If you are looking for anyone to blame for the chaos in the British Labour Party …look no further than Ed Miliband. By any standards, he was a decent bloke, a professional Islington type who landed a safe seat in the north of England. The defeat of his Blairite brother, David (also a Londoner witha safe northern seat) produced tension…David, probably more professional and charismatic but tainted by Blairism, went off in a huff to United States.
Labour lost the 2015 General Election. And certainly Ed was no asset. Especially with a vicious Tory media. I can forgive him losing the Election but he resigned with indecent haste….within days of the defeat.
I firmly believe that he deserted his troops. That is unforgivable.
With potential leaders like David Miliband and Ed Balls not even in Westminster, it was a shambolic four-person contest for Leader. Most people saw Yvette Cooper (Mrs Ed Balls) and Andy Burnham as the likely winner.
Cooper was too much of an “insider” (from a family of professional trade unionists, “advisor” in Labour HQ and of course married to a man who had the same career path). Burnham was more authentically working class, but vitriolic against Scottish Nationalists.
A third candidate, Liz Kendall was the ultra-Blairite and really only in the race to establish credentials as being in the first rank of six or eight big players in Labour…one for the future.
Few gave any thought that veteran left winger, Jeremy Corbyn might win. But they had overlooked the fact that the electorate included not just every rank and file Labour Party member…but thousands of “three pounders” who signed up as Labour supporters for the sole purpose of voting in the Leadership election. Predictably this included several thousand lefties who would vote for Corbyn. It also included several thousand people who detest the Labour Party and wanted to choose the worst possible Leader.
Of course opinions differed as to who the worst might be but it is still folly not to screen membership applications from Tories. And even bigger folly not to insist that new members serve at least a full year before being given crucial voting rights.
As the Leadership campaign unfolded, it became clear that Jeremy Corbyn might win. And he did…comfortably. The membership including the “three pounders” had analysed the crisis in the Labour Party differently from the Party establishment at Westminster.
To his credit, Andy Burnham decided to serve in Corbyn’s “shadow cabinet” and shamefully Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall (who has a higher opinion of her talents than I have) refused. Thus the plotting began immediately and Corbyn’s leadership was undermined right away.
The “Labour Left” is a strange thing. In any Parliament I have ever seen, there have been Labour back benchers who see it as their job to keep the Leadership of the Labour Party (even Labour Governments) honest. They are without ambition. They cant be bribed with the promise of a post in the Cabinet.
On the downside, they can be a bit messianic.
If you are the same age as me you might recall Ian Mikardo, Eric Heffer and the wonderful Joan Maynard, dubbed “Stalins Granny” but a formidable advocate of agriculture workers rights.
In 2016, you know of Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Flynn and Dennis Skinner “The Beast of Bolsover”. They are simply incorruptable.
The term usually deployed is “VETERAN Left Winger”. “Veteran” for two reasons. Their constituents have been electing them for decades. And at Westminster, where dominated by careerists, there are too few young left wingers.
Jeremy Corbyn or Liz Kendall? That question is already answered.
Paul Flynn or Jess Phillips?
Dennis Skinner or Stephen Kinnock?
The point is that in 2015, the Labour “establishment” under-estimated Jeremy Corbyn. They never expected him to stand for Leadership and certainly didnt expect to bedefeated by a man who has never shown any desire to leave the back benches. But …he won. And he wont be forgiven.
With no election due until 2020, it would have been reasonable to give Corbyn three years at the top. He could have re-moulded Labour as a Party with a “social conscience” rather than a Party of “social climbing” and been allowed the dignity of stepping aside for a new Leader, who might win a Westminster Election…a person untainted by a Blairit past or Blairite patronage.
But the knives were out from Day One.
The post-EU Referendum Coup against Corbyn was an act of cowardice, accurately dubbed “The Chicken Coup”…the co-ordinated resignations. But arguably, there is a pragmatic side that this Parliament may not run its full term and the election will be closer than thought. And of course, still time for Blairites to sieze back control.
But the most striking thing about the “plotters” is their cowardice.
Corbyn has the support of just 40 MPs and there are 170 MPs against Corbyn.
But the “three pounders” are back again. It is entryism and it is not very edifying. If it goes to the “membership” Corbyn will win. But only if he is on the ballot paper.
This is where it gets complicated.
Angela Eagle will be a candidate. I suspect she has advice that Jeremy Corbyn does not have to be on the ballot paper. If so, I suspect Eagle is an agreed candidate and none of the 170 plotters will oppose her. This means that she will be elected unopposed…which avoids a scenario where she gets (say) 35% of the vote and A N Other gets (say) 14% and spoiled votes (ie people writing in “Corbyn”) accounts for 51% of the votes.
This is of course no more than a device to convince people that Eagle is the overwhelming choice (sic).
But that means a hell of a lot of the plotters will be de-selected.
The point that people have missed is that the “Left” is now the moderate mainstream of the Labour Party.
You may be aware that in the 1980s Neil Kinnock, Labour Leader lambasted the Liverpool Council (then in the grip of Militant Tendency) as being a “a Labour Council…a Labour Council …hiring taxis to deliver redundancy notices” to its own employees. Shameful.
But did you know that the big issue at the Durham Miners Gala is a Labour Council….a Labour Council ….sacking its own Teaching Assistants and offering them their jobs back with a 25% reduction in wages.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke in support of the Teaching Assistants. The other man in the pic is David Lindsay, friend and blogger who arranged a meeting between Corbyn and the Teaching Assistants.
Where are the plotters?
Perhaps Stephen Kinnock MP for a safe Welsh seat and heir to his father’s hereditary Welsh Windbag title) will take time off from advancing his career to condemn this Labour Council.
Labour dealt with the threat of Militant Tendency. It needs to deal with the Blairite Tendency. And…quickly.