The last twenty-four hours just showed how Labour can save itself

by Rob Marchant

In one of the maddest developments in an already certifiable world of Labour politics, we have, within the last twenty-four hours, had the following: the party’s leadership threatened to immediately abolish the role of Deputy Leader (i.e. strip Tom Watson of his party office), only to pull back at the last minute from doing so.

And, during that time, we have learned some important things we didn’t know yesterday. More of that later.

The trigger to Corbyn’s reverse ferret? Simply that almost all commentators, party officials and politicans, past and present, had stated the bleedin’ obvious: that, with the country facing the meltdown of a hard Brexit and a possible general election in the next few weeks, a massive bun-fight in the party on the eve of its conference was probably not a great idea.

We will probably never know the extent to which this was Corbyn’s idea and how much his cronies, but Jon Lansman’s attempt to railroad his motion through the NEC has backfired: Watson will now be emboldened and knows that the PLP will back him.

This one incident finally caused real threats of party splits in a way we have not seen in the whole of the last four years. Resigned MPs who had not plotted in a long time were suddenly talking about how a rival power centre could be set up and initiate a challenge to Corbyn or even a new party.

In short: the party veered pretty close to genuinely hitting the self-destruct button this morning. The fact that it did not showed that there is still some power in Labour’s moderates, should they choose to exercise it.

In some ways, it is a shame that Watson’s defenestration did not come to fruition. The temptation now is to go back to how things were and forget this ever happened. That said, though, the mask has slipped: along with the not-very-successful deselection campaign in train, members can now see that this is a desperately brittle, insecure leadership, which demands absolute loyalty, or political death.

In fact, as someone observed this morning – and unsurprisingly for a kitchen Cabinet largely staffed by Stalinists – the whole thing was straight out of the Soviet playbook. Kindly Uncle Joe comes to save a rival about to be destroyed (only to try and finish him off later). It could even have been entirely staged from start to finish. Who knows?

However, the public can see that these are not normal events and damage has been done. At this point, it seems inconceivable that Corbyn could win a majority from here, or even lead a unity coalition (Jo Swinson, for one, will not serve under him).

As a further negative for Corbyn, another thing that all this has highlighted is a point little focused on to date: that the day the Dear Leader finally goes, which may not be very far away, the Corbynite top team are terrified that Acting Leader Watson could actually use that time to right the Labour ship and dispense with their services. Forever.

In other words, if now (at least, after October) is not the time for a leadership ballot, it seems likely that it never will be. If Labour MPs cannot grasp the moment that history has handed them, when will they; what are they waiting for? Corbyn to finally resign at a convenient moment of his choosing?

No, there is one way through this and that is for Watson to challenge for the leadership, whether or not Corbyn resigns after a snap general election. That is, while he has the momentum (sorry) to do that. The Honourable Member for West Bromwich East is the only person who remotely has an appeal across the party, especially among longer-standing members. He appeals to soft left as well as old right, if not the Corbynite hard-core.

One last thing these events have highlighted is this: Watson has never challenged Corbyn because it would mean resigning his office; it would have been an all-or-nothing gamble.

But perhaps it is now time for that: if he waits, it is now painfully clear they will emasculate him and his office sooner or later, if not abolish it completely. Perhaps he should even defiantly taunt them to finish him off, if they dare; the optics of that show a position of strength and not weakness.

Much more dangerous, then, for Watson to be outside the tent with the backing of the PLP and nothing to lose, that is the way back for Labour.

Give ’em more of what they are scared of.

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


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11 Responses to “The last twenty-four hours just showed how Labour can save itself”

  1. steve says:

    “even a new party”

    What a splendid prospect!

    And better sooner than later – why run the risk of a Corbyn premiership when Labour’s PLP Fifth Columnists (I know, I know but you get my drift!) are well positioned to prevent a Labour General election victory.

    And the cherry on the cake is the rising popularity of the LibDems.

    It is quite clear, the country is crying out for a new, sensible party. What’s more and I think you’ll agree with me on this, Chuka Umunna would make an excellent leader.

    Further, as the new party will be drawn from those already sitting in the HoP, there will be no need for elections. The party instantly has parliamentary representation without having received a single vote. Glory, glory!

    Even better, the party will not be burdened with an irksome membership!

    Of course, the Corbynites are going raise objections by bleating on about the past: the five million voters lost to New Labour between 97 and 2010, the support for lunatic military intervention, the promise of ‘worse than Thatcher’ austerity cooked-up by Liam Byrne for Gordon Brown’s 2010 election manifesto.

    But there’s no need for us to look back. As you say, we should just: “Give ’em more of what they are scared of.”

    Now is the time to act. Together we can prevent a Labour Party victory at the next general election.

    On a more personal note, such an enterprise is bound to attract funding from the corporate sector. Coffers will quickly be filled. And there will certainly be handsomely remunerated opportunities for sublimely talented ‘communication consultants’. ; )

  2. Vern says:

    What I saw in the last 24 hours was the most disfunctional rabble British politics has ever seen. The party is an embarrassment to its followers and is treating the electorate like idiots.

