This is a competition between individuals who aspire to govern a country. It is not a charity event

by Rob Marchant

We’re like that in the Labour Party, aren’t we? Oh, he’s a nice bloke, he deserves a shot at this. One of us. Can’t we swing it to get him on the list? Or, worse: we’d better put him on the list, or there’ll be hell to pay.

Never mind that the rules of the list are that you need to get 35 MP nominations. Nominations, note, not pity transfers. It is perfectly right that all sections of the party should be represented in this ballot. But those – and only those – which have earned them.

So when a bunch of MPs decide at the eleventh hour to switch nominations specifically to let Jeremy Corbyn MP limp onto the shortlist, it is against the spirit of the rules, even if it is not against the letter, plain common sense and the seriousness of a leadership election.

Then again, as Jonathan Reynolds MP noted on Monday, neither is this anything approaching serious politics. It is not.

In one move, a small section of the PLP has achieved three things. One, it has shown its contempt for its own rule-book, were it not clear enough already. It has reinforced the idea that, if the rules provide a result you do not like, pressure people to bend the rules and they will.

Two: it has strengthened the voice of its most extreme wing far beyond its genuine representation in the Labour Party (if you don’t believe this, wait and see how Corbyn actually polls in September, or recall Diane Abbott’s dismal poll in 2010).

Three: it has played right into the hands of a few hard-left clowns, whose strategy was to mobilise in order to hammer an online poll at LabourList, in the hope that its (at that point clearly meaningless) result would create unstoppable momentum for a Corbyn place on the leadership list.

And you know what? The clowns were right. Old-fashioned hard-left tactics were used to pressure for a place on the list, and Labour MPs fell for the sucker punch. Because, we speculate, they believed they were helping democracy, or saving their party from civil war, or because someone had just metaphorically twisted their arm behind their back and it was hurting. Or whatever.

But it is – again, as we have seen from the actions of the union Unite over recent years – the case of the bully who gets his own way because the reaction he gets is “engagement”. It is accommodation. In fact, it is deference and even fear.

It is not the intention of this piece to carry out a hatchet job on Corbyn. In fact, the thing with Corbyn – already known by Labour’s enemies and which will become apparent to many Britons over the coming months – is that the hatchet jobs write themselves, and he helpfully provides the axe. The only possible excuse for the “nice bloke” approach to Corbyn is ignorance.

The facts: Jeremy Corbyn has stood in for his unedifying friend, George Galloway, on PressTV, the propaganda mouthpiece of a despotic Iranian regime, which promotes Holocaust denial and is now banned on UK terrestrial TV for breaking broadcasting guidelines.

Further facts regarding phrases like “our friends from Hezbollah and our friends from Hamas” and Corbyn’s friendly words for anti-Semitic hate-preacher Raed Salah, were yesterday ably summarised by the excellent Alan Johnson at Left Foot Forward. And if you still have doubts about Salah, you should watch this video. If you have the stomach.

It is enough to talk stupidly about “engagement” with despicable regimes, best known for use of human shields, suicide bombs, brutal oppression of women and gays, or exacting justice by pushing people off tall buildings. But calling them your “friends” is something different: it is actively allying yourself with them.

I could go on. If this sounds angry, it is because I am. The left, and more mortifyingly, my own party, has tolerated this kind of “engagement” for far too long when it is entirely unacceptable. For a start, we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions about why that is.

And I am afraid I am not going to credit Corbyn, as many habitually do, with being a “good constituency MP”. For me it is like a bad detective show, when neighbours say about someone “oh, we’re all in shock. I mean, he was pretty quiet, kept himself to himself, really”, just after they find the bodies stacked under the floorboards. It is meaningless flim-flam. An MP is to be judged by their political actions, not how much casework they do.

In short, we have not only made a mockery of our leadership selection process. We have done it to humour a tiny contingent in the party who have zero chance of success. And we have delighted our enemies by including a candidate whose actual views, mostly little known to the party’s rank and file, range from the merely naïve to the repugnant. You can rest assured they will not remain little-known for long.

Look, we have all had a rough time. We have lost an election many thought we might win and it has hurt our self-esteem. But we do not need to let things descend into farce.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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13 Responses to “This is a competition between individuals who aspire to govern a country. It is not a charity event”

  1. Tafia says:

    THE SNP has challenged Labour to start being honest about its membership figures after leaked information showed the party has fewer than 13,000 members in Scotland.

    The New Statesman yesterday revealed figures which have been “hidden” by previous leaders of the party in Scotland, including Jim Murphy who, in December last year claimed the membership number was “about 20,000”.

    The SNP currently has more than 110,000 members – up from 25,000 in September last year.

    SNP business convener Derek Mackay said: “This is an embarrassment for the people who are meant to be in charge of Labour party in Scotland – they should have been forthcoming with these numbers months ago.

