Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters vastly outnumber the Labour centrists. So whose party is it really?
Very slowly – journalist by journalist, publication by publication – the realisation is beginning to dawn that the unwelcome outsiders in the Labour Party are now the centrist members of the PLP, and not Jeremy Corbyn and his leftist support base.
From the Spectator (my emphasis in bold):
A few months ago, Watson and his fellow MPs thought Corbyn was the anomaly. That if he was dislodged, the natural balance of the Labour Party would be restored. Now it’s clear that there are tens of thousands of Corbynites who now hold party membership cards and are itching to use them. Labour MPs are starting to ask if they are the anomaly. And an anomaly that the new far-left members will seek to correct when Westminster boundaries are redrawn and MPs are selected.
Slow hand clap.
Yes, centrist MPs are indeed now the anomaly, just as centrists should always be the pitiable, wishy-washy anomaly in a political party. Finally, realisation dawns that maybe it is the centrist machine politicians who are the parasites in the so-called Labour Party, and not the socialists.
A political party is nothing if not the voice and champion of its members. Any other arrangement – such as the noxious idea that MPs, once selected, should have license to ignore their local party at will while being at no risk of ever losing their seat – makes the party membership little more than a fan club for some generally rather unremarkable career politicians. And under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party is finally becoming less of a fan club and more a champion of its members.
Naturally, there are losers in this reconfiguration, namely the centrist MPs who have enjoyed utter dominance since the late 1990s, who suddenly find themselves out of favour and at theoretical risk of deselection. But what is the alternative? That Blairite and Brownite machine politicians, despised by the very constituency associations who will be tasked with pounding the pavements and handing out leaflets to get them elected, have the right to a “job for life”?
This is why we need to radically re-examine the way in which MPs are selected and removed from office. We need real powers of recall, so that constituents (on gathering a sufficient threshold of signatures in a petition) can recall from Westminster an MP who is underperforming, betraying their election pledges or dishonouring themselves and Parliament through scandal. But more than that, we need to move toward to mandatory re-selection and a competitive primary system.
As this blog recently pointed out:
This would bring Britain into line with other countries like the United States, where Representatives and Senators do not have “jobs for life” and must compete in party primaries if they wish to run for their seat at the next election. Such a move would put the wind up an often self-entitled political class, forcing MPs to justify their worthiness of a place on the ballot at regular intervals and forcing many of the older, less useful bench warmers off into retirement.
No constituency should be lumbered with a doddering old MP who doesn’t care any more, or a sharp-elbowed go-getter who ignores their constituency as they focus on climbing the greasy pole. Mandatory reselection goes a long way to solving those problems.
The current system, by contrast, is an abomination – incumbent MPs, often initially selected to stand for parliament in their constituencies through dubious, opaque or even downright corrupt means are then largely free from scrutiny by their own party for the rest of their career. As soon as they enter parliament they are enveloped in the Westminster self-protective cloak which serves to insulate parliamentarians from the consequences of their behaviour and political decisions.
If you know that nothing you can do will ever get you fired – if there is no political betrayal (like, say, pretending to be a eurosceptic during selection and then turning around and supporting the Remain campaign) for which you will ever be held to account – then there is every incentive to lie about your real political beliefs and motivations during selection, and then behave in as abominable and self-serving a way as you please as soon as your are elected to the Commons.
The Labour Party now has two choices if it wants to avoid a permanent schism:
- Rig the leadership election process (deceptively known as “restoring the electoral college”) to ensure that pesky party members and their awkward convictions never again elect an ideological leader, or
- Embrace a system of mandatory contested primaries, where sitting MPs have to win a party primary in order to stand as the Labour candidate for their constituency at each general election
Failure to adopt one of these two solutions (and this blog strongly favours the second) will ensure that the party remains permanently vulnerable to irreconcilable differences between the directly elected leader and the PLP, thus rendering Labour ungovernable.
Either it must be made harder for ordinary party members to choose the leader they want, or it must be made significantly easier for party members to remove MPs who prove themselves unwilling to work constructively with that elected leader.
The past year has been a viscerally painful case study in what happens when the can is endlessly kicked down the road and people pretend that some other magic solution will offer itself, saving them from having to pick one of these harsh medicines. And whatever harm Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing positions may have done to Labour’s electoral fortunes pales in comparison to the harm inflicted by the centrist-led campaign to undermine and destabilise their leader.
Either the centrist Labour MPs must take a hike (at least resigning themselves to a few years of quiet irrelevance on the back benches) or the hundreds of thousands of new party members must take a hike, for they have proven themselves incapable of co-existing.
And while this blog disagrees with nearly the entire Corbynite platform, I side strongly with the ordinary Labour Party members who are about to overwhelmingly re-elect their man.
Top Image: Mirror
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