Submission, Part 3

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As they go down in flames for the second time in a year, Labour’s rootless and uninspiring centrists deserve neither respect for their “principles” nor sympathy for their plight

Quick, everybody reach for the tiny violins. The Telegraph’s Asa Bennett has penned a tremulous ode to Labour’s centrist MPs, encouraging these noble Men and Women of Principle (…) to never surrender in the face of Jeremy Corbyn’s imminent re-election as Labour leader.

Read the whole thing – entitled “Labour moderates have nothing to gain by kissing and making up with Jeremy Corbyn“. It is hilariously overwrought, and conjures much the same air as the Titanic’s band calmly playing “Nearer My God To Thee” as the doomed vessel slowly slipped beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic.

Money quotes:

Corbynistas know who their enemies are in the party. Don’t forget they have already divided up MPs by how loyal they are in secret lists. People like Mr Jarvis and Ms de Piero have made their disquiet known about Mr Corbyn, with the former believing he would lead the party to “electoral annihilation”. They have stuck their heads above the parapet to call for new leadership – a brave decision, but not one they can pretend never happened.

And Corbyn is not in a similar position? At least the centrists have one clear enemy and know exactly on who to focus their attempts at destabilisation. Jeremy Corbyn, despite being overwhelmingly popular among the party membership, is surrounded by disloyal MPs who have been working to undermine his leadership from Day 1. If the people who were supposed to work for you in your shadow cabinet were leaking damning quotes and incendiary opinions to the media like a broken tap, wouldn’t you try to implement some rudimentary system to remind yourself of who could be trusted and who would simply abuse any trust and autonomy to further their own aims rather than those of the party? I know I would.

Besides, that is the trouble with saying incendiary things to the media. There was always the risk that by attacking Corbyn in public, he would go on to triumph nonetheless, leaving his critics in an awkward position. But the answer is not to go on as an increasingly bitter heckler from the back benches. The answer is to either accept the overwhelming verdict of party members and try to cooperate constructively, or if this is impossible, to maintain a position of dignified silence on the backbenches. And then there is the nuclear option, which none of the centrist MPs will take out of overwhelming regard for their own political careers – if they really can no longer abide being in the Party of Corbyn they can always leave and join a different political party.

More:

Some MPs must be tempted to return in order to help Labour fight Theresa May’s government (even if their fellow moderates may think them scabs). This may help the Opposition put up a vaguely professional front, but it will be a gift to the Tories, who can relentlessly use these new shadow ministers’ past criticisms of their leader against them. Mr Corbyn is already struggling to convince voters that he could be a better Prime Minister than Mrs May, so how would that change by him bringing back a bunch of MPs who think he’s useless?

Again, this is shallow partisan thinking. As we are hopefully discovering in the aftermath of the EU referendum and the vote for Brexit, there is more to life than optics and how well things lend themselves to snappy soundbites. Might working alongside Jeremy Corbyn lead to some awkward questions from the media for those MPs who were vocally critical of him in the past? Sure. So power through the awkwardness. Reach out to Keith Vaz for tips on doing so, he has oceans of experience.

More:

Jeremy Corbyn’s former critics would be foolish to think that they can be welcomed back into the fold without any problem. Their return would be taken as sign of ultimate capitulation, and Corbynistas will not forget which side of the Labour leadership contest they fought on.

Asa Bennett is acting like Jeremy Corbyn is uniquely thin-skinned and petty, when in fact the opposite is the case. Corbyn has remained courteous even to MPs who have vented really quite unprofessional sentiments to the media. Will the insults be forgotten? No, probably not – that’s just human nature. But if any Labour leader in recent history is likely to work with his public critics, it would be Jeremy Corbyn.

Besides, in his overwhelming concern for the fate of centrist Labour MPs, Asa Bennett seems to be forgetting the pantheon of misfortunate MPs who were purged from the Courts of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, their government careers abruptly terminated simply for showing too much favour to one or other of these egotistical megalomaniacs. Is Bennett really suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn being a bit frosty to MPs who openly called him “useless” on television is less acceptable than Prime Minister Gordon Brown throwing staplers and mobile phones at cowering aides who incurred his wrath?

