Corbyn must be beaten in a leadership contest. MPs can’t exclude him from the ballot

by Atul Hatwal

The first stage of the PLP rebellion has been executed well. The scale and pace of the resignations have demonstrated the level of breach between the leader and his parliamentary troops.

Now comes the tricky bit.

Once the motion of no confidence in the leader has been passed – current predictions suggest 80%+ PLP backing – the MPs are primed to attempt something disastrous: to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot.

The mechanic will be MP nominations. Once the race is on, contenders need the backing of 35 MPs, a threshold Jeremy Corbyn could not hope to cross.

However, the rules are ambiguous as to whether he, as the incumbent, would need any nominations. Jolyon Maugham QC looked at the detail and, while no fan of Corbyn, concluded that he would be on the ballot automatically as leader. Legal firm, Doughty Street Chambers have come to the same view.

Apparently there is some contradictory advice with Iain McNicol, Labour party general secretary, but regardless of the legal he-said-she-saids, MPs should abandon this plan. It’s utterly mad.

Attempting a fix, so that the name Jeremy Corbyn isn’t an option on members’ ballots, is self-harming for two reasons.

First, the party in the country will tear itself apart.

Many MPs seem to have the insouciant attitude that the sole result will be several thousand Corbynistas leaving the party in a huff.


There will be full blown civil war across every level of the party.

Corbynista members will fight, in some CLPs literally.  MPs’ might be feeling brave at Westminster, but the summer will be consumed with a grassroots campaign to get Corbyn on the ballot. A campaign that will be fought in MPs’ home CLPs, face to face, hand to hand.

If there’s one thing that would motivate Labour’s left-wing membership to full mobilisation, it would be this sort of action by the PLP.

This would be the only issue in the whole leadership campaign.

Second, the sainted Jez would get what he wants most of all: he would be turned into a martyr. No need for difficult discussions about his incompetence or lack of impact. No need to defend his inconsistencies. He would just have to be the wronged hero.

During last year’s leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn received virtually zero scrutiny in terms of his policies or platform. The reporting was all about the process of his left-wing insurgency.

Banning Corbyn from the contest would ensure he could reclaim this billing, running against the PLP and Labour establishment to get onto the ballot.

There would be little accountability for his disastrous tenure as leader.

After a few weeks of abuse from local members and with the threat of deselection looming, how many MPs would still hold the line? How many would publicly call for him to be put onto the ballot?

What do the MPs think that the likes of Len McCluskey and the union leaders will say? Beyond the activist cadre that they command, they are Labour’s primary source of funds – without them the party is broke.

When the threats from the unions to Labour’s future income became absolutely explicit and written in banner headlines across the news websites, when the member petitions had wracked up tens of thousands of signatures, who doesn’t think the NEC would buckle and put him back on the ballot?

After such a farrago, what chance is there that he wouldn’t romp home?

If, by some miracle, Corbyn was actually kept of the ballot, the narrative of betrayal would fuel the destructive anger of the hard left for years. They wouldn’t simply slink away but redouble their attempts at taking over constituencies and deselecting offending MPs.

The unions, who are backing Corbyn, would hardly be able to glide over the anger of their activists or their own opposition to the PLP’s fix, to hand over the money Labour needs to fight the next election.

The party would be impoverished and riven with division from top to bottom.

There is only way for centrists to beat Jeremy Corbyn and strengthen the Labour party: by winning a fair fight.

He needs to be on the ballot and a centrist candidate needs to beat him.

Only then will the talk of the mandate for hard left policies, from last year, be put to rest. Only then will the notion that the hard left represent the majority of Labour members and supporters be squashed.

Only then will Labour be able to move on from these disastrous past few months.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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19 Responses to “Corbyn must be beaten in a leadership contest. MPs can’t exclude him from the ballot”

  1. anosrep says:

    And when he gets onto the ballot and wins another crushing victory, will you lot finally shut up and start taking the fight to the Tories instead of doing their dirty work for them?

  2. john p Reid says:

    It would take someone who would be prepared to be humiliated and.. not be part of the coup that the PLP are proposing yes Corbyn is out of touch with the public (unless he secretly vote leave) in which case he’s more in touch that thought)
    but the alterantive will not only have to convince most the party that they’re better, but they’re not into this sort of cliqueness, that has seen battle lines drawn and, be able to appear loyal

    can’t think of any, maybe an unknown person like Steve Rotherham or Bill Emerson

  3. Iain Crawford says:

    You are spot on about this. – though I would describe the instigators of this mess as centrist.

    I would add that it is not only the left of the party that would be outraged.

    I would say that all sections of the party right and left have an innate sense of decency and fairness and these dishonest machinations and bending of the rules will make all of them re-consider if they want to be a member of a party that condones tactics like this.

    Sadly many members of the PLP seem to have a wonky moral compass. If they want rid of Corbyn but up some good candidates and have a fair election.

  4. Anon E Mouse says:

    I rarely get my political predictions wrong from Labour’s collapse in Scotland to a Tory majority etc etc.

    As a Labour Party member let me say right now that since Corbyn’s position is closer to the public than any other (excluding Scotland) he should remain leader.

    If Corbyn is booted out then UKIP will sweep the boards outside of England.

    Listen to out of touch people like this author at your peril Labour supporters.

    You forced Corbyn to choose a view on the EU he disagreed with (as with a majority in the country) and when it went wrong you turn on him. Shame on you.

    If you want to join the bankers, Tories and spivs to support the EU and the wealthy then you have no business in the Labour Party and should go and join the Lib Dems.

    Get rid of Jeremy and watch your party swing to UKIP.

    It’s gone in Scotland already. In Wales already Labour don’t have a majority and with Chilcott on the way things are not good but hey ho common sense never prevails with out of touch people does it?

  5. Peter Kenny says:

    Atul – I doubt that we agree on much but I’m with you 100% on this.

    Anything else is fantastically stupid (and given it’s the PLP might therefore happen) and utterly contemptuous of the Party.

    Corbyn will still win against any centrist candidate, of course. You’ll notice how little talk there is about who this magical person is.

    If Lisa Nandy runs he might be in trouble – but that wouldn’t work for you, would it?

  6. WildColonialBoy says:

    Corbyn failing to get on the ballot is not a “fix”, it simply means that he’s so unpopular with his own colleagues that he can’t even muster up enough votes for a nomination. MPs are entitled to nominate their preferred candidate and not have to “lend” someone their votes. If that was valid last time why is it not valid now? Furthermore, there’s a reason our party rules essentially provide MPs the ability to prevent a candidate from running. If a party leader cannot command the support of their own colleagues then they cannot do their job as a party leader in a Westminster political system.

    As for the legal considerations, Jolyon Maughan is quite simply wrong. Spinning Hugo (and the barrister that Ian McNicol briefed to look into the subject) came to the same conclusion; that the incumbent leader requires nomination. This is consistent both with a natural reading of the words of the rule book (that requires “any nomination”, not “any such nomination”, to obtain the required votes and that the leadership election is to be carried out between nominees who are the only ones who may go on the ballot)

    That interpretation is also completely consistent with the 1993/4 Rule Book rule on which this one was based (which no-one disputes required the incumbent leader to obtain nomination) and with Labour leadership election precedent.

  7. Dan says:

    Nah, disagree. Keep him off by all and any means. Corbyn can go hang. And if that means winding up 200+ Trots, crusties and students then so be it. We’ll do without. Let them go back to their flyers and pasting tables, shouting through megaphones.

    If he gets on the ballot and wins again, then we’ll be in the exact same situation.

  8. Dan says:

    Sorry, should have read 200k trots and crusties,etc.

  9. ad says:

    If MPs keep him off the ballot, they will regain control of the party. Why should they see that as a bad thing?

  10. steve says:

    totally agree – fair fight is necessary – surely even momentum activists can tell he’s useless? I don’t care if he had a mandate – surely he’s lost it now by being so pitiful? surely electability means more than purity of heart?

  11. Mark Livingston says:

    Labour can’t go on being Tory-lite. It’s time for the Blairites to come clean and join the proper Tories.

  12. madasafish says:

    In the real world outside Westminster – you know – work , or charities or even the civil service or local councils – a leader must lead and be respected by those they lead. If they don’t respect the Leader, he or she is toast and must resign – if only for the good of the organisation.

    Most commercial organisations have independent directors who would get rid of a leader who had clearly and palpably lost the support of his MPs.

    Here we have a serial rebel who has been elected Leader, does not lead but wants his MPs to support him without criticism – support he was not prepared to give when he was an MP.

    IF there is a leadership election and he wins, there is nothing to prevent the MPs doing the same again and triggering another election for Leder 5, 6 or 12 months from now.. again and again.

    In no other walk of life would anyone – not just MPs accept such a pitiful Leader.. See the English Football Team..for an example of another loser.

    Most of the pro Corbyn supporters appear to live in a world where political purity is all and leadership means blind obedience . Of course, that’s rubbish.. and most of their support is couched in terms more applicable to the master/slave relationships of the 17th century. How many of them would work for a man like Corbyn in their own job? None I suspect.

    The problem though is not Corbyn. The problem is that the Labour Party IGNORES the legitimate concerns of its members and voters on housing, jobs and immigration. It did so in power and still does. (and Corbyn is worse than most at this).

    What you need is a TOTAL change in outlook – which means a change in people. Corbyn will not deliver that.. I doubt if any serving MP will as well.

    The Labour Party as it stands is stuck in the 20th century. It has abandoned its traditional voters. Corbyn is just a diversion – though damaging – as he prevents essential change being made

  13. Well said, Atul.

    If, by some miracle, Corbyn was actually kept of the ballot, how would the wider electorate react? Would they trust a party if they felt the democratic process had been subverted.

    Corbyn as ongoing leader would be a catastrophe for Labour, and even worse for the country. But he will need to stand.

    As you say, now the hard part begins.

  14. Tafia says:

    The problem though is not Corbyn. The problem is that the Labour Party IGNORES the legitimate concerns of its members and voters on housing, jobs and immigration. It did so in power and still does. (and Corbyn is worse than most at this).

    What you need is a TOTAL change in outlook – which means a change in people. Corbyn will not deliver that.. I doubt if any serving MP will as well.

    Never a truer word spoken.

  15. soberinthemorning says:

    I’d go for broke and exclude him from the ballot. Otherwise he wins again and then what?

  16. @soberinthemorning

    If Corbyn wins, we’ll have a Conservative party, which has earned the utter contempt of most thinking people
    And we’ll have a residual Labour party led by Corbyn

    In that situation, how do you think a new centre-left grouping of maybe 100+ Labour MPs plus the Lib Dems would do in a General Election?

    Will it happen? I don’t know.
    Would it scare the living daylights out of the Tory party? I think it would.

  17. Atul, perhaps it’s already too late. the membership has seen the coup attempting to keep Corbyn from being on the ballot because they fear him winning again. They have probably driven even more members into supporting him. Angela Eagle’s own CLP is up in arms against her. How many more MPs will find a similar reaction in their own constituencies. If they were parachuted in then it will be far worse for them. And yes, I’m thinking of Tristram Hunt as I write that.

  18. TC says:

    I agree with your basic conclusion, Atul, and it’s good to see a voice for showing some moral fortitude and fibre to attempt to beat Corbyn in a fair fight. I can respect that, and it compares very favourably with those who wish to try to unseat Corbyn using chicanery.

    I see that a few people, and not just here, are talking about a revived SDP as a possible outcome. @George Kendall referred to 100+ Labour MPs (absurdly optimistic in my view, but let’s go with it) plus the Lib Dems scaring the life out of the Tories. I’m old enough to remember the SDP, which started out with similar hopes: they were going to sweep the board, and, well, we all know what happened next. I’d like to ask how you see it working. I’d like to ask where the money will come from, and how will you find the people, up and down the country, to get out in the peeing raining knocking on doors and delivering leaflets? The unions will remain loyal to Labour, as will most members, even those who aren’t happy with Corbyn. I shouldn’t like to put a figure on it, but we all know that only a small percentage will jump ship if it comes down to it.

    Without the unions or grassroots support, you’ll either end up more dependent on big money donors than the Tories, or be left without a pot to [pass water] in. Feelings of having ‘done the right thing’ and sympathetic ‘The Guardian View’ articles are poor substitutes for money and boots on the ground.

    There is also the defections issue. When Carswell and Reckless defected from the Tories to UKIP, they fought by-elections to confirm their mandates. Many would expect defecting Labour MPs to do the same. They’re not obliged to of course, but it will reflect badly on them if they don’t. In any case, they will have to fight elections at some point, most of them against local parties that will remain solidly behind Labour candidates (imagine the likes of Hunt fighting in Stoke against a Labour candidate; he’d be lucky to keep his deposit).

    Basically, if I’m making it sound like a non-starter, it’s because it almost certainly is.

  19. SN says:

    I am not sure comparisons with the SDP from the past work given the way politics have changed while there is a good chance that we can get a more capabl leader elected I cannot see a long term future for the party as currently constituted if Corbyn and his closest followers stay in control.

    Much has been made about the support he may have in the party but we must take into account that party members are a sophisticated electorate and will be making judgements about Corbyn’s ability and motivations as well as his character. These voters will consider the dangers of retaining a devisive figure. Those who meet voters on the doorstep will see for them selves that the general public don’t see him as a credible leader and after all it’s about winning elections at least I hope it is.

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