More signs of the humiliating capitulation to come
After Jeremy Corbyn managed to surprise everyone and trounce Theresa May at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, it was interesting to note the fulsome praise he received, even from many of his staunchest critics.
Guido compiled some of the most striking olive branches as they flashed across Twitter, and it makes for interesting reading – see the image above.
And so we have yet more evidence of the PLP resigning itself to Owen Smith’s inevitable defeat and trying to make nice with the man they so opportunistically stabbed in the back in the panicked aftermath of the EU referendum. MPs who haven’t had a single kind word to say about Jeremy Corbyn in months are now keen to be seen cheering on their leader.
Is this just a collective expression of relief that Corbyn didn’t self-immolate at the dispatch box for once? No, clearly something more is at work here.
Why? Because many of these centrist Labour MPs realise that they have put themselves in an untenable position. In their fury at being sidelined, these MPs queued up to publicly declare that Jeremy Corbyn was awful and that there was simply no way that they could productively work together. Now Jeremy Corbyn is about to receive another stonking mandate from the party membership, which rather leaves the door open for the centrists, not Corbyn, to leave the party if they don’t like the direction the members have set. All the while, the ominous threat of deselection hangs over their heads, and so these MPs – many of whom have absolutely infuriated their local party branches with their disloyal behaviour – are understandably desperately seeking to shore up their positions.
As this blog recently pointed out:
The Parliamentary Labour Party called Jeremy Corbyn’s bluff and lost, badly. There is ample blame to go around – some for the remaining “big beasts” of the party who were too cowardly and self-serving to put their names forward as leadership contenders, leaving it to unloved support acts like Angela Eagle and the contemptible Owen Smith; some for misbehaving shadow ministers like Hilary Benn who took the job and then rebelled and briefed against their leader at every opportunity; and last but not least, a portion of the blame rests with every single one of the 172 Labour MPs who opportunistically calculated that the confused aftermath of the EU referendum provided a great “fog of war” in which they could go full Brutus on Jeremy Corbyn’s Caesar and get away with it.
Well, it didn’t work. Nobody viable stepped forward, the party membership was enraged at the parliamentary party challenging their pick for leader less than a year into the job, and Owen Smith’s damp squib of a campaign lurched from one unforced error to the next.
[..] And so the unhappy bedfellows will likely limp on together, Corbynites and centrists openly despising one another but remaining stuck with each other thanks to the British political system. The centrists will continue to moan to any journalist who will listen, Dan Hodges will have more material for his Mail on Sunday column than he knows what to do with, the PLP will do everything they can to make Jeremy Corbyn’s life a living hell, and Corbyn’s team will do all they can to set the stage for a purge of the centrists, either at the upcoming constituency boundary review or when it comes time to choose candidates for the 2020 general election.
But of course, if anyone is capable of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory (or at least taking 1.5 steps back for every 2 steps forward) it is Jeremy Corbyn. And so it is again today, with news that overzealous Corbynite aides have prepared another one of their infamous enemy lists, this time superciliously keeping note of those centrist MPs who have supposedly undermined Corbyn’s leadership in the past.
From the Guardian:
Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team has issued a list singling out 14 Labour MPs, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who it claims have abused the leader and his allies, triggering a new row in the party.
Corbyn’s team said the list was sent out by mistake by a junior staff member, but the leader later appeared to stand by the substance of the allegations, saying all the remarks had been made on the record.
In the release, Owen Smith, the challenger for the Labour leadership, was accused of being the “real disunity candidate”, who has failed to tackle abuse meted out by his own supporters.
The list, obtained by Press Association, highlighted the behaviour of a number of Labour MPs, including Jess Phillips for telling Corbyn’s ally Diane Abbott to “fuck off”, John Woodcock for dismissing the party leader as a “fucking disaster” and Tristram Hunt for describing Labour as “in the shit”.
Watson was highlighted for calling the grassroots Corbyn campaign Momentum a “rabble”.
Cue lots of sanctimonious outrage from those MPs on the list – Jess Phillips is already parading her supposed vulnerability to crazed Corbynite violent attacks on social media.
This doesn’t make anyone look good. One of the most dispiriting things about the Labour Party in recent years, particularly since the departure of Ed Miliband, has been the continual games of competitive weaponised victimhood played by centrists and Corbynites alike. Both sides are clearly drinking deep from the well of social justice and identity politics, and have decided that the best way to win (or at least shut down) an argument they don’t like is to screech hysterically that the other side is somehow encouraging or tacitly accepting violence.
We are used to seeing this from the centrists, furious at their fall from power and lashing out at anyone and everyone who dares to suggest that their plight might just be self-inflicted. But it is depressing to see Corbynites now adopting the same behaviour, keeping finickity little lists of those MPs who have “abused” them or made them feel “unsafe”.
This, more than anything else, is why the British public views the Labour Party as an unelectable dumpster fire of a political party right now. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn’s outdated socialism is failing to win over centrists (in what is a broadly centre-right country, as recently reasserted by a new non-partisan report as well as by common sense), but far worse than that is the constant spectacle of briefing, counter-briefing and backbiting. These are the seething, petty politics of the student union, being practised by grown adults with prestigious jobs and £74,000 salaries. Frankly, it is pathetic.
But this is all just a flash in the pan. However much some Labour MPs may huff and puff about being placed on Corbyn’s enemy list, the majority of the PLP will fall into line. In fact, given the continual and widespread criticism that he has endured from his own back (and front) benches, the real miracle is that there are only fourteen names on the list.
And there are only fourteen names on the list because in this one key respect, Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges reality rather than struggling against it. Corbyn knows that most of the PLP, whatever histrionics they may have engaged in over the past year, will come trudging meekly back through the door of his tent the moment he finishes wiping Owen Smith’s blood off his sword. And like any smart vanquishing general trying to occupy hostile territory, Corbyn knows that the best thing to do is to make a very public example of those who were most disloyal to him while granting the majority a reprieve contingent on future behaviour.
Having utterly failed in their opportunistic and self-serving bid to rid Labour of Jeremy Corbyn, nearly all of his restive MPs – even the ones who pompously declared the impossibility of ever working with their leader – will shortly bend the knee in a humiliating show of submission.
This is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now, and the centrists are going to have to do a hell of a lot better than Twitter tantrums and Owen Smith if they are serious about changing that fact.
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