And finally (my emphasis in bold):

This year’s Labour leadership election is drawing to a close, and Mr Corbyn’s survival is all but assured. Labour MPs have to decide whether to stay true to their beliefs and carry on the fight, or surrender and beg for a job. Moderates may seek a deal which means they can serve, but what is the point in carrying on such a charade?

WHAT BELIEFS?

Will somebody please tell me what high and noble principles these saintly centrist MPs consider so inviolate that they are honour-bound to refuse to serve alongside Jeremy Corbyn? Because for the life of me I cannot figure it out. Indeed, the very nature of being a centrist typically involves either a willingness to compromise on absolutely core and fundamental ideological principles, or the complete lack of any such principles in the first place. So what one Jeremy Corbyn policy is so offensive to the centrist rebels that they could not bring themselves to support it if focus groups suddenly showed it to be overwhelmingly popular?

Refusing to serve alongside Jeremy Corbyn because of deep and irreconcilable differences over policy matters would be understandable, even noble – but that is clearly not the case here. After all, Labour centrist MPs have enthusiastically thrown their support behind Owen Smith, who is campaigning on a nearly equally retro socialist programme as Corbyn. No, the Labour centrists are rebelling not because of unbridgeable differences but because they think Corbyn’s presence at the top of the ticket makes it harder for the party to get back into government and for their own pampered posteriors to get back into ministerial limousines. And that is contemptible.

That’s the rub. The only “belief” which unites the Labour centrist is the New Labour instinct to be all things to all people – to say anything and compromise on any belief in the pursuit of power for its own sake, while sanctimoniously pretending to be wiser than partisans on either side. The centrist creed, such as it is, would be “nothing is sacred, everything is negotiable”. Jeremy Corbyn disagrees, and for thus making Labour’s mountain back to power that much harder to climb they cannot forgive him.

If these centrists genuinely believe that the best policies for Britain would involve tacking just ever so slightly to the left of Theresa May’s centrist Conservative Party while warbling on about “compassion” and “equality” then they should say so – maybe not in so many words, as that would be political suicide, but they should make clear where they accept centrist Tory orthodoxy and where they would move to the Left. But they won’t do this.

The Labour centrists love to prance around in public as though there is some vast ideological gulf between the Evil Tor-ees and their noble selves, yet give them a leader who can actually put clear water between his own policy ideas and those of the Conservative government and they all scramble over one another to knife him in the back.

Asa Bennett could not be more wrong – the Labour centrist rebels of the PLP could not be less deserving of sympathy or respect. They had their opportunity to stand for something, anything clearly different, yet all of their remaining big beasts were too selfish and cowardly to run for the leadership, while the man who eventually became their champion – Owen Smith – spent the entire leadership contest asking members to vote for him because he was just as socialist as Jeremy Corbyn.

So when should we begin to feel sorry for the centrists, or give their incessant complaints another hearing? How about when one of them dares to stand up and articulate a positive, alternative vision for centre-leftist government which doesn’t just sound good on paper, but which actually generates the faintest amount of interest from the general public.

I suspect that we will be waiting a good, long while.

 

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

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – No Home For Centrists

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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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

 

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Alan Johnson’s Permanent Revolution

Despite Owen Smith’s imminent, glorious defeat at the hands of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest Take 2, New Labour grandee Alan Johnson is in no mood for acceptance and reconciliation.

In fact, as the Telegraph reports, Alan Johnson is still firmly stuck in the “denial” stage of grief for the stalled New Labour centrist agenda to which he dedicated his political career:

Moderate Labour MPs must wage a remorseless campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership “year after year” or the party will die, Alan Johnson has said.

The former Cabinet minister called on his colleagues on the centre-Left to “recapture this party” from Mr Corbyn and his socialist allies by emulating their record of opposing previous Labour leaders.

Mr Corbyn is expected to be re-elected as party leader next week, with another landslide majority from members, but he lacks the support of most of his own MPs.

The Labour leader admitted on Saturday to making mistakes and disclosed that he would be making a peace offer to MPs in an attempt to persuade his critics to return to the shadow cabinet.

However, Mr Johnson, the former Home Secretary, condemned Mr Corbyn as “useless”, “incompetent” and “incapable” of running a political party, and called on rebels not to give up their efforts to oust him.

So it’s to be a permanent revolution, then – at least in the puffed-up, self-important world of Alan Johnson’s imagination. Labour MPs should continue to loudly and proudly wear their contempt for their core voters like a perverse badge of honour, be it on Brexit or their preferred choice for leader of the party. The PLP should ruthlessly pursue its own agenda while still demanding and assuming the support of the CLPs who stated their preference for Corbyn, and who will become increasingly enraged by any further attempts to remove him. What could possibly go wrong?

Back on planet Earth, though, the groundwork continues to be laid for the PLP’s abject, humiliating capitulation to Jeremy Corbyn – as this blog has discussed here and here.

Labour’s centrist MPs have severely tarnished their reputation by opportunistically exploiting the EU referendum result to rise up against their party leader, and then failing to put forth any better candidates than the hapless Angela Eagle and the detestable Owen Smith. They have no real political capital left to spend, and while the Corbynite dream of mass deselections may still be out of reach now, another mass rebellion of the centrists would all but guarantee a severe grassroots response.

Besides, all this talk of petulant, hysterical and unending opposition to Corbynism is a bit rich coming from a man repeatedly urged to step up and challenge for the Labour Party leadership himself, but who lacked the courage and willingness for self-sacrifice to answer the call even once.

If Alan Johnson really wants to recapture the Labour Party from the Corbynites, he might consider sitting down with a notepad and pen and trying to come up with some attractive new centrist policies which don’t simply look like splitting the difference between Margaret Thatcher and Michael Foot. Want ordinary people to be enthused by centre-leftish policies? Then stop making them such a darn fudge. Stop desperately chasing votes and start crafting the policies which might actually win votes.

But why go to the trouble of doing anything constructive when one can just carp from the sidelines?

 

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Submission, Part 2

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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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Submission

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After pompously telling anyone who will listen that they cannot possibly work with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s centrist MPs are preparing to bend the knee and meekly return to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet once he is re-elected leader of the party

 

UPDATE: Read Part 2 here.

 

Labour’s tantrum-throwing centrist MPs, recognising their man Owen Smith’s imminent defeat by Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, are apparently now making frantic overtures to the Corbyn camp so that their treachery might be forgiven, allowing them to serve in the shadow cabinet once again.

The Telegraph reports:

Senior Labour politicians who quit the shadow cabinet in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership are drawing up plans for a truce that would see them return to his team if he is re-elected this month.

Mr Corbyn was rocked by dozens of resignations from his shadow government in the aftermath of the EU referendum, in a rebellion that triggered a leadership contest.

However, with polls suggesting that Mr Corbyn is on course to win next week’s leadership election easily, a number of former shadow ministers are preparing the ground to return to work with him.

They will demand a list of assurances from Mr Corbyn as a sign of his goodwill before pledging their support.

These include allowing them greater say in the running of the shadow cabinet, giving his support to a return to shadow cabinet elections, and dropping the threat that MPs who opposed his leadership will face de-selection.

And the FT:

Some senior Labour MPs who resigned from the shadow cabinet en masse in the early summer are braced to go back and serve under Mr Corbyn. One said: “I do not see what the other options are. At the end of the day, we have to fulfil our role, which is providing opposition to the Tory government.”

[..] One former frontbencher said that if Labour MPs did not fall back into line, it would continue to “feed the narrative” that Mr Corbyn was being undermined by “Blairite” enemies in the Parliamentary Labour party. “Quite a few of my colleagues feel the same way, although not everyone.”

[..] “There is a real determination among a number of us to make sure that we try to do the job that needs to be done: holding the Tories to account,” said one former frontbencher. “You can do that to some extent from the backbenches but you can do it much more effectively from the front benches . . . but the onus is now on Jeremy to unite the party.”

Translation: “Being out of the political spotlight and festering away on the backbenches is killing us and our career aspirations, so please can we come in from the cold?”

Well, well, well.

I suppose one has to admire the nerve of the centrists, daring to issue conditions for their return to the shadow cabinet having taken the reckless and self-serving decision to flounce out and destabilise their party at a time (in the aftermath of the Brexit vote) when stability was most required. Corbyn has thus far shown no qualms about filling the gaps in his shadow cabinet with D-listers and nobodies – what makes the likes of Chris Bryant, Lucy Powell or Angela Eagle think that Corbyn is desperately pining for their return?

But in another sense, this pitiful capitulation is not surprising. 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. Apparently the odious man can now be found swanning around Britain portentously comparing himself to Saint Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar, founder of Our Blessed NHS (genuflect), hoping that Labour members will not take the time to google his past career as a pharmaceutical lobbyist and statements broadly supportive of privatisation.

So what should the centrists do? Well, if they had an ounce of genuine conviction and commitment to principle (ha) then they would part ways with a Labour Party which has “left them” (to paraphrase their unconvincing bid for sympathy) and set up shop as a new party of the centre-left. But they will not do so, partly for selfish reasons – they want to keep ownership of the party apparatus and assets – but also for the very practical reason that starting a new political party from scratch and making a success of it is almost impossible. Sure, 150+ defectors would be much better than the “gang of four” who helped to found the SDP back in 1981. But while their parliamentary contingent might initially be fairly large they would need to build up a party structure and grassroots campaigning organisation from scratch in a very short space of time, or face certain annihilation at the 2020 general election.

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.

Besides, the centrists have some thinking to do before they can make a plausible bid to take back leadership of the Labour Party. First and foremost, they must decide on a shared position on Brexit, which will be close to impossible – the centrist MPs are salivating at the prospect of thwarting Britain’s exit from the European Union by any means possible, no matter how far-fetched. Their every instinct is to take up and amplify the great howl of anguish emanating from the metro-left at the prospect of being forcibly ripped away from a European Union which most of them barely understand but which is absolutely central to their identities as progressive, enlightened model citizens. Unfortunately, this involves waving a big fat middle finger to Labour’s working class supporters, particularly those in the north of England, who were some of the most enthusiastic voters for Brexit.

The result will likely be another fudge and evasion as regularly practised by the Labour Party. They will reaffirm their commitment to the European Union and their desire to overturn the result of the EU referendum or at least to hold a second or third referendum until they achieve the desired result, while uttering glib, platitudinous assurances that they understand people’s frustration with the EU and with immigration, and that they will work for some mystical reform at some point in the future. They will grab hold of the Magical EU Reform Unicorn as tight as they can, while repeating to themselves that in fact they simply need to work harder to educate people of the wonders of European political union and mass immigration.

The political ground has shifted underneath all of Britain’s political parties, and while none have yet truly come to terms with the new post-Brexit reality and the schism on the Left, it is the Labour centrist MPs who are in the strongest denial right now. This is mostly because original thinking is required, and few of their number are capable of the feat. Jeremy Corbyn offers (with one or two exceptions) a very traditional and anachronistic form of socialism, ossified since the late 1970s. To regain power, the centrists cannot simply repudiate Corbynism or match Tory centrism while blathering on about equality and fairness. They need to jack in the Blairite triangulation and reimagine the role of the big, activist state that they love in a way which makes sense in the new century. Most are unwilling to put in this work – they think they can cheat their way back to power using a playbook which is twenty years old.

It won’t work. And however limited Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal to the wider country may be, he will not be dislodged as party leader until somebody else comes along with a compelling, clearly identifiable programme for government of their own – something sufficiently distinct from Theresa May’s authoritarian Toryism that Labour Party members (a) agree with it, and (b) think the country might vote for it.

Owen “I’m Nye Bevan!” Smith is a pitiful joke, as was Angela “I am my own woman!” Eagle when she was also running for leader. When the centrists have done their homework, one of them – preferably one with name recognition and a sprinkling of gravitas – can step forward and present their shiny new plan for Labour, and maybe the party membership will listen.

But until that happens, this is Jeremy Corbyn’s party. And that is how it will remain.

 

UPDATE: Read Part 2 here.

 

Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

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