    Every other party – including UK Labour – is open with their membership numbers. The mystery as to why Scottish Labour kept them secret has been resolved – it’s because they are so low.

    “The SNP has been consistently upfront about our own membership figures – which were some 25,000 on referendum day and now stand at more than 110,000.”

    He added: “Anything less than a commitment to transparency will be yet another setback for a Labour Party that has lost its way since tying itself into a toxic alliance with the Tories during the referendum campaign.”

    The New Statesman points out that just eight Scottish constituency Labour parties (CLPs) “have more members than in Northern Ireland, where the party does not stand.’’

  2. WHS says:

    And now with membership of the Labour Party only £3, Corbyn can get all the votes from Tories he can find!


  3. Noel says:

    It has not gone against its own rules in any shape of form, some have decided to nominate for democratic process because they know the leadership debate with only three forward is not representative. This article smacks of anger that a view it disapproves of is being put to democratic test, a quite disturbing situation. The bottom line is that grassroots wanted some reasonable amount of leftism in the debate and it is the absence of that – alongside dictatorial pro-right rhetoric such as in this article – that opened the gate for Corbyn. If he does well, I can sense the anger before it happens and it is this disdain through ambition to avoid democratic outcome that is most worrying about such rhetoric.

  4. David Walker says:

    So why run the poll on Labour List, when you must have known this is exactly what was going to happen? Every survey seems to be unhelpful to the Labour Party, so who took the decision?

    Now he is on the shortlist, Corbyn has a genuine chance of winning. No other candidate has the potential to build any genuine momentum.

    What happens if he is able to get the unions and ordinary members behind him? He can promise them the world. If MPs find themselves entirely at odds with both the unions and members, it could be the beginning of the end for Labour. It would be an apt finale.

  5. Ian says:

    i strongly agree with Noel. This post is not a fair description of the series of events leading up to Jeremy Corbyn’s receipt of 35 nominations on Monday.

    For instance, it omits to mention why Corbyn ran in the first place: because activists petitioned for the opportunity to vote for a genuinely anti-austerity candidate.

  6. Theo Blackwell (@camdentheo) says:

    I think it’s pretty clear why Corbyn got nominated by the Mayoral candidates who are MPs – not for democratic debate but as a play to the Ken-left who occupy powerful positions in London region etc.

  7. David Walker says:

    Sorry, my bad! Getting Labour Uncut and Labour List mixed up! ‘Who, at Labour List, thought it was a good idea?’ is what I should be asking.

  8. swatantra says:

    ”Oh, he’s a nice bloke, he deserves a shot at this. One of us. Can’t we swing it to get him on the list? Or, worse: we’d better put him on the list, or there’ll be hell to pay”…

    Now if every OMOVer thought like that, not knowing that other OMOVers were thinking the same, then, then, on 7 Sept, we’ll be waking up to JC as Leader!!!
    Gawd help us!

    I’m sure that JC will get the same ‘Press Intrusion’ that drove out poor Chuka, and he may well be thinking, what the hell have I let myself in for?

  9. Robert says:

    I see nothing strange about nominating somebody to provide a wider choice for party members. It is also strange to get a lecture about extremism from somebody who probably supported the invasion of Iraq, detention without trial and ID cards.

  10. Phil Kelly says:

    I don’t think Jeremy can win (and if he did, he would not be the Leader Labour needs now) but to dismiss his popularity in Islington as the result of “just casework” is to miss an important political point. What do the Westminster bubble types think is implied by “the incumbency factor”? Obviously, not just being there (as Scottish MPs and Ed Balls discovered). Thousands (literally) of people in Islington are in local organisations which JC has supported. I think this is called Labour playing a leading role in civic society (supposed to be a good thing, no?)

  11. Henrik says:

    I’m strangely conflicted. On the one hand, I’d absolutely love Corbyn to become leader of the Labour Party, imagine the endless years of helpless giggling from outside the party as he bravely and resolutely takes up all manner of unusual positions, from hugging anti-Semitic homophobes on the basis that they hate Jews and the British, so they must be sound, to pushing for ever greater involvement of the unions in politics… hilarious. Guaranteed another ten years of the Tories in charge.

    On the other hand, imagine no credible HM Loyal Opposition to hold the Government to account.

  12. john P redi says:

    robert ,ID cards are voluntary i got 2 id cards the day I was born my Nationlal insurance and my birth certicficate,

    detention without trial,under the 1952 vagrancy act, a police officer could detain someone for the purposes of a search, plus prisoner of war camps in the war, it was extended to 48 hours by labour in the 60’s then ted Heath had interment,then Labour had it, to a week in the mid 70’s

    and then 12 days in 1996, before labour, had 14 days then 28 days and tried for 42 days which was rejected, the latter having compensation for time held ,if not charged,

  13. George1984 says:

    How is he credible given the number of times he has broken the whip.
    No mp need follow him
    Also his support for the ira was vile.

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