme in which people on Jobseekers Allowance are forced to carry out unpaid work in order to keep receiving their benefits.
- – In July 2015 she abstained on the vote for the Welfare Bill, which proposed to cut tax credits, reduce the benefit cap to £20,000 (£23,000 in London) and called for £12bn more cuts. According to the government’s own figures, over 300,000 poor children will be pushed further into poverty, with 40,000 more children sinking below the poverty line, as a result of the benefit cap. Child Poverty – Action Group noted “the majority of households affected by the benefit cap are lone-parent households and the main victims are children”.
- – She supports the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
- – In March 2003 she voted for the invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of approximately 500,000 people, according to the latest survey.
- – According to the They Work For You website she has “consistently voted against an investigation into the Iraq war”.
- – She supports the retention of Trident nuclear weapons.
- – In September 2014 she voted in favour of air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq.
- – In December 2015 she voted in favour of air strikes on Islamic State in Syria.
It seems that the PLP were expecting Corbyn to resign and for Eagle to swoop in (sorry, couldn’t resist it) and take over the empty chair, rather than fight in an election which she is virtually certain to lose.
The PLP are now hesitating and taking stock. Can they force Corbyn to resign? Can they find a better opponent to face Corbyn in a leadership contest? If so, will it be Owen Smith?
One thing I can’t see them doing is what I dared them to do on Twitter: for the plotters to go back to their Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and see if they support their actions or if they instead instruct them to support Corbyn – or else.
No, they would rather claim that their election, in 2015, prior to Corbyn becoming party Leader, means that they have a mandate to do what they like about him. Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense and saves them the trouble of checking-in with the membership to make sure that they feel the same way. #Sarcasm.
As for those on the outside, many who want to see the Labour Party in a position to challenge The Tories are fed-up of the in-fighting. Some would rather see Corbyn go so that the PLP can stop fighting itself & attack the Tories. But others see that as a failure of democracy, of letting the plotters win against the will of the membership and also fear that the direction of travel that Corbyn was taking the party will be changed back to what it was – that which lost the last two elections.
The general prevailing view within the PLP is that the Labour Party must remain somewhere close to The Tory party, to be electable, under the logic that says the people voted Tory more than Labour in the last two elections, so therefore we must place our flag there or thereabouts. This is being challenged as a falsehood. Perhaps the truth is that Labour would have got more votes if it stood further away from the Tories and had more competent MPs that could argue the case, instead of failing to persuade the public and give-up trying, moving ground instead, away from where their own members want them.
For me, the PLP’s position is that of a group of despots clinging to power; of being too used to doing what they like as the membership were not so interested in the day-to-day stuff.
They do not want Jeremy Corbyn’s policies to be put to the test with the electorate, despite this being the will of the Labour membership. The reason? Simple: people might actually vote for those policies and prove the PLP’s stance as utterly wrong.
The PLP stance may actually have prevented Labour from either winning, or at least prevented the Tories from winning, in the last two general elections – because it wasn’t prepared to offer an alternative that was either credible to the electorate or acceptable to the membership or traditional Labour voters.
The evidence of this is Scotland. After sharing a platform with the Tories during the Scottish Independence campaign, this proved to be the last straw for many Labour party members, who felt that Labour had left them and become “Tory-lite”.
After years of being taken for granted and with the advent of the Scottish Parliament, these Labour Party members may well have voted “No” during Indyref in 2014. But come 2015, when they saw Labour policies as being far too similar to Tory policies, that Tory election rhetoric was rubbishing the Scottish voters, that Labour then distanced itself from doing a deal with the SNP, a Scottish party with Scottish voters, after all, and one that could have meant keeping The Tories out of office, and then seen that the SNP had an anti-austerity agenda and policies, then they took that second step. They not only stopped voting Labour but actively voted SNP.
The result: history. The SNP that previously had 6 MPs took all bar three of the 59 Scottish General Election seats, obtaining 50% of the votes cast, with Scottish Labour losing 40 MPs.
Proportionately at least, more people supported the SNP at GE2015 than at the Indyref months earlier. Whilst it is possible that the entirety of the SNP vote also voted “Yes” at Indyref, this is highly unlikely. “No” voters and traditional Labour voters voted SNP at GE2015, because the SNP gave them somewhere to go; somewhere that English voters didn’t have to go (with a mainstream party, at least) at GE2015.
In short, anti-austerity policies have never been put to the test in England, but have in Scotland, where they won out, big time.
There are caveats to whether Labour would win with Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies in place, and obvious ones include; the party must be at least fairly united, not at war, not shooting itself in the foot, not having MPs stabbing each other in the back and actually spending more time taking on the Tories. Only the most die-hard stalwart would vote for a party in turmoil like that.
Other people would not. Even if Labour had the better policies, if they were in turmoil, they would not be seen as a credible party of Government. Others would either switch vote, or not vote.
And that is what the PLP are doing, in my view. They are making Labour un-electable under Corbyn, by way of sabotage, so that these policies are not put to the vote at a General Election, as until they are, the PLP can argue that the Labour Party won’t win with them and use fear to put people off; and then have policies that they believe are more likely to win at a General Election – despite being wrong on the last two occasions and despite what happened in Scotland.
Whether the PLP succeed in removing Jeremy Corbyn or not remains to be seen, but if they do succeed and do not replace him with an MP that the membership will support, and with more or less the same policies that Corbyn has been espousing, then I firmly believe that The Labour Party will be even more lost than its Scottish Labour branch has become after Indyref and GE2015.
The membership surge that Corbyn and his policies brought will be destroyed as these new members will feel completely betrayed and disenfranchised. The gains and potential gains that Labour had been making will evaporate.
Despite claiming that Jeremy Corbyn’s removal will make Labour more electable and more competent, unless they meet the criteria above, then in my view, removing Corbyn will mean electoral oblivion for the Labour Party for a generation, if not forever. The Labour Party may not survive this war.
The days of the PLP acting of their own devices with a relatively uninterested and uninformed membership are gone. They must adapt or die. I think they would rather die.
It may then become incumbent upon the Labour Party membership to deselect substantial numbers of existing Labour MPs and replace them with prospective MPs (PPCs) that are more in tune with the membership, and, perhaps, the electorate. This process may be brutal and may cost it the next General Election if the process is too bloody, but it may give The Labour Party a future that its own members and the wider electorate may support, as opposed to being consigned to the wilderness and, potentially, political if not actual oblivion.
As it is, The Labour Party is walking a tightrope and any mis-step now could be fatal.
PS Yes the Star Trek memes and the title and not coincidental. Another little thing I couldn’t resist…