Labour party member Andrew Smith gives his view on attempts to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party
THE most striking aspect of the ongoing campaign to remove Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is how startlingly incompetent it has been. It's been like watching a crap, self-destructive version of House of Cards, only without the gratuitous sex or the black comedy.
Just when Britain needs a strong government, we have seen the prime minister resign and the Tories enter a divisive leadership contest. Rather than taking advantage of the situation and treating it as a political opportunity, the Labour party had to go one better by doing everything in its power to rip itself apart.
With the political world in shock and the markets reeling from Brexit, Hilary Benn reportedly began calling his shadow cabinet colleagues with a view to removing Corbyn. Meanwhile, as the phones were ringing, a campaign website for Angela Eagle was registered two days before she resigned from cabinet, although she insists she did not authorise it.
We have seen over 60 resignations, an overwhelming vote of no confidence among the parliamentary party, and yet the coup still hasn't succeeded. It’s been a complete mess. But why has it gone so badly?
It's now a week and a half later and we have seen over 60 resignations, an overwhelming vote of no confidence among the parliamentary party, and yet the coup still hasn't succeeded. It’s been a complete mess. But why has it gone so badly?
The first reason is because there's little in the way of political substance to it. Anybody remotely sensible knows that although Corbyn’s performance was far from perfect in the EU referendum, there is little evidence to suggest a more 'Europhile' leader such as Angela Eagle or Hilary Benn would have seen any better a result (in fact, both of their constituencies voted for Brexit).
The other problem is that the coup has no alternative leader. By the time you read this it’s possible that Angela Eagle, Owen Smith or Tom Watson may have finally thrown their hat into the ring, but it would be more in desperation than anything else.
The fact that, despite the coordinated resignations, there has been no obvious candidate, indicates that there isn't any uniting vision or plan other than a desire to remove Corbyn because he's Corbyn.
The first reason is because there's little in the way of political substance to it. The other problem is that the coup has no alternative leader.
The level of coordination and the staggering of resignations may have dominated the news, but much of it has been counterproductive. It hasn’t looked at all spontaneous. Instead, it’s come to look like bullying. Rather than maximising the pressure on him, it has painted him into a corner where he probably couldn't resign even if he wanted to.
It’s nothing new. Right from the moment he became leader there have been leaks, whispers and briefings about how awful certain people think he is. Of course, it's easy to make a party look divided and unelectable when its own MPs are actively dividing it and talking it down.
Far more effective would have been to stand aside and give him a chance at unobstructed leadership and then denounce him if it turned out he was bad at it. Instead, the sniping and bullying tone is causing members to rally around him.
In the week since the plotting was made public, we’ve seen pro-Corbyn rallies across the UK and the pro-Corbyn Momentum faction doubling in size. Over 60,000 have joined the party since the EU vote, and I don’t think it's because they all want to vote for Angela Eagle or Owen Smith.
The point isn't that MPs should be uncritical of Corbyn (and to be fair, many of those who have resigned from the front benches, such as Andy Slaughter of Lisa Nandy, could hardly be described as Blairites). Rather, it is that the splits have become too great to be resolved without a free and fair leadership contest. And if any new leader is to have legitimacy among members then Corbyn must be a candidate.
The level of coordination and the staggering of resignations may have dominated the news, but much of it has been counterproductive. It hasn’t looked at all spontaneous. Instead, it’s come to look like bullying.
Last year I voted for Corbyn, but I’m far from uncritical, and I should be a floating voter in any future contest. Ultimately I believe that the message is more important than the messenger. If there was a candidate who could push for meaningful and progressive change, and do a better job of selling it without splitting the party, then I would back them in a heartbeat.
Nonetheless, my suspicion is that in a contest between the supposedly more mainstream and electable Angela Eagle/Owen Smith and Corbyn, it’s Corbyn that would win. And I suspect Eagle and co know that too. For that to change it will take a lot more humility, a lot less entitlement and a political argument that extends beyond pointing and shouting "you're unelectable!".
And what if he wins? What if he’s re-elected with a similar mandate? If that happens, then what would the last nine months of briefings, plotting and attacks have achieved, other than damaging the party, damaging the leader and, quite possibly, saving the Tories from themselves?
The simple fact is that as long as Corbyn refuses to step down, then no coup can succeed without convincing those who support him to join them.
With polls indicating that he would win all over again, it is obvious that they have a long way to go.
Picture courtesy of Chris Beckett
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