Labour is in meltdown

by Rob Marchant

“The Labour Party is facing its most serious crisis in its century-long history,” writes Eric Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling. He’s not wrong.

First of all, since my last Uncut column, it is no exaggeration to say that British politics has been turned upside down by the win of Leave in the Brexit referendum. Barring some kind of monumental U-turn, Britain is on its way out of the EU. In the resulting whirlwind, it is difficult to keep pace with the rapidly-changing landscape.

Aside from the immediate and dire economic fallout from the decision itself, to have a PM resign, mass Shadow Cabinet resignations and a Leader of the Opposition deserted by the vast majority of his MPs in a confidence vote – all in the same week – is surely unprecedented.

Most bizarrely of all, while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision, barely any of the winning Leave campaign politicians are now placed for much of a role in carrying out Britain’s transition to its post-EU future. Neither does there appear to be even a sketchy plan. It is as if neither the campaign’s leaders, nor its followers, ever really expected to win.

But this is Labour Uncut: let us now turn to the impact of all this on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn has blamed by many, not unfairly, for the contribution of his lacklustre campaign to Remain’s defeat. But it has also been a convenient moment to mount a challenge to what has so far been a disastrous leadership anyway, at least in terms of engaging with the British electorate.

Hence the mass resignations from the Shadow government – plus the sacking of Hilary Benn for perceived disloyalty – which followed a few days after the vote. But things have not stopped there: it is still thought likely that one of Angela Eagle MP or Owen Smith MP will challenge Corbyn, though the smoke signals from the PLP aren’t exactly clear.

Then, last Tuesday, a no-confidence vote was passed against Corbyn, with over 80% of the party’s MPs expressing no confidence in his leadership. That a party leader should suffer such a vote and not stand down is, in itself, unprecedented.

Then, as if things were not going badly enough for Corbyn, there was last Friday’s launch of the Shami Chakrabarti report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

In his own speech, which largely sent the right message, for once, on anti-Semitism, he then astonishingly contrived to torpedo any such positive impact by comparing ISIS with Israel. The defence given by his spokesman was that he did not say “so-called Islamic State” but “so-called Islamic States”, meaning any state, presumably, with an Islamist government.

Let’s be clear. This is not merely disingenuous, but bordering on the pathetic: you do not describe as a “so-called Islamic State” the governments of Saudi Arabia of Iran. A nation state is Islamic or it is not, they are not “so-called”. No-one refers to “Islamic States” as a generic group, either. It was a piece of flimsy weaselling, for which Emily Thornberry, the incoming Shadow Foreign Secretary, then had to apologise to the Israeli Ambassador anyway. And if there was no mistake, why apologise?

But it was also at that launch that Momentum activist Marc Wadsworth – not even a party member, by all accounts – chose to launch a verbal attack on Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth MP. It was not just insulting, but reflected a classic anti-Semitic trope: that she was in collusion with the media.

Smeeth left the meeting in tears, but there was no intervention by Corbyn, no comment. Worse still, he was observed after the meeting smiling and joking with Wadsworth (watch here, hat-tip to John Woodcock MP).

Finally, Corbyn was brilliantly skewered in his appearance before the Home Office Select Committee into admitting that he knew Wadsworth well enough to have his mobile number (from 16:42:00), and several times refusing to condemn as racist the comments made. A somewhat uncomfortable thing to have to admit for a party leader: you are well-acquainted with the unpleasant heckler that just exploded your press conference.

All this, remember, at the launch of an initiative designed to put to bed people’s fears that the historically anti-racist Labour Party was rapidly becoming a racist-tolerant collective. It could scarcely have been worse.

So, Britain has suddenly lurched into a crisis and the Leave camp has unexpectedly been vacated by Johnson and Farage. Even Gove, the other campaign leader has been dumped out of the Tory leadership race. The figures who were in charge yesterday are mostly gone or sidelined and British politics is experiencing a yawning power vacuum.

Meanwhile, the Labour party is in meltdown and its leader, who still refuses to go, is indelibly tainted with the unpleasant – and sometimes openly anti-Semitic – views of the company he keeps.

But he hangs on. Virtually every party figure is demanding he go, even former leader Neil Kinnock. Meanwhile, the two MPs most likely to challenge, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, seem maddeningly unable to agree who will stand. Furthermore, in organising talks with union leaders about the way forward, Deputy Leader Tom Watson seems intent on fuelling the delaying tactics of the Corbynites, in the hope that the idea of a leadership challenge might lose momentum and fizzle out.

It would be a grimly positive thing to see this moment, with Corbyn visibly on the ropes, as some kind of nadir for the party. But unless he admits the unviability of his position and goes very soon, it will not be.

That is to say, a Labour split comparable to that of the 1980s is no longer unthinkable.

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

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41 Responses to “Labour is in meltdown”

  1. john P Reid says:

    Yes Corbyn didn’t do anything to stop the anti Semitism directed to Ruth Smeeth,

    Nice to know Emily Thornberry not only hold the white working class in contempt, her view on Any questions that like her before them, her kids wont get a free ride at Oxford university and its the thick racist working class who voted Brexit who need her to tell them how to vote,being responsible for this, was cringe worthy

    but yes brexit campaigners aren’t at the front of politics, well lets see John Mann Kelvin Hopkins Gisela ,Kate Hoey and jon crier up there

    all the Corbyn supported Hezbollah articles have been done to death

    as for the brexiters who wished they’d voted remain, theres’ more remianers who wished they’d voted brexit, Yes the labour party is in terminal decline
    yes something needs to be done about it, but this article isn’t it

  2. Tafia says:

    John P Reid – excellent comment.

    I might add that Labour’s coup has failed and failed miserably – who ever out of the pair of jokers that are Eagle and Smith stands against Corbyn (and I doubt either will), will be publicly demolished by the party membership and will basically see their career end there and then.

    What’s even more remarkable is that the plotters don’#t seem to realise in just how much open contempt the Labour membership view them over the way they have behaved, but the ‘joe-in-the-street’ ordinary Labour voter. They are absolutely disgusted with the likes of Benn et al. And as for the near-vitriolic contempt that the PLP keeps spouting about the Brexit voters, obviously the PLP do not want to win an election this side of the 22nd Century. I actually know scorers of lifelong Labour voters who have vowed never to vote Labour ever again over what it’s senior figures have said about Brexit voters.

    The Labour party is going to destroy itself and it has nothing to do with Corbyn – it’s to do with the piss-poor PLP and it’s fanny-like tantrums. Labour’s only hope is for the PLP to stop this, rally behind Corbyn, accept the Referendum result and publicly vow to do everything in their power to make Brexit work.

  3. Anon E Mouse says:

    At least Jezzer is in touch with the Labour supporting public about his views on the EU. Labour forced him to adopt a position he didn’t agree with then blamed him when things didn’t go the way they wanted.

    Perhaps the author should get out of London because an awful lot of those in the North who voted Leave support Corbyn and if Labour think that ridding themselves of him will win them support in the country they are seriously out of touch with the public.

    I have not seen a single Labour MP that could be more popular than the current leader and as a card carrying Labour Party member (who voted to Leave along with the majority of the working class) my voice should be heard…

  4. Peter Kenny says:

    One senior MP told The Telegraph: “It’s finished. He will win easily in a second contest if he is on the ballot, it’s everything we wanted to avoid.”

    Looks like it’s all over bar the shouting, folks – “nothing to see here, move along now”

  5. It’s over, Rob. Well that is the plot and attempted coup is over. It failed. It needed to be done and dusted before the Chilcot report was released. New Labour’s Blairites and Brownites will be toast if they make the challenge. Of course you can always threaten to split, threaten another SDP breakaway, but unless you can take the party name with you this time, the result will be the same. Maybe the Liberals do offer you the better option.

  6. Tristan says:

    It’s very dishonest of you to say that the attack on Corbyn was caused by Leave winning the referendum, when there were newspaper articles about the coup being planned at least 10 days before the referendum.

    It’s also dishonest of you to say it was caused by Hillary Benn’s dismissal, as if it were on a whim rather than as a response to Benn organising the mass resignations.

  7. Disenfranchised says:

    Could the author above please tell us who was the leader when Labour lost the last election – clue, not Corbyn.

    And does the author above really think that the same crowd that lost that election are going to attract back the people they discarded in the ditch on the way to their ‘progressive’ new world order?

    Old Labour is gone, old New Labour is gone – this country badly needs a new party that looks to the interests of its own people.

  8. John Kelly says:

    “…Virtually every party figure is demanding he go…”, but several hundred thousand party members are insisting he stays.

    Whose party is it? the members who pay their subs, or the ‘party figures’ who only owe their positions to the hard work of the members in the first place.

  9. TCO says:

    Can someone explain to me what is the point of the Labour Party? Genuine question – who is it there for? If that question can be answered satisfactorily, then either the Corbynites or the Blairites can leave and we can all get on with the realignment.

  10. Matt says:

    When Mr Corbyn and the likes of Mr Marc Wadsworth have finished with the Labour Party, if (and I stress if) there is anything left, would it be possible for them to, please, give the remains of it back to us, so there might be something left of the party my grandparents worked so hard to create?

  11. paul barker says:

    I have no idea what The PLP majority are up to. Is the challenge still on ? Is there a Plan B ? One thing any Centrist Labour member, at any level, can do is join The Libdems. You would be very welcome & the atmosphere in our Party is a lot easier to breathe.

  12. Rob. says:

    You’re exhibiting your soiled ideological knickers in public with the following nonsense:
    “Most bizarrely of all, while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision, barely any of the winning Leave campaign politicians are now placed for much of a role in carrying out Britain’s transition to its post-EU future. Neither does there appear to be even a sketchy plan. It is as if neither the campaign’s leaders, nor its followers, ever really expected to win.”

  13. Mark Livingston says:

    The pre-planned and anti-democratic #ChickenCoup has flopped. Any Blairite would be mad to challenge Corbyn: they’d be humiliated during the ensuing campaign. Career suicide. That’s why the plotters won’t field a real candidate, like Ummuna, Jarvis, or Kinnock. Instead, they float a couple of unelectable non-entities: Smith and Eagle. Hopeless.

  14. TC says:

    On the EU, for about the 100th time, 63% of Labour voters voted remain, compared with 64% of SNP voters and 70% of Liberal voters. Any comment about Corbyn’s ‘poor performance’ must reference that statistic and explain such a view in the context of it. Yours of course does not; it is simply another repetition of a lie in the hope that people will come to believe it.

    Talking of lies, we then have the old anti-Semitism smear. It’s all very Karl Rove: calling a man with decades of fighting racism under his belt a racist. But frankly, Kevin, you’re no Karl Rove.

    Of course suggesting that a Labour MP, many of whom have spent the last 10 months doing little besides briefing the right-wing media, is in collusion with media is somehow anti-Semitic because the MP in question happens to be of the Jewish persuasion. What a load of twaddle. It was very obviously stage-managed. Perhaps that’s why that story lasted hours: even the usual muckrakers realised how hollow and baseless the whole thing was.

    Corbyn in fact explained his comments on Israel very clearly, which you, dishonestly in my view, failed to mention, and Sami Chakrabarti said that he had accurately reflected the contents of her report.

    As for the #ChickenCoup plotters, they are welcome to mount a challenge under the rules any time they grow a backbone. The reason they haven’t is because they know that the membership and unions stand behind Corbyn. It is not Corbyn’s leadership that is unviable but rather their plot and, one hopes, their futures as Labour MPs.

  15. TC says:

    Whoops, sorry, that should have been “frankly, Rob, you’re no Karl Rove”.

    (Sorry, Kevin!)

  16. barnacle bill says:

    The majority of the Westminster Labour Party have finally revealed themselves for what they truly are. Not real Labour MPs with the dirt of hard work beneath their fingernails. Ones who really cared about their constituents living in sink council estates. Seeing their living standards eroded even more by the influx of cheap foreign workers. Their children having to leave school crippled for life because they are not fully literate.

    No, instead we have a cabal of nuLabor MPs living in the Westminster bubble and feeding at it’s trough. Who are now scared that the “thickos” might not vote for them when May calls her snap election. Having a tnatrum because they maybe forced off the Westminster teat.

    Corbyn is just an excuse, a smokescreen, a false flag operation to cover their real motives. Let’s wave good bye to these leeches, these traitors and get on with putting the labour Party back on it’s true path.

  17. john pearson says:

    I reckon Corbyn would still cling on even if Labour lost the next election (which they will by a landslide, by the way). There is simply no way to get rid of him. He will slaughter the other so-called leadership candidates in an election. And just who are ‘mainstream’ Labour? Are they the North London effete liberals who embrace Islam, feminism and mass immigration? Are they the WWC, so derided and demonised by the Labour party for the last 25 years? Or are they the millions of centre ground voters who voted for Tony Blair in their millions, and then went straight back to the Tories when Labour resumed its default position of being unelectable?

    A split is the only practical solution if Corbyn does not resign.

  18. Steve says:

    So, if he’s that bad, and 80% of the PLP hates him… leave. Resign the whip. Split the party. Leave his lot to drag it further into the weeds of the Islington pseudo left.

    You’re not going to be able to shift him by conventional means, that much is obvious. Surely 80% of the PLP would be able to set up their own party which does reflect both their political views and that of the 9 million voters who return them to Parliament time after time?

    You have to do something. The longer you guys spend tearing each other to bits, the more the Tories become more blitheringly incompetent and are not held to account – so they become as lazy and incompetent as the public will tolerate because they’re the least worst alternative.

    Quit the navel gazing and sort your s**t out guys!

  19. Tim says:

    I voted Leave,

    I don’t regret it at all.

  20. James Martin says:

    Isn’t it telling that the people that constantly talk about splits, the people at the heart of the failed and incompetent coup against the Labour membership and internal democracy, and the people constantly trying to undermine the Party in the media (including disgracefully even the S*n) are all on the right of the Party. These self-centered wreckers lose a leadership election and then want to take their ball home. These plotters with no self-awareness attack Corbyn when a third of Labour voters opt for Brexit at a time when Nicola Sturgeon is being seen as a strong leader when the same amount of SNP voters did likewise.

    The coup is over. The Eagle is stranded. Benn is nowhere to be seen after Chilcot (so much for ‘strong leadership’) and we are left with the appalling and disgraceful sight of Ian Austin showing no respect for the war dead when he heckled Corbyn during the debate in Parliament. Is it any wonder the hundreds of thousands of Party members are seething with rage at the antics of these out of touch PLP plotters who at the time when the country needed a strong opposition abandoned their posts? Interesting to note as well that in solidly working class Labour areas like mine support for Corbyn has increased as a result of the coup, with even those who backed other candidates last summer now standing with him today with the main reason given that they have been sickened by the bullying nastiness of the PLP putschists. Time for the wreckers and bullies to respect the Party rule book, respect the membership and end this idiocy!

  21. Dave says:

    The hilariously nonsense claim that millions regretted voting leave makes your whole article void. If you can make crap like that up, safe to assume you struggle with the difference between fact and fiction.

  22. Raddiy says:

    It’s a bugger when the data doesn’t fit the self generated narrative.

    Labour has been in meltdown for years, but they have been doing it the microwave way by melting from the inside out. All we are seeing now is the manky crust starting to give way. We in UKIP have been seeing an inexorable decline in Labour support in the North since 2010 which has been denied with derision by Labour. If it wasn’t for FPTP Labour as a party of government would already be dead and buried.

    The risk of course from FPTP is that at some point between 20-30% of the vote a party benefitting from FPTP hits a tipping point, when the system starts acting against them.

    Are Labour close to that tipping point, that is the question to consider if you ever get around to considering it when you are finished scratching each others eyes out.

  23. Mike Stallard says:

    Rob – what is the Labour Party for?

    Surely if there was a clear, obvious answer then people would want to stand for its leadership. People would fight hard to get their point across. They would take risks.

    What I see is a lot of career politicians of one sort or another jockeying for position on a ship which is slowly sinking below the waves.

    UKIP? Yup – I know what it stands for. Brexit: Yup, I have followed the EUReferendum blog. EU? Yup, I have read their programme. I know it well. But Labour? After Tony Blair, I really do not know really what is stands for any more. Certainly it is not Corbynism. And the defence of the Welfare State rings very hollow with membership of an EU which insists on free movement and possible admission of Turkey to the “Club”.

  24. Al Losaurus says:

    “while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision”

    Rather more people bullied into voting remain are regretting their vote.

    One by one all the lies remain told are unravelling.

  25. woolfiesmiff says:

    Millions regretting their vote to leave? Really. Independent evidence says that 3% of people that voted leave would now change their decision. Interestingly the same research shows that 4% of those who voted remain would change their decision also

  26. woolfiesmiff says:

    Millions regretting their vote to leave? Really. Independent evidence says that 3% of people that voted leave would now change their decision. Interestingly the same research shows that 4% of those who voted remain would change their decision also ….

  27. john P Reid says:

    Anon e Mouse, the shock of leave winning was labour didn’t realise how many of its own supporters were going to vote leave, and the definition of working class vote,could be non unionised jobs or aspiring middle class in Nottingham and Birmingham ,not just the de-industrialised area

    there’s already talk of Red-Kipers, where Paul Nuttal could appeal to the ex labour ,on more than just Europe ,but the ecomony if a Thatcherite party like Ukip could appeal to old labour who want bonds for the NHS or re distribution via tax, then labour will have ben destroyed,no tjust by Islington middle class students .but by our refusal to accept the country didn’t like our handling of the country post 2005

  28. Graeme Reddish says:

    A lot is assumed here.
    I voted for Corbyn. I would not vote for him now. No-one has polled me. How does anyone know how the membership w.ould vote? How does anyone even know the intentions of those joining at the moment. The assumption is that they are joining to support Corbyn. If I wasn’t already in, I’d be joining now to vote against him. In favour of just about anyone else.

    Don’t take me for granted.

  29. NickT says:

    It seems that the usual rabble of Trots are trying to howl down anyone who points out that their Dear Leader Corbyn is a grubby little cult leader cowering in his office and lying about his record of anti-semitism. Labour won’t be electable until it removes these cultists from the party, because no sane person would vote for them to have any position of power or control of public money. Enjoy your last few days in the bunker, Corbyn. Winter is coming.

  30. Wobble says:

    Gove committed career suicide to get rid of Boris for the coherence of the party…It’s a pity that not one of the self servers in the PLP dont have the set of balls or the commitment .

  31. Derek says:

    As a democracy we need two party government and one where the millions of ordinary non metropolitan non graduate working class are represented. Corbyn cannot offer that.

  32. daodao says:

    The coup’s over – the dyke has breached.

    The Labour party should reunite behind Corbyn – he is in no way responsible for Remain’s defeat, and is more in tune with popular feeling in England. Leave winning was a self-inflicted wound by Camborne. The Chilcot report has shown that Corbyn has much wiser views on foreign policy than the Bliarites.

  33. Derek Emery says:

    A far left Labour party creates a big opportunity for UKIP in Labour home-grounds in the Midlands and North. The working class is opposed to mass immigration (BREXIT anyone?) which is onside with UKIP and offside with Labour.

    Even if the party does not split Corbyn’s Labour will win less seats than Miliband because it is even further away from moderate voters. Even if UKIP doesn’t win many new seats the reduction in Labour votes in many more seats UKIP creates will ensure many more Conservative seats in 2020.
    Corbyn is living in Lalaland to pretend he can win a General Election.

  34. gsilver says:

    can someone at some point remember that the vast majority of labour voters have zero empathy with Corbyn.
    just saying …

  35. Tafia says:

    gsilver – that is irrelevant. The leader of the party is the preserve of the people that have a vote over the choice. And nobody else.

    This is a battle of will – on the one side you have the Corbyn camp who believe the party should be a party with a clear set of core beliefs, spelled out, s decided by the membership via the NEC, CLPs and TUC etc – a position supported by several hundred thousand party members and trades unionists, and on the other side 170-odd Labour MPs who believe that they should control what the party should be and that it should be purely a middle class vapid election-winning machine with no beliefs or principles, just a shifting position that alters which ever way the electoral wind blows as-and-when.

    Trident vote next week. If Corbyn has got anysense he will make it a whipped affair and suspend anyone defying the whip. That will piss them off even more – loosing all their ‘jollies’.

  36. StainedGlass says:

    Class enmity and labour solidarity no longer get juices flowing so the Labour Party has fragmented into groups which often represent mutually incompatible objectives. Unless it finds a new central core belief to unite around it will have lost its raison d’etre. Continuing the ‘we woz robbed’ dialogue about Brexit, as this article does, is no help. Some of us remember when the Labour Party was adamantly opposed to EEC membership and it is ridiculous to think that the party can now coalesce around support for the undemocratic, unsuccessful EU. In fact, the EU has been sucking the economic life blood of the country away from traditional Labour heartlands and towards the South East of England. Unless Labour accepts that fact and re-embraces the whole of the UK it will wither and die.

  37. NickT says:

    “If Corbyn has got anysense he will make it a whipped affair and suspend anyone defying the whip.”

    And the world will laugh at crazy little Jeremy in the bunker as the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs ignore his Trotskyite squeakings and vote their consciences – and make clear that there’s absolutely nothing the not so Dear Leader can do about it.

  38. Tafia says:

    Labour Party rules – the wording is pretty damned clear:-

    “ii. Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.”

    The being as there is no vacancy, Corbyn is automatically on the ballot whether the PLP likes it or not.

    Best thing is, this rule was brought in by New Labour in order to prevent the Left continually challenging the leader. Schadenfreude. Labour fucked permanently by New Labour.

  39. paul barker says:

    No new articles for 4 days, things have moved on. May is PM in all but name & will soon be laying out a Negotiating Position for Brexit, presumably. She may well then try to force a General Election, perhaps as soon as September ? Clearly the whole Leadership Challenge is now something you dont have time for.
    Do Labour Centrists have a Plan b ? If not could they get one soon ?

  40. paul barker says:

    And now Owen Smith stands as well. WTF do Labours Moderates think they are up to ?

  41. John P Reid says:

    Corbyn doesn’t make the ballot paper, the left disrupt the party, maybe after 2years leave
    Corbyn makes the ballot wins, there’s a general elction wipe out
    Moderate ties over in a few years

    In the in between years 6 or so labor amPs go independent

    Corbyn makes the ballot, Eagle wins(don’t laugh) some of momentum are expelled for various reasons

    Whatever the result ,the party will split,the only good thing is those who actually know about canvassing,organizing the party financially are the moderates, just hope the party isn’t in such a state that the canvassing tools,and the finance is ,in to bad a state to repair

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