The last 24 hours of Labour politics demonstrate why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going anywhere

by Atul Hatwal

If one thing in modern politics can be guaranteed, it is that Labour will find a way to form a circular firing squad, whatever the situation.

That’s the only way to describe the last minute intervention of Labour’s old right with Ed Balls, Tom Watson, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper, running a freelance campaignlet, within the overall Remain campaign, raising the prospect of ending EU free movement while remaining in the EU.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the policy, to intervene like this at such a late stage betrays an utterly incredible level of political incompetence.

Four points are salient.

First, it was never going to cut through.

In the words of Lynton Crosby you can’t fatten a pig on market day.

To introduce an entirely new policy, at odds with Remain’s focus on the economy is campaign idiocy that confuses the message at a critical juncture.

Second, the story was always going to be concussively knocked down.

It may not have dawned on this group, but in the modern world of communications there is a thing called the telephone.

A few calls by journalists to the relevant media contacts in the French foreign office, the German foreign office and EU Commission, brought an inevitable rubbishing of the Labour right’s plan.

Even given the deluded logic of those that flew this kite, the public and categoric response of our EU partners was going to make Labour’s politicians look impotent at best, incompetent liars at worst.

Third, the legacy story was always going to be about Labour splits.

It was obvious that Jeremy Corbyn was going to defend freedom of movement. He’s spent decades doing it.

It was obvious Hilary Benn wasn’t going to sign up to a change in party policy of such magnitude on the spur of the moment.

It was obvious that Alan Johnson, leader of Labour’s IN campaign wasn’t going to suddenly switch strategies and cut across everything he had been doing.

How could the story be about anything but Labour splits?

Fourth, this little operation obscured Jeremy Corbyn’s most effective and full-throated endorsement of the EU.

Here’s what he said yesterday,

“Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are wolves in sheep’s clothing, using their fake concern for the NHS to mask their real agenda.

If you care about the NHS, as I do, as Labour does, as NHS staff do, then vote Remain.

The risk to the NHS if we vote Leave is the damage to public finances caused by a hit to our economy, and the risk to our NHS by a victory for those who would scrap a universal NHS – free at the point of use.”

But the lead item on the news reports was about freedom of movement.

After so many calls for Jeremy Corbyn to engage in the campaign properly, the old right chose the moment Corbyn actually made a useful intervention as the time to blunder in. Brilliant.

The net result of this quixotic episode was to demonstrate that Labour could not be trusted at the controls of the EU referendum campaign, which is why George Osborne came crashing in with his Brexit budget story.

Now, 24 hours since Ed Balls et al made their move, it already feels like a peculiar footnote in this campaign.

However, the epic lack of judgement demonstrated in this manoeuvre raises questions that will last beyond June 23rd.

These are meant to be the sensible Labour politicians.

The ones who will be there to pick up the pieces after the Corbyn experiment collapses in on itself.

Given their demonstration of their competence over the past twenty four hours, if the right actually tried to pick up a shattered fragment, they’d most likely slip, bang their head, cut themselves on said shard and require urgent medical attention.

In the very early days of New Labour, during the mid-90s, the first generation of Blairites viewed the old right with varying degrees of professional contempt.

Part of this was because the old right was at odds with New Labour’s social liberalism on women’s issues, LGBT rights and race.

In part though it was because many of the old right had helped preside over the descent of the party into madness in the 1970s, trodden water in the 1980s and then hankered after some form of proto-Callaghanite restoration in the 1990s.

One wonders how the generation of politicians that do ultimately take Labour back to power, years from now, will regard the scions of Gordon Brown, these lieutenants of Ed Miliband, this latest manifestation of Labour’s traditional right.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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20 Responses to “The last 24 hours of Labour politics demonstrate why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going anywhere”

  1. Matthew Blott says:

    Ed Miliband is hardly the old Labour right. I’m not a Miliband fan at all but it looks like his name’s been shoehorned in just to have a cheap shot at him.

  2. Mike Homfray says:

    The point too is that Corbyn is probably closer to the feelings of many Labour voters than the Blairite right who are much more sympathetic to the whole globalisation project
    As for the old Right – they surely know that what they are proposing is a non starter?

  3. john P REID says:

    the old right weren’t all socially conservative, Shirley Williams was supsicous of the Permissive society, but against Iraq, David Blunkett the same ,but was pro legalising Cannabis

    David Owen and Lord Glasman both backed Ed M ,for leader

  4. David Walsh says:

    I guess whatsoever happens after next Thursday, one certainty is that the knives will be out for our Jeremy.

    Which is a shame as the key focal area that has come gurgling up from the depths – the sheer intensity of racial prejudice – was being nurtured decades before JC ascended to his new position.

  5. Anon E Mouse says:

    With it now being quite obvious that the internal polling for the Remain side shows what everyone knows (that there will be a vote for Leave) I don’t think anything Labour do could be considered extreme.

    The Labour voter was always the key the referendum and Corbyn should have stuck to his principals, campaigned to Leave and finished the Tories off by doing so.

    I think we will vote to leave and a deal will be done with the EU.

    Cameron’s negotiation was a farce and Labour should have refused to vote to remain on the basis of that alone. To sell your soul to big business and TTIP means Labour as a party may be nearing an end like it is in Scotland. Since the rise of UKIP they have no USP I’m afraid…

  6. I’ve only just started to get to know Labour, but I think terms like “old right” give a false impression, I think the term centrist social democrat is a better way to describe these people.

    I went as an observer to the Progress and Fabian society summer conferences, and the people I met and listened to weren’t rightwing at all, nor are the Labour people I’ve been following on Twitter. They are passionately committed to social justice. They’re just sceptical of ideological solutions if they have similarities to the failures in countries like Venezuela.

  7. Dadad says:

    What they are saying is quite correct; we can have our cake and eat it.
    All you have to do is read the latest version (v6) of Flexcit and all will be plain to you.

  8. Peter Kenny says:

    Atul, nice to see that some one else other that Corbyn is to blame for once.

  9. Disenfranchised says:

    There is a problem now concerning Labour’s hierarchy.

    No matter how caring a member is, they are seen as sticking with a party that took this country into a war on another sovereign state; and now are backing a position on the European Union, of which a lot of their one-time supporters are viscerally opposed.

    Corbyn changing his mind on the EU, and Labour’s involvement in Iraq, indicate a complete lack of moral principle, and the guy on the street picks up on this.

  10. Rallan says:

    Could this be it? Could this be the first ever correct Atul Hatwal prediction? Or will Jeremy Corbyn be gone by the end of the year?

  11. John P Reid says:

    Mike Himfray, the point is, if what you say is true it’s on,y because so many of supporters of the party, who were on the right of the party aren’t backing us anymore, but yes I know, you feel it’s a moral victory for us to lose and as you speak for the party, having only rejoined 7 years ago, you can say that ‘ the party’ doesn’t want, what was the right of the party ,in it

  12. Tafia says:

    Following yesterday’s tragedy, the Swedes have been drawing parallels with their referendum in 2003 to join the euro.

    Three days before the ballot, Anna Lindh, a minister in favour of the euro, was stabbed to death in a department store.

    They suspended campaigning, but her death didn’t really affect the result. No was leading by 15 points before her death, and the final result was 56-42 to No.

    I see also from todays Times that Donald Tusk has begun the preparations for a UK BREXIT. In the event of a Leave vote, he has convened a meeting between himself, mark Rutte and Martin Sculze ahead of an emergency summit to be held in Finland on June 26 of all EU leaders (les Cameron).

    The world moves on. They will carry on without us, we will carry on without them.

    Also in the same edition it reports Sturgeon as having already informally approached Brussels (behind London’s back) – which she admits to but refuses to go into details, and an excellent article by the respected Ed Conway in which he states “If we left, there would be no earthquake, no plague of locusts”.

  13. Hi @Disenfranchised
    You said “Corbyn changing his mind on the EU, and Labour’s involvement in Iraq, indicate a complete lack of moral principle”

    I’m a Lib Dem, so you might expect me to agree with you, but I don’t.

    Being in a political party can be difficult. Sometimes you will disagree with the party. Sometimes you will have to make difficult compromises. As Jo Cox said in January, being a potential party of government is about “seriously engaging in the difficult trade-offs and decisions that must be made”.

  14. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Corbyn’s stance on the EU referendum will detroy Labour in the North of England. More and more Labour folk see Jeremy Corbyn as unprincipled and English Labour a “branch office” of the corrupt EU.

    The London centrist elite will regain control of the Labour Party but it’s diminshed size will never hold power.

  15. John P Reid says:

    Mr Arika Origama, Polly Toynbee from her home in Tuscany, as a white middle class liberal from the guardian, portrays the blue collar working class, be it bAME people from Brixton, identified by Flo Eshaomi, Kate honey, or Asian 3rd generation Pakistan/Indians living in tower hamlets,be they Sikh or Hindu, identified by local boy David Owen and George Galloway, or the nigerian working class identified by Lord Glasman and the white working class in Kent identified by Frank Field,

    Are portrayed by the guardians as that Fascist Farage, or racist gove, comforting them and their supporters,all be they traditionally labour voters to Hitler, saying being anti the Eu is anti Europe, Xenophobic to the Germans because of the war, or anti refugees, or anti Brussels, and that any one wanting brexit,is a thick, working class CHAV racist, and the thing is, immigration hasn’t even been mentioned on the door step, in fact the only person who was voting Brexit, to mention it,a UKIP member said they’ll be more Common wealth immigration

  16. John P Reid says:

    I’ve heard left wing remainers saying to left wing. brexit ears, the whole of the leave campaign, saying they’ve got Jo cox blood in their hands and a vote for. Brexit,is a vote for this alleged Neo nazi

  17. Tafia says:

    John P Reid, Stronger In (amongst others) have done a mass e-mail tonight referencing stuff written by her, in direct contravention of the agreement not to use her death as a campaign weapon.

  18. Mike Homfray says:

    George Kendall – I can understand the confusion, but there’s a difference between the ‘progressive’ right wing social democrats, associated with Blair and the like, who are as you say, centrist social democrats, and the ‘old right’ who you might find more to the left economically but with more socially conservative views, and often hostility to some of the issues mentioned in the article which are derided as only favoured by ‘liberal middle class elites’

  19. Tafia says:

    ‘progressive’ right wing social democrats, associated with Blair/i>

    You’d have to be a cpmplete tool to think that attacking Iraq was ‘progressive’ or in anyway social democrat.

  20. Mike Homfray says:

    I’m not a Blairite by any means, but I don’t think that Iraq can easily be expressed in that way ie linked to a particular ideology – I used progressive in inverted commas because I don’t think its a particularly accurate term, but it does indicate views supportive of say, the equality agenda. Its fair to say that the social democratic right of the Labour party has always tended towards pro-US and interventionist positions

    Brown’s social policies in terms of the willingness to have an active state and high public spending were essentially social democratic. Other aspects of the Blair government were less so. But I don’t think its unfair to see them as on the right wing centrist end of social democracy.

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