    At the end of last week Labour were calling the Tories out for removing the whip from some of their MP’s. Yet I wake today to hear the news the same people want Watson out under the guise of “making the position redundant”…….what nonsense. I’m not his biggest fan but he does not deserve this and more importantly neither does the Labour party.
    Couldn’t make it up. Hypocrites….? Wankers…..? You choose.

  3. Tafia says:

    And what are we this week? The People’s Front of Juda or the Judean Peoples Front.

    Couple of points:-

    Hard Brexit – No such thing. There are now over 20 reciprocal side deals already in place between the UK & the EU that kick-in Deal or No Deal, covering things such as persihable foodstuffs, medicines, medical supplies and equipments, visa free travel, protocols so that bank cards will continue to work in cash points, passporting for the City, mobile phone roaming etc etc and over a dozen more that will be concluded over the next few weeks. What strikes me as utterly insane is you don’t seem to know this yet ordinary people wandering the streets that read The Sun, The Star, The Mirror etc are apparently far more well read and up to speed than you. But it does explain why they laugh at Project Fear garbage and why people that spout it are regarded by ordinary people as liars and fools. It also probably explains why workers support Brexit despite the bollocks the unions trot out and why workers vote Conservative more than Labour.

    General Election? Labour are cowards (not to mention liars). They made themselves a laughing stock the minute they turned an offer of an Election down the other week after foot-stamping and demanding one at every opportunity for over a year. Bunch of colossal dickheads. And as for Pigs Head Thornberry, (her of the fake mockney accent and ‘hidden’ title), you need to tell her to button it.

    Little quote for you that’s actually true. “Being left wing used to be a working class necessity. Now it’s a middle class hobby”. Labour need to learn something and learn something sharpish – stop telling ordinary people you know better than them what’s best for them – you don’t, not by a very very very long way. Labour is so out of step with ordinary workers outside of London now that it has become an embarrassment.

    You interfere with Brexit once more and you can forget the North and Wales and large chunks of the Midlands.

  4. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I dont think Corbyn can take much more humiliation. This conference will do it for him. Just checked the odds. Best price 3:1 to be gone in 2019. Value+++

  5. Vern says:

    And just 12 hours later Corbyn suggests that the UK might do better outside of the EU. You couldn’t make this shit up.

  6. Alf says:

    Labour MPs aligned to the Tory-lite wing of the party will never support a leadership challenge while they are going through the trigger process. That would be political suicide.

    And “Barnacle” Tom Watson would get humiliated if he launched one. The members hate him.

    Finally, Tom’s gonna lose his seat to George Galloway come the election. So, he won’t be with us for long anyway.

  7. John PReid says:

    Steve
    It was Alastair darling not Liam who said that-cuts bigger than Thatcher

    Yes labour lost 4.8m votes between 97-2010 but gained 5.2m votes between 83-87 and lost 5.6m votes between 1955-1983

    And if labour get 23% of the vote that would be 7.4175m votes so if true it would mean labour would have lost 5.45m in one election if there’s one in December 2019 and polls don’t change

    Steve- the libdems are a protest vote I actually know brexiters labour and tory who’ll vote for them now, disagree with them on Brexit just can’t vote for the others, don’t know enough about the brexit party to back them

    alf

    Actually Watson is likely to lose to the Tories but good on, Galloway challenging him also is Harvey proctor whom Watson slandered using parliament privilege and hasn’t apologised

    Tafia

    actually the only good thing I can say about Jez is he’s not thornberry

  8. Anon says:

    Schadenfreude, I’m afraid – the author, and the Labour Party generally, have become an irrelevance for many people.

    Labour are now like two men hanging from a very high cliff and fighting for possession of the piece of cotton that is the only thing holding them.

    Watson? Umunna? Thornberry? Any of the past Blairite or the Islington Set?
    What a bloody shower.
    The only people who would be acceptable to me are the people who respected the Brexit result – Snell, Flint etc. And I can’t forgive some of them for Lisbon/Iraq etc.

    Have a big bust up, FGS, form new parties (Labour is over now) and let the people know exactly where they stand.

  9. Vern says:

    I’m guessing that Rob is now feeling a bit let down, like the rest of us after watching the antics at conference over the past few days. There won’t be a party to save at this rate.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Anon
    Watson was the bloke who got rid of Blair
    Thornberry contempt for the working class from Islington is very blairite
    As is her Pro EU stance but she backed Ed am for leader organised rebellions against him in the Chamber
    Like Ummana she wasn’t a MP during iraq
    Agree on lisbon

  11. steve says:

    John Reid@ As Treasury eager-diva Blairite Liam Byrne shaped Darling’s offer.

    Of course, Darling must have been consumed with grievous envy when Bryne surpassed his own daftness with the ‘There’s no money left.” note.

    What is it with the narcissism of these New Labour chumps.. ? Next thing you know they’ll be telling us we must stand-up for democracy and reject the democracy of the Brexit vote because the undeomocratic, neoliberal EU is an oasis of benevolence…

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