Labour Centrists Bend The Knee To Jeremy Corbyn, Once Again

Yvette Cooper

No courage, no backbone, no vision of their own

Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon reports on the rapturous reception given to Jeremy Corbyn by the Parliamentary Labour Party when he entered the Commons yesterday:

Labour MPs cheered Jeremy Corbyn.

Genuinely. They really did. And when I say Labour MPs, I don’t just mean John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and the other members of his little band of loyalists. I mean all of them. As Mr Corbyn entered the Commons for the first time since the election, his MPs rose as one and awarded their leader a delirious standing ovation. Yes, the same MPs – well, apart from the 47 new ones – who not so long ago sat in scowling silence while Mr Corbyn floundered at PMQs, and voted by four to one that he must stand down.

On and on they clapped and whooped. Beaming from ear to ear, like a Wimbledon champion greeting his adoring public, Mr Corbyn waved, shook hands, did the thumbs-up, and basked in the acclaim. On the opposite side of the House, Tory MPs – including Theresa May – stared glumly.

What a sight it was. If this is how Labour celebrate losing an election, imagine what they’d do if they actually won.

Well, well, well.

It’s almost as though I wrote something warning about the spineless Labour centrists and their yawning lack of principle a year ago, after Jeremy Corbyn saw off their pathetic, ineptly executed leadership challenge. Oh wait, I did. Twice.

And just as they did when Corbyn vanquished the hapless Owen Smith, now the Labour centrists are prostrating themselves at their leader’s feet because his big government manifesto managed to bribe sufficient voters to win Labour a handful of additional seats, if not the general election. They are jostling for position, eager to worm their way back into the the Shadow Cabinet – which many of them previously deserted or refused to join, in an effort to destabilise Corbyn – because they taste the tantalising prospect of toppling Theresa May’s government, forcing another election and creeping across the finish line as part of some “progressive alliance”.

Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Owen Smith – all of the usual suspects quickly dropped their plans to revolt against Jeremy Corbyn after what they anticipated to be an electoral wipeout, and instead took to the airwaves to praise their leader and lay the groundwork for what they clearly hope is a return to power and prominence.

Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left worldview will destroy the Labour Party, we were once told. But more than that, his policies are wrong! So said the sanctimonious Labour centrists, despite failing to clearly articulate their own centrist vision for Britain or clearly explain which parts of the Thatcherite revolution they want to keep, which ones they want to reject and which ones they simply want to pretend to oppose in order to project the right image to their base. And now they come crawling back, ready and eager to serve, all previous ideological and moral objections to Corbyn having been conveniently compartmentalised and forgotten.

The Labour centrists have no courage and no backbone. This is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now, not theirs. Labour’s 40% vote share was driven by Corbyn, not by any of the B-lister centrists who can barely inspire their own family members to the polls. If the centrists meant what they said when they wept at Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, resigned from his Shadow Cabinet in a huff or explicitly repudiated his leadership on the campaign doorstep, they would break away and found a new party of the centre-left. But they won’t. The prospect of power – even hard left power which not so long ago they found utterly objectionable – is simply too alluring.

This blog will make time to hear a multiplicity of political perspectives, but I have no time for people who cannot manage basic ideological consistency. And I have no time for oleaginous political swamp creatures who stab their leader in the back one day only to lay garlands of flowers at his feet the next.

Such degeneracy can be rivalled only by the rootless Conservative Party, who seem to have concluded – God help us – that the best way to bounce back from Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign is to race the Labour Party in a sprint to the political Left.

 

UPDATE – 14 June

Lobbyist and former Labour MP Tom Harris concurs with my assessment, and lays into the Labour centrists – particularly the so-called “big beasts”:

They were the epitome of principled opposition to a philosophy that, although alien to Labour Party traditions, was, for the time being, in control of it. They would not overtly oppose Corbyn (out of respect for his mandate, naturally), but neither would they be complicit.

Until now. Because it turns out – and who could possibly have predicted this? – that their “opposition” was not founded on principle at all. At least, not the principle we all thought.

Jeremy Corbyn stood in silence to honour IRA terrorists. He said that the homophobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic terrorists of Hamas, when they weren’t chucking trade unionists off the top of tall buildings in Gaza, were “dedicated towards… bringing about peace and social justice.”

He called for Nato to be disbanded. But it turns out that the “big beasts” had no problem with any of this, oh no – shame on you for thinking that!

Their only concern – and, to be fair, it was one that was shared by many of us – was that Corbyn just wouldn’t have an electoral appeal that would be great enough to warrant their participation on his front bench.

These are important people, after all, whose time is more precious than everyone else’s – they can’t be expected to spend their days asking parliamentary questions and leading opposition debates unless there’s the serious prospect of ministerial office at the end of it.

And now there is. After last week, there is the every chance that Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister of this country, conceivably by the end of the year.

Before that earth-shattering exit poll was published at 10.00 pm last Thursday, at least a couple of those “big beasts” had already sought the support of their colleagues in anticipation of a return to the front bench, not as Shadow something or other, but as Leader of the Opposition. Labour’s 40 per cent of the vote changed all that.

Now, those of us with less political abilities and intellect than the “big beasts” might take a cautious step backwards at this point. In our naïveté we might fear that extremists who prove themselves popular are even more dangerous than extremists who are unpopular. But we would be wrong to think so.

With the sudden realisation that, contrary to expectation and logic, there are no votes to be lost in anti-Semitism or in friendship towards terrorists, the “big beasts” have made it clear that they are willing, after all, to get with the programme.

Some sore losers might harbour the hope that Corbyn will tell them to sod off and that he’s doing just fine without them, thank you very much.

But whether they return to their (as they see it) rightful place at the heart of Labour’s front bench, or whether they continue to sulk (with principle, of course) on the back benches, the term “big beast” will always be preceded by the descriptive “so called”, and will always be used with inverted commas, in order to indicate irony.

Principle has no place in British politics anymore, at least as far as the political/media elite are concerned. Pragmatism is king. And if your route back to power and influence means executing a deft 180-degree turn on supposedly inviolable principles, so be it. This is the rotten core of the Labour Party’s centrist wing.

 

 

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Submission, Part 4

In his FT column today, Janan Ganesh doffs his hat to reality:

Today, lots of people will end a romance, or stop fighting a terminal illness, or let an argumentative colleague have the last word, or fold a bad hand at the poker table. “Nobody likes a quitter” but prudent capitulation is a part of life. Junior doctors in England have saved their dignity and perhaps some lives by backing down from strike action. Would we rather they showed valour for its own sake?

Because our culture accords no honour to the act of giving up, the remaining moderates in Britain’s Labour party cannot be seen to entertain it. Jeremy Corbyn renewed his leadership over the weekend. The left is rampant. A reverse McCarthyism, with socialists doing the interrogation, is the daily lot of critical MPs. And still they will not resign the Labour whip to form a new party.

That is their decision. It is easy for commentators to will a formal breakaway that others would have to perform. But the least they could do is spare us another round of their fighting talk. They will “never surrender”, you see. The comeback “starts now”, apparently. The people who brought you Owen Smith, pallid flatterer of Mr Corbyn’s worldview and unwanted alternative to him, demand to be reckoned with.

Their plan, such as it exists, is to outnumber the left by recruiting hundreds of thousands of pragmatic voters to the party while refreshing themselves intellectually. The first of these projects seems fanciful, the second unnecessary.

The people they want tend not to join political parties. Their participation in real life gets in the way. An entirely fresh movement founded on the pro-European centre-left could, perhaps, attract those who feel dispossessed by Mr Corbyn and what is shaping up to be a hard exit from the EU. An invitation into an old, tainted party to fight ideologues who know the difference between Leninism and anarcho-syndicalism for mastery of things called the National Executive Committee is, for many people, a refusable offer.

If that is really their best idea – and Janan Ganesh is well connected, so he would know – then Labour’s centrist MPs deserve neither respect nor sympathy at this point. They already tried to pack the membership with an influx of moderates who would rise up against Jeremy Corbyn, and it didn’t work, Corbyn was re-elected by an even greater majority. And their new cunning plan is to try the same trick again?

Ganesh concludes:

If this reads like a counsel of despair, it should. There is a reasonable chance, and it becomes stronger by the day, that Gordon Brown will turn out to have been the last Labour prime minister. Even if the rebels dislodge Mr Corbyn and install one of their own, the public will remember their party as one that voted for the hard left twice in as many years. There are such things as lost causes. There is something to be said for giving up and starting again.

They will do no such thing, of course. They will insult our intelligence by talking up a mass harvest of new centrist members and fall back on the wheezing old line they always quote when their steadfastness is in doubt. In 1960, during another struggle with the left, Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour leader at the time, said he would “fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love”.

So much of Labour’s internal culture is contained in that magnificent and deranged line. In the normal world, you are not meant to love a political party. It is not your family. It is a machine with a function: in Labour’s case, the material improvement of working people’s lives through parliamentary means. If it is broken, fix it. If it cannot be fixed, build a new one.

Sentimentality made Labour moderates stick with leaders they should have culled. It made them open their party to the wider left. And it keeps them in a fight they cannot win.

Gradually they come to realise what this blog has been saying for months – that New Labour is irreversibly dead and buried, and that this is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now. The centrists are not merely taking a break – they have been turfed out, just as the old-school socialists were once marginalised and frozen out by Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair.

The options are to accept that it is Jeremy Corbyn’s turn for the next four years, or do the decent thing and split from the Labour Party to form their own new party of the centre-left (while watching nervously to see what percentage of the Labour grassroots membership follows them out the door in solidarity).

Honour can be found in either submission or divorce – but please, spare us from another year of overwrought, teenage drama and soap opera shenanigans.

 

UPDATE: Read Submission Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.

 

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Still No Sign Of Introspection From Labour’s Defeated Centrists

Day +1 of Jeremy Corbyn’s reconfirmed reign as leader of the Labour Party, and while there is much self-indulgent and self-involved wailing and gnashing of teeth among those who opposed Corbyn about what horrors may now befall them, there is still precious little introspection as to why the forces of centrist Labour were so thoroughly routed in the first place, twice now in the space of twelve months.

There are, however, a few green shoots of realisation in the left-wing media that it is no longer sufficient to blame the rise of Corbyn on far-left “bullies”, social media “abusers”, Marxist infiltrators or the “party within a party” Momentum. Finally, we are starting to see greater acknowledgement of something that this blog has been saying for months – that people are abandoning the bi-partisan centrist consensus because it was a failure; because it failed to speak to their hopes, aspirations and problems, while it was simultaneously undermined by more ideologically compelling offerings on the Left and the Right.

Here’s Owen Jones, continuing his epiphany from last month and belatedly coming to the same conclusion that this blog reached over a year ago, during the last Labour leadership contest:

Corbyn’s most ideological opponents should also take time to reflect on their own failures. Lacking a coherent and inspiring vision, they left a vacuum and are furious it was filled. When New Labour triumphed in 1997, social democrats were on the march across western Europe. Today, the German social democrats – whose leader promotes Blair-type third way politics – hover between 18% and 22% in the opinion polls. Spain’s social democrats have a telegenic leader, but haemorrhage support to the radical left. If Labour’s right had an obvious route map to power, they would not been in such a parlous state.

Also taking the Labour centrists to task is Dr. Eliza Filby, King’s College historian and author of “God and Mrs Thatcher”, who writes in the Guardian:

So, what now for Labour centrists? They may choose to sit and wait for Corbyn to fail. But by then it might be too late and a split inevitable. Collaboration with Corbynistas might be too hard to stomach and impossible to maintain. One thing that centrists could do is stop blaming Corbyn for everything and take a long look in the mirror. The foundations of leftwing centrism have completely crumbled and fresh thinking is required.

What should be at the forefront of their minds for both MPs and members is the future of the Labour voter. Ukip will redouble its efforts in Labour heartlands and, with the possible resurgence of the Lib Dems and the strength of the SNP, Labour MPs of all shades might find there is no longer a loyal electorate on which they can draw.

Quite. For too long, Labour’s centrist MPs have acted as though the path back to political power for a broadly centre-left social democratic party is quite simple – that all they need to do is tack slightly to the left of the already-centrist Tories while making sure to drone on endlessly about “fairness” and “equality” so that voters know that they are the more compassionate of the two options. But this is a dangerous nonsense.

The Tories under David Cameron (and likely continuing under Theresa May) have pursued a relentlessly centrist course, essentially “Blairism with an empty Treasury”. The so-called austerity which the Left screeches about is largely a figment of the imagination, being largely comprised of reduced increases in year-on-year spending rather than flat-out budget freezes or cuts. George Osborne set a relatively unambitious deficit reduction target, failed to meet it and then lied about the government’s progress during the 2015 general election campaign. It’s hard to see what less the Labour centrists would have done had they been in charge over this period – the NHS and international aid were already ludicrously ringfenced from cuts at the expense of core functions like national defence.

So given this context, what is the Super Secret, Super Awesome centrist Labour plan to get back into power? We don’t know, because they never told us, even as they raged against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. And they never told us because they don’t actually have a plan. The Labour centrists have singularly failed to articulate an alternative agenda for government, or to explain what they would do with their beloved big, activist state at a time of limited public funds. If “austerity” is so bad, how much of it would the Labour centrists cancel? They never told us.

All we really know is that the Labour centrists desperately want to overturn the result of the EU referendum, thumbing their noses at democracy and asserting the Westminster establishment’s right to do as it pleases and act in its own interests. And this isn’t a tremendous vote-winning stance, with more than half of Labour-supporting Brexit voters now so enraged with the antidemocratic murmurings of the centrist MPs that they now no longer plan to vote for the party, as LabourList reported:

More than half of Labour voters who backed Brexit in June’s referendum no longer support the party, according to a new poll.

The news will reiterate the scale of the challenge for whoever is announced as the winner of the Labour leadership contest tomorrow – widely expected to be a comfortable re-election for Jeremy Corbyn. The leader will be faced with the prospect of a divided party and an increasingly insecure support base.

Times/YouGov polling released this morning shows that 52 per cent of people who backed Labour in 2015 and a Leave vote in the EU referendum have doubts about their continued support for the party.

Around a third of Labour voters supported an Out vote in June, meaning that over 1.6 million Brexit backers have abandoned their support for Labour.

Many of the biggest margins of victory for Leave came in some of Labour’s traditional heartlands, with areas across the North East, North West, Wales and Midlands seeing large votes to leave the EU.

So in other words, what little we know of the alternative centrist agenda for the Labour Party is that they would immediately take action to drive 1.6 million of their core working class, Brexit-supporting base into the arms of either the Tories or UKIP. That doesn’t sound very politically astute to me, particularly from a group of machine politicians who take every opportunity they can to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of political amateurism.

But that’s all they have right now. The centrists of the PLP know that they hate Jeremy Corbyn because he is “unelectable” (as though the Overton window of British politics has never been moved before, when the right circumstances align with the right person to exploit them), but they don’t have a clear alternative of their own.

The arrogance of the centrists is shocking beyond measure. They exploited a period of political turmoil in Britain to knife their own leader in the back for being too left-wing, and yet not one of them could be bothered to do the homework to come up with an alternative vision for Britain or programme for opposition. They simply expected their chastened party members to submit to their authority as high-and-mighty MPs, asking them to overturn their recent endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn while failing to offer them a meaningful alternative (Owen Smith spent the leadership campaign pretending to be every bit as left-wing as Corbyn, while Angela Eagle whined about being “my own woman” but failed to enunciate a single policy of her own). No wonder the party membership told the PLP to go take a hike, in the clearest possible terms.

Thankfully, there are a few signs that left-wing thinkers are becoming sick of the centrists’ arrogance and their “born to rule the Labour Party” mentality. But it needs to be far more widespread. Instead of chummy, collegiate sympathy with Labour’s centrists-in-exile, the Westminster media need to start asking what Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents would actually do differently, and what their vision for Britain really is. They need to be put under pressure and shamed until they either articulate such an alternative vision or skulk away into the corner of British political life where they currently belong.

At present, Theresa May’s Conservatives hold the centre ground (albeit with a paternalistic, authoritarian leaning) while Jeremy Corbyn holds the Left. If the Labour centrists are as politically astute and as great a potential election-winning force as they want everybody to believe, they shouldn’t have any trouble outlining for us their compelling, alternative centre-left policy prescription for Britain, a manifesto so challenging and inspiring that it will deliver a 1997-style landslide if only they are given the chance to take back control of the Labour Party.

So come on, then. Where is it?

 

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Live Blog: Jeremy Corbyn Elected Leader Of The Labour Party (Again)

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Jeremy Corbyn destroys Owen Smith’s pathetic candidacy, is re-elected leader of the Labour Party – Live Blog

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

13:26

At this point I’m not sure what more there is to say. All of the arguments about how the Labour Party ended up in this position have been stated and restated over and over.

Inglorious defeat was long predicted by this blog – not least here, here and here.

One can only think that the restless, self-entitled centrists have shot themselves (and their party) in the foot with this reckless and doomed leadership challenge – and for what? Corbynism, however misguided, has earned the right to be tested at a general election. And all of these furious attempts by the PLP to circumvent that process and disenfranchise Jeremy Corbyn’s base have only hardened his support – and strengthened the impression that the centrist Westminster establishment do not trust the British electorate to choose from a full palette of political shades, insisting on artificially limiting our choice beforehand lest we make the “wrong” choices.

As this blog recently noted:

One way or another, the establishment seems determined not to give the quaintly antiquated socialism of Jeremy Corbyn the opportunity to fail on its own. Labour’s centrist MPs do so because they are hungry to pursue what they see as the quickest route back to power (and some fear losing their seats in a 2020 anti-Corbyn landslide), and the rest of the political and media establishment do so because they are alarmed by Corbyn’s views on NATO, Trident and other issues, and do not trust the British people to likewise see the flaws in these ideas and reject them.

Of course, the sad irony is that by going to such extreme lengths to prevent Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist ideas being tested in a general election, the establishment is doing more than anyone else – more even than Corbyn himself – to harden support for those failed ideas, ensuring that they live on even longer past their “sell by” date.

Furthermore, the idea of centrist MPs enforcing what is essentially a de facto ideological test for any politician seeking high national office is grossly offensive to our democracy, revealing the establishment’s contempt for the people in all its hateful glory. We the people are more than capable of determining which political ideas are good, bad, offensive, dangerous or otherwise, and we have no need for a sanctimonious elite to pre-screen our choices for us.

The only things necessary to defeat Corbynism are Jeremy Corbyn himself and the British electorate. It’s sad that Labour MPs and the political / media establishment are simultaneously too selfish and too distrustful of the British people to realise this obvious truth.

This failed coup against Jeremy Corbyn has also revealed the utter dearth of talent among Labour’s centrist MPs. Even the supposed “big beasts” are little more than field mice – none of them had the courage to put their own political careers and future leadership ambitions on the line by challenging Jeremy Corbyn, leaving it to the underwhelming Owen Smith to carry their banner.

But worse than failing to field a serious candidate, the centrists had no vision to offer. Like Jeremy Corbyn or loathe him, he has a vision for a different Britain and principles which he has stuck to for decades, not bending and shapeshifting in an attempt to flatter different interest groups. The centrists offered no vision at all, other than their naked hunger for power. But if you cannot articulate in an inspiring way what you choose to do with that power, it will not be granted to you.

Will the Labour centrists finally learn this lesson? I have absolutely zero confidence that they will.

12:40

Submission.

See my “submission” series – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

12:29

Good question from Norman Smith to Diane Abbott – “why shouldn’t local parties deselect local MPs who continue to be vocally critical of a popularly elected leader?”

Abbott deflects, choosing to be polite and magnanimous today – but Norman Smith’s question is a fair one. Why should pro-Corbyn CLPs continue to tolerate Labour MPs who do not share their beliefs and actively seek to undermine Corbyn’s leadership?

In fact – mandatory reselection for all!

12:24

To do otherwise would have required competence and vision, qualities with which the angry, self-entitled centrists are not exactly brimming over.

12:22

Thinking of starting an “it’s time for the Labour Party to come together” counter on this blog. Nearly everybody interviewed on the BBC so far has used that phrase, however unconvincingly.

12:16

Interesting report from Huffington Post – apparently Owen Smith “won” among under 24s (and pre-2015 members) according to an exit poll:

Owen Smith beat Jeremy Corbyn among Labour party members who joined the party before 2015, a new exit poll has revealed.

Although he was defeated in the overall election, the YouGov/ElectionData poll found that Smith also won among 18-24 year-olds and Scottish party members.

The survey found that 63% of pre-2015 party members had backed the Pontypridd MP, to just 37% for Corbyn.

But the current leader had a huge lead among the tens of thousands who have joined the party since Ed Miliband quit, with 74% of them backing him to just 24% for Smith.

Among those who had joined since Corbyn became leader, a massive 83% said they had voted for him in the 2016 leader election, and 15% voted Smith.

While this sounds quite surprising at face value, digging a little deeper I’m not so sure that it is unexpected. Look at the young people who typically get into politics – a significant number of them tend to be university Labour/Conservative types, people who entertain either vague or determined ambitions to one day climb up the greasy pole and launch political careers of their own. Young Labour activists such as these likely want to taste political power one day rather than dwell in permanent opposition, and since prevailing wisdom (right or wrong) is that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable is it really surprising that many of them fell into line behind the candidate who looked the part of the typical, professional political candidate? I don’t think so.

12:14

Yeah, I picked up on this too:

12:11

Not a whole lot of sympathy for Owen Smith from the Left:

Good. Owen Smith is an awful politician and was a terrible leadership candidate. He deserves neither consolation nor sympathy.

12:06

Chuka Umunna on the BBC, on the defensive against the potential deselection of “good, hardworking and popular” local Labour MPs.

Newsflash, Chuka – if they were so tremendously “popular” among the party activists who sweat blood to get them elected to Parliament in the first place, they wouldn’t be at risk of deselection. But since they have openly defied the wishes of their own local party members, they must now steel themselves to face the consequences.

12:02

Hilarious watching sulking centrists stalking out of the conference hall and refusing to even talk to the BBC reporter (Norman Smith) stationed outside. They have only themselves to blame for pitching the biggest hissy fit in the world against Corbyn’s leadership while utterly failing to come up with a compelling vision of their own for the future of the Labour Party and Britain.

12:00

Well, that wasn’t a bad victory speech from Jeremy Corbyn – far more magnanimous than I would have been under the circumstances. He congratulated the supporters and activists of both leadership campaigns in a general paean to political activism, and tried to immediately move the focus forward by plugging some big campaign for education (basically against grammar schools) next week.

I’m not sure if that will be enough to glue the warring Labour Party back together – however many times the phrase “we all need to come together” are uttered by different Labour MPs and officials over the course of the day. But for Jeremy Corbyn, it is clearly now business as usual.

11:50

And it’s Jeremy Corbyn (naturally), with 313,209 votes of 506,428 cast, meaning a breakdown of Corbyn 61.8% / Smith 38.2%.

 

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Julia Hartley-Brewer Is Wrong To Fear Mandatory Reselection Of MPs

Why are conservatives so concerned that the Labour Party is moving in a more socialist direction?

On last night’s Question Time, journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer – a journalist with whom this blog often agrees – held forth on the state of the Labour Party, and calls by some activists for the implementation of mandatory re-selection of MPs prior to a general election in order to make the Parliamentary Labour Party more representative of the membership.

Huffington Post reports:

Journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer said Britons would “never elect a Socialist Government” on Thursday’s edition of the programme, as Corbyn is expected to be re-elected Labour leader easily on Saturday.

She was speaking after Blairite Labour MP Liz Kendall was the target of an audience member who advocated the mandatory re-selection of MPs before they could defend their seats in a General Election, something Corbyn supporters could use to remove those critical of the Labour Party leader.

“What a depressing conversation, genuinely,” Hartley-Brewer said.

“I’m a great believer in democracy. The thing about democracy is you have a Government but you also have Her Majesty’s Opposition.

“The reality is the Labour Party needs to make a decision about whether it wants to be a serious alternative Government in waiting or a Friday night Marxist book club. It can’t be both.”

This, of course, is a common refrain from conservative types either hoping to have some fun at Labour’s expense or express genuine concern about what they see as an unbalancing of Britain’s political system.

Personally, I don’t understand why so many prominent movement Conservatives – people who would never vote Labour in a million years – are so upset that the Labour Party is once again expressing genuine socialist tendencies, and desperate for it to tack back to the centre and become an electoral threat to the Tories again. Even after the EU referendum have these people learned nothing about the dangers of a stultifying cross-party consensus in the middle of British politics which shuts out whole swathes of people who dare to hold staunchly conservative or socialist (or individualist/authoritarian) beliefs?

The Huffington Post continues:

Hartley Brewer then defended [Liz] Kendall, calling her a “very good, very sensible hard-working MP” who “talks about the real issues affecting real people”. She bemoaned the fate of Labour MPs who face either “deselection for speaking sense” or losing their seats at an election.

I can’t help but feel that Julia Hartley-Brewer is failing to consider the upside of mandatory reselection for conservatives. Finally, real small government conservatives would have a mechanism to get rid of statist, pro-European Tory-lite interlopers like the pointless Anna Soubry, and those numerous other MPs who pretended to be staunchly eurosceptic during their initial constituency selection procedures only to come running to the Remain campaign like loyal dogs the moment that David Cameron snapped his fingers. Don’t Conservative Party members deserve a parliamentary party – and a government – which more closely reflects their interests and priorities, too? And what better way to do this than through mandatory reselection?

Yet many people with whom this blog usually finds common cause seem to see this issue differently. They seem aghast at the idea that a party founded on socialist ideals should actually dare to be socialist, which is puzzling to me. Julia Hartley-Brewer will probably never vote Labour for the remainder of her lifetime – so why the concern that Labour avoid becoming a “Marxist book club”? At a time when the Conservative Party is so soul-sappingly centrist in outlook, would she really rather have a battle-ready, equally centrist Labour Party nipping at its heels?

As this blog recently commented:

It is as though it is no longer enough for the party we personally support to reflect our own views and priorities – we now expect opposing parties to reflect them too. This is a politically stultifying and increasingly ludicrous state of affairs. As a small-c conservative I believe strongly in maintaining our nuclear deterrent, a strong military, the NATO alliance, low taxes and small government. But I don’t for a moment expect the leader of the Labour Party to hold these exact positions, too. And while it would be calamitous were Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister by some dark miracle and actually enact all of his policies, I trust in the wisdom of the British people to see through his policies and reject Corbynism at the ballot box.

And that’s the difference, I suppose, between this blog and the political and media establishment. I trust the people to look at the political parties and refuse to vote for a party campaigning on a manifesto which is so clearly damaging to our economy and national interests. The establishment do not trust the people, because they do not respect the people. They have no faith that the British people will make rational decisions when presented with a range of political alternatives – therefore they see it as their job to artificially limit our choice beforehand, taking certain options off the table by declaring them “unacceptable” and suppressing their very discussion by mainstream politicians.

Besides, who should be the judge of whether an MP is “sensible” and “hardworking”? Come general election time, surely the best people to pass judgment are those from the local constituency party, who know best whether their MP is adequately representing their values. If they are dissatisfied with their candidate, why should their views be steamrollered by a cliquish Westminster conspiracy to protect the centrist Good Old Boys (and Girls)?

If Labour’s centrist MPs really do speak such “sense”, they will surely have no difficulty in winning the support of thousands of non-aligned voters who do not subscribe to the Jeremy Corbyn agenda. If they are so wise and pragmatic, surely they could not fail to succeed by striking out on their own and forming a new centrist party?

And yet the centrists are going nowhere, because they have no compelling vision of their own to offer the electorate, and many of them would struggle to even win back their deposits if they ran as independent candidates or under the banner of a new centrist party. Therefore their only hope, in the short term, is to cling on to their seats despite often being loathed by their own local parties, in the hope that one of them will come up with an alternative policy agenda which actually commands enthusiasm and respect. And frankly, few Labour centrist MPs have done anything to deserve such an unfair helping hand.

The cold, hard truth is that the Labour Party has shifted decisively to the Left. Julia Hartley-Brewer’s attitude seems to be “to hell with the party members who actually do all of the hard work and unglamorous campaigning – they should be lumbered with a centrist leader they despise, just so that British politics can continue to be fought over a vanishingly small sliver of real estate in the centre ground”. Personally, I find that idea repellent.

In a democracy, decisions are made and influence is wielded by the people who actually bother to show up. And right now, the Corbynite Left are showing up and making their voices heard, while the various centrists (despite their prestige) are able to conjure up all the excitement of a cold bucket of sick. The left-wing have earned the right to be heard, while the centrists have demonstrably not. Hearing what the Corbynites have to say and abiding by their wishes is therefore not only the fair thing for the Labour Party to do, it is the only remotely democratic thing for the Labour Party to do.

And the proper reaction from conservatives is not to brim over with sympathy for the poor Labour centrist MPs who have so grievously lost touch with their own party base – it is to demand a similar rebirth of radicalism on the Right.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is aghast at the idea of mandatory reselection for Labour MPs, but I say bring it on. Let the Tories have their own version of Momentum too, something to put a rocket up the government’s complacent and depressingly un-ideological posterior – and then give Conservative Party members the same opportunity to shape the future of their party, hopefully by dragging it away from the smoking ruins of Cameron-era centrism.

 

Jeremy Corbyn - Labour Leadership Election - Victory Nears

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