by Kevin Meagher
John McDonnell was right. ‘As plotters’ Labour MPs are ‘fucking useless.’
There was one decent attempt at challenging Jeremy Corbyn during this parliament and they have just blown it.
He needed to be exposed as a total electoral liability – both personally and in terms of the direction he has set for the party, repositioning Labour on the frozen wastelands of the hard left.
His lack of campaigning zeal during the EU referendum was supposed to be his Achilles Heel and pave the way for a successful challenge.
What a misjudgement.
The charge didn’t stick and the rows in the Conservative party have blotted out memories of what Corbyn did or didn’t do during the referendum.
This plot was doomed from the moment Hilary Benn was caught orchestrating dissent in the shadow cabinet and fired. Realising he had been rumbled, he should have quit first.
Then came the petulant ‘drip, drip’ resignations from his frontbench. This was designed to shame Corbyn into quitting. Fat chance. The tactic just left the electorate with the unmistakable impression Labour MPs are as immature as their leader.
Instead, those frontbenchers who passionately disagreed with Corbyn’s leadership should have acted with some dignity and resigned en masse. At the very least, it would have been more honourable.
The PLP’s subsequent vote of no confidence in his leadership – 172-40 – was not quite conclusive enough.
Then there was the mess of whether Angela Eagle or someone else should stand against Corbyn.
She managed a campaign launch before Owen Smith entered the fray and displaced her. Again, hardly the smooth handling of a well-oiled plan.
Owen Smith’s subsequent challenge – devoid of a big message or detailed critique of Corbyn – was another misfire.
He seemed to be trying to appeal to the insurgent new members by being as mad on policy as Corbyn with extra unforced gaffes like his odd formulation about wanting to ‘smash’ Theresa May ‘back on her heels’. Whatever that means.
He seldom appeared the grown up in the contest. Or the likely winner.
The message is simple. Jeremy Corbyn – both the man and the message – is too left-wing, too extreme, too eccentric, to ever appeal to a majority of the British people. In their heart of hearts all but the most implacable Corbynista knows this.
It doesn’t mean he’s a bad man (although plenty would disagree on that point) and it doesn’t even mean he’s wrong on some issues (hammering the greedy rail companies is fairly mainstream these days), but he’s simply the wrong blend for the British electorate’s tastes.
And it’s too late.
He won’t ever win the chance to make his case. Like Ed Miliband before him, the public have already weighed and measured Jeremy Corbyn and found him lacking. Everyone who has knocked on a door for Labour over the last 12 months already knows this.
They have him down as a weirdo who loves tyrants, hates Jews and wants to tax them, regulate them and boss them around. A typical nannying, gesture-politicking, 1980s throwback.
A man who won’t sing the National Anthem at ceremonies for war veterans and can’t even do up a tie properly. And whose own colleagues nearly all agree that he’s useless.
Someone surrounded by posh-boy hard left apparatchiks who are plying the same old Vanguardist nonsense, abusing the Labour party as a means to bring about their tin pot revolutionary socialist wet dream.
It is fantasy, utter mind-bending LSD-induced fantasy, to imagine him stood on the steps of Downing Street.
Unless it’s to hand over a petition.
This realisation will hit Labour like a wrecking ball in 2020 – too late to avert calamity as the party loses scores of seats – and with hundreds of Labour councillors sacrificed between now and then.
Party members will catch on eventually, or at least enough of them to bring the party back into balance.
So the moment to strike was when Corbyn had supplied an unequivocal track record of electoral failure. He needed space to fail on his own terms, as he surely would.
Perhaps after next May’s local elections. Or in 2018. Or when a by-election was badly lost (as, invariably, they will be).
In other words, when it was crystal clear that his appeal is limited to infantile students, grievance junkies, crypto-revolutionaries and men in their fifties who still wear t-shirts.
In their panic, Labour MPs have shot their bolt early and missed. Things needed to be a bit worse before they could become a lot better.
So Corbyn lives to fight another day.
With mandatory reselection now looming into prospect, many of his foes in the parliamentary Labour party will not.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut