Keep On Shuffling, Jeremy

Jeremy Corbyn - Shadow Cabinet - Revenge Reshuffle

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reshuffle has not succeeded in purging those uncourageous moderates who pledge allegiance to their leader’s face but talk mutinously behind his back

After four long days, Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called “revenge reshuffle” is finally complete, the whole exercise resembling nothing so much as a tedious game of musical chairs played by a group of largely forgettable and unexceptional B and C-list politicians.

However, perhaps Jeremy Corbyn should not call an end to his shuffling just yet, given the fact that some notably less-than-loyal courtiers inexplicably remain in their posts.

In his latest column, devoted to examining deputy leader Tom Watson’s balancing act and divided loyalties, Dan Hodges writes:

Watson sees it as his mission to keep the Labour Party together. But everyone knows that is mission impossible. Labour is heading for all-out civil war, and there is nothing Tom Watson or anyone else can do to stop it.

“Tom’s going to have to make a choice soon”, one shadow cabinet minister told me. “Is he part of the solution to Corbynism, or is he part of the problem?”

To the mind of this Labour MP, serving in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Corbynism is “part of the problem”. Imagine for a moment what outrage there would have been if, just months into Ed Miliband’s disastrous tenure as Labour leader, a shadow cabinet member had said that Milibandism was part of the problem and something to be undermined from within.

Imagine what everyone would be saying about the rank cowardice of that shadow cabinet minister, who disagreed with everything that their leader believes in but who lacked the courage to forsake their position and say so publicly.

Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle has only just been completed, and already a shadow cabinet minister has given this juicy morsel of a quote to Dan Hodges. Truly, the Labour Party seems to have a death wish, preferring to go down in a blaze of whining, sanctimonious victimhood rather than tough out a few dry years in the political wilderness.

Yes, of course both sides are at fault, although I would side with the Corbyn team’s bumbling ineptitude over the calculating self-interest of the moderates-in-exile every time. But one thing is certain: it will be impossible to keep the Labour Party together so long as shadow cabinet members are making such toxic briefings against their own leader immediately after having been re-confirmed in their own jobs.

Here we are again, confronted with yet another anonymous Labour “heavyweight” with the duplicity to profess loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn’s face and then run straight to sympathetic journalists the very same day with tear-jerking stories about how the Labour leader hurt their pwecious feewings.

Will they muster the courage to say to Jeremy Corbyn’s face what they so gladly regale to the Telegraph? Of course not. Because for them it is not about principle, or honour, or doing what is best for the Labour Party – despite their earnest protestations the the contrary.

If his detractors truly believe Jeremy Corbyn to be as terrible as they continually tell Dan Hodges he is, they have a moral duty – over and above any consideration for their own careers – to rise up and depose him immediately, just as those people who call the present government “evil” should be launching an insurrection on the streets of London rather than posting preening, overwrought status updates on Facebook.

But just as those angry keyboard warriors who accuse the Evil Tories of supposed human rights abuses will astonishingly not be found storming the gates of Downing Street in morally justified insurrection, neither will Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet detractors be spotted collecting signatures of fellow MPs in a serious attempt to oust their despised leader. No, instead they will be found moping into a pint glass at a dark Westminster drinking hole, spilling their sorry guts to Dan Hodges. What bravery. What principle. What courageous heroism is this?

I would understand the incessant carping and undermining of Jeremy Corbyn from within the Labour Party if there were some other great and noble faction vying for supremacy and influence – if some other, unfairly marginalised figure within Labour had a cunning plan to offer the electorate something different and reinvent the party for the twenty-first century. But there quite evidently is no such group or individual waiting in the wings with a burning vision for Britain.

On the contrary, instead of a King Across The Water waiting to reclaim their rightful throne, there is only the same ragtag assortment of fading New Labour machine politicians and grasping, telegenic SpAdocrats who so repulsed the voters last time round that it led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn in the first place.

This is why I balk at those malcontents within Labour who simply cannot stop themselves running to the media with salacious court gossip and bitter invective about their leader, seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership at every turn. What is their bright alternative? What radical new platform will win back Scotland, inspire Middle England or turf out an uninspiring but power-hungry Conservative Party whose grasping, centrist tentacles are well on their way to establish a hegemonic lock on the levers of power for the next decade?

Exactly. The malcontents have nothing. Tumbleweeds.

Is Jeremy Corbyn going to win the 2020 general election and become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom? Almost certainly not. But guess what? Neither will Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Stella Creasy, Gloria De Piero, Luciana Berger, Hillary Benn, the Eagle sisters or Lisa Nandy. Neither the Labour front bench nor their back benches are brimming over with immediately obvious future prime minister material.

With the Labour Party already at such a low ebb, is a few years of Jeremy Corbyn’s red-blooded socialism really likely to do more damage than an Ed Miliband Mark II? Hardly. So in the absence of anything – anything at all – resembling a more appealing prospect, why not spend the next eighteen months trying something new and letting the Corbynites have a turn?

But the malcontents just can’t do it. They might not have the first inkling of what they want instead of Corbyn – let alone what the voters might want. All the plotting moderates know for sure is that they have been suddenly and unexpectedly turfed out of power and influence within the Labour Party. And it is just eating them up inside.

There is no violin small enough to play in mournful solidarity with these hapless centrists – Labour MPs whose only fixed and immovable belief was the desire to wield power and influence, shamelessly trading on the storied name of their party while peddling the same soul-sapping centrist consensus as nearly everyone else in Westminster.

May their richly deserved time in the wilderness be long and harsh.

May they suffer and roar together.

Jeremy Corbyn - Cabinet reshuffle

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Corbynites And Moderates Share The Blame For Revenge Reshuffle Chaos

Miliband appoints Abbott as Health Minister

Nobody in the Labour Party comes away from the shadow cabinet reshuffle looking very good. But particular anger should be reserved for the supposedly mature moderates and centrists, whose claim to be more dignified and trustworthy than the Corbynites has been utterly destroyed

When it comes to the conduct of Labour MPs during the so-called “revenge reshuffle”, LabourList’s Emma Burnell is very much of a “plague on all their houses” mindset.

Of Jeremy Corbyn and his intemperate supporters, Burnell writes:

On what planet is it a good idea to start briefing about a reshuffle and it’s potential casualties over the period more commonly dedicated to peace, goodwill and a slow news cycle?

On what planet is it a good idea to then hold that reshuffle on the day your activists got up super-early, in the cold and the rain to leaflet stations across the country thus stepping all over your own fares campaign?

On what planet is it OK to brief the potential loss of your Shadow Foreign Secretary, then brief he’s staying, then brief he might be going after all, then keep him? I’m sure the public is completely convinced of your faith in him and the job he’s doing. Anyway, not like it’s an important role…

On what planet is it even slightly a good idea to take four days to reshuffle what turns out to be a derisory number of posts?

Valid questions, all. The way that Corbyn conducted this reshuffle can be most generously described as bumbling and naive, but the aggravating words of some of his supporters and loyalists – including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – make it seem downright vindictive and vicious.

To take just one example, it helps nobody that Labour’s shadow foreign secretary now clings on to his job a diminished figure, drained of authority after days and weeks of speculation that he would be sacked. If Jeremy Corbyn wanted to get rid of Hillary Benn because of their opposing views on Syria, that is his prerogative as leader. But to leave Benn twisting in the wind for days on end was not just personally cruel, but also very poor party management.

Of the Corbyn-hating moderates, Burnell writes:

You are not entitled to a Shadow Cabinet position. When you get sacked, take it like a grown up and act with some dignity. Particularly if you know in your heart you’ve given the Leader every reason to do it. Yes, the crowing on the left is hideous. Don’t fight hideous with hideous.

If you want to coordinate a revolution, it will take more than three junior MPs with similar politics. If Corbyn is as unelectable as you think and should be got rid of, stop bloody serving in his Cabinet. Don’t idle up to saying so, resign and get it on a bloody t shirt. If you aren’t going to do that – en masse – then shut the hell up.

Stop blaming everyone else for your woes. “It’s the Soft Left’s fault” “It’s Ed Miliband’s fault” “It’s Andy Burnham’s fault” “It’s Tom Watson’s fault” “It’s Lord Collins’ fault”. It’s your fault. You lost an election and riled the selectorate so badly with reheated, rehashed out of date Blairism. I’m not talking about Liz Kendall’s campaign (though there was far too much Blair there) I’m talking about the last 20 years. Years of disengagement, disrespect and downright dishonesty towards a membership who chose to have their revenge after suffering fools with only seething resentment for too long.

Amen. This blog has been saying the same thing since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as Labour leader – and even earlier. The self-entitled centrists of the Labour Party are currently willing to blame anyone and everything for the rise of Jeremy Corbyn other than the fact that there exists only a rotting abscess where their own sincerely held policies and positive vision for Britain should reside.

When Labour Party members, affiliates and supporters cast their votes in the Labour leadership contest, they were asked to pick between Jeremy Corbyn, two bland machine politicians (Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham) and one unapologetic Blairite (Liz Kendall) whose political bravery could not make up for the fact that she was seen as too similar to the present centrist Conservative government (not that David Cameron’s hysterical critics are willing to accept the fact that the government is centrist).

Given the soul-sapping choice faced by Labour supporters, it is entirely understandable that many of them embraced Jeremy Corbyn, a man who is no Tony Benn but at least maintained the courage of his socialist convictions through long years of unpopularity in the political wilderness. Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy awoke something in the hearts of thousands of people (and not only those on the Left) who had slowly come to realise that for all the calculated bluster there was actually vanishingly little to choose between Labour and the Conservatives, or the bland centrist consensus which captures both parties.

Corbyn’s restive critics within the Labour Party seem to think that Jeremy Corbyn is the problem when in reality he is only the symptom. They think that by continually undermining their leader and forcing him from office they can make everything well again, when in reality they will still be no closer to answering the existential question facing them: what does the Labour Party of 2016 actually stand for? At least Jeremy Corbyn is able to answer the damn question without resorting to focus group approved platitudes – and that’s why he is now leader.

So who is more to blame for the “revenge reshuffle” chaos? I agree with Emma Burnell that neither the Corbynites nor the centrists-in-exile covered themselves in glory this past week, or even these past three months. In fact, the petulant, childish public behaviour exhibited by both sides has been utterly depressing.

Ultimately, however, one has to reserve special criticism, scorn and disappointment for the supposedly calm and rational Labour moderates, including those unremarkable prima donnas who flounced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet this week.

Remember, the socialist Left of the Labour Party has not tasted power or influence for well over two decades, in which time their ideas have been marginalised and their ranks depleted. If we are to forgive anyone for acts of political naivety or excessive zealousness these past few months, it should probably be the people who have no living experience of official opposition, let alone government.

Jeremy Corbyn’s centrist critics, on the other hand, have no such excuse for their behaviour. They cannot blame their undignified public temper tantrums on a lack of experience – their wing of the party has been in the ascendency for years, and they know what it is to live and work under the sensationalist eye of the Westminster media. When they feed their foot-stomping anti-Corbyn screeds to the newspapers, they know exactly what they are doing.

Right now, the only claim to legitimacy held by Labour moderates is the rapidly fraying notion that they are the mature, sensible ones in this debate – that unlike the partisan extremists of the Corbyn wing, they are well versed in the art of government and compromise, and can be trusted to provide a rational, serious alternative to the Conservatives.

That claim is currently being shot to pieces, and all because a ragtag group of thoroughly unexceptional moderate Labour MPs are kicking up such a stink about their brief exile from the halls of influence that they would sooner bring the Labour Party crashing down around their heads than suck it up and accept that Jeremy Corbyn gets to call the shots until such time as he loses the support of his party membership.

If an older family member picks a fight with a younger sibling, one typically sides with the child on the basis that the adult should know better, being possessed of so much more maturity and life experience. We would rightly hold the adult to a higher standard.

At present, Labour’s moderates and centrists are holding themselves to the same desperately low standard of behaviour as the most partisan of Corbynites. And it is increasingly difficult to tell which side are the adults in the Labour family, if indeed there are any left at all.


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The Revenge Reshuffle: For Some Critics, Jeremy Corbyn Can Do No Right

There is no honour in the behaviour of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet malcontents

Amid all the noise and self-important whining provoked by Jeremy Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet reshuffle, an important point is being rather overlooked – that as Labour leader, Corbyn is entitled to appoint or dismiss whoever he wants in order to build a cohesive and effective team. And the open defiance and public disagreement which continues to emanate from some restive shadow cabinet members would never have been tolerated under any other leader.

Maya Goodfellow writes in LabourList:

This is not, and was never going to be, a revenge reshuffle. It is not a contradiction of Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of honest, inclusive politics. By replacing shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle with Emily Thornberry, shadow EU Pat McFadden with Pat Glass and sacking Michael Dugher, Labour’s leader is doing his job – a position to which he was elected by 59.5% of the selectorate. On a landslide victory. He is well within his job description to make sure that his shadow cabinet is the most effective it can be. But you wouldn’t know that, listening to some Labour MPs, they’re clinging to the anti-Corbyn bandwagon – and they aren’t doing themselves or their party any favours.

For a small, vocal group of MPs Jeremy Corbyn can do no right. In fact, almost everything he does is wrong. These people are well within their right to point out areas of disagreement and argue their own point of view, but actively briefing against Corbyn, dismissing certain activists and shining a spotlight on discontent – instead of the Tories – is pernicious.

Goodfellow goes on to cite other famous historical reshuffles which – perhaps thanks to a stiffer upper lip and the lack of social media – did not lead to quite such an orgy of public posturing and self-aggrandisement, including those of Harold MacMillan and Margaret Thatcher.

Right now, it’s impossible to see how Labour’s restive moderates think that they are helping matters. They hate Corbyn and believe that he is leading Labour toward a third general election defeat, that much they have made abundantly clear. But do they seriously believe they are helping the situation with their incessant carping and tendency to run to the press with juicy anti-Corbyn quotes every time he does something they don’t like?

At some point, party unity – or at least trying to take seriously their responsibilities as the official opposition – should kick in, and encourage Labour MPs and politicos to stop targeting each other in order to focus on opposing the government. And yet we never seem to reach this promised land.

As Goodfellow observes:

The comments made by some MPs in recent months have been frustrating to witness. Change is difficult; negotiating with people you don’t agree with on certain issues is hard. Even when we try to take the personalities out of it, politics is so very personal.

But the way they’ve been acting is an insult to the overwhelming number of people who voted for Corbyn and a let down for all those people who desperately need a vocal, concise and coherent Labour opposition.

Is the sacking of the shadow culture secretary really something to go running to the press with angry quotes over, or taking to Twitter in high dudgeon about? Were any of Jeremy Corbyn’s unremarkable changes to his team truly so shocking that they merited a live TV resignation on the BBC?

Hardly. But the juvenile behaviour of Labour’s temporarily-out-of-power centrists is very revealing indeed. It speaks to their over-inflated egos and sense of self regard that they feel the need to publicly disassociate themselves from Jeremy Corbyn in the media rather than buckling down and helping him to oppose the government; that they are in many cases more concerned about how Corbyn’s leadership reflects on them and affects their future career prospects rather than how they can best serve the party and the country.

It would take a socialist miracle for Jeremy Corbyn to ever find himself in 10 Downing Street as prime minister, the odds (thankfully) are so small. But how Labour chooses to spend its wilderness years is important because it determines the type of party which will eventually emerge as a vote-winning force. Are they to stay deep within their comfort zone and become an angry party of protest, or will they oppose the government thoroughly by developing a credible alternative blueprint for government?

As Michael White notes in the Guardian, with reference to 1930s Labour leader George Lansbury:

Labour had been reduced to 52 seats in the general election of 1931, but Lansbury’s principled leadership cheered up the party activists and kept the show on the road. He’d never wanted to be leader (at 73 he was even older than Jeremy) and kept offering to resign. After hardheaded unions voted for a more robust stand against Hitler than Christian pacifism, he insisted on going.

But his legacy allowed Clem Attlee, the “interim” leader (1935-55) to triple the party’s MPs to 154 at the 1935 election. It survived to win the next election – the war delayed it until 1945 – decisively and do great things.

Like Lansbury, Corbyn’s principles and essential decency are obvious for all to see. He’s trying to make the best of a bad job when his party has just suffered a defeat arguably “worse for the Labour party than 1931”, chiefly because of the loss of Scotland to the SNP and at a time when many Labour supporters are, as in 1931, under the economic cosh.

It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it? No, and I don’t think it’s meant to be.

Think of Jeremy Corbyn as the night watchman rather than the team captain, adjusting your expectations and success metrics accordingly, and moderate Labour’s hysterical overreaction to the “revenge reshuffle” begins to seem even more shrill and misplaced.

Jeremy Corbyn’s critics are measuring his performance and appeal with the wrong yardstick, in the belief that the 2020 general election is still winnable if only they can tame or replace their unexpected leader. Viewed this way, Labour centrists would do much better to quit the unconvincing “not in my name!” routine, get behind their leader when they can and maintain a signified silence when they can’t. And this should remain their strategy so long as they have a snowball’s chance in hell of retaking the leadership from Corbyn.

Labour MPs and shadow cabinet members currently revelling in the anarchy of being able to brief against their party leader to a salivating press corps with near total impunity should ask themselves what will undermining Corbyn from within actually accomplish when he won the leadership election by a landslide and retains significant support among the party base?

Seriously, what is their best case scenario?  All of this teenage sulking succeeds in destabilising Jeremy Corbyn and forcing a new leadership election, and then what? Labour’s army of activists forgive the parliamentary party for toppling their hero and willingly vote for Liz Kendall the second time around? The British public forget that Labour embraced Corbynmania in 2015 when they come to vote in 2020?

No. These temper tantrums against Corbyn from the centre-left serve one purpose, and one purpose alone. They act as a pressure release valve for the frustrations – and a balm to the bruised egos – of a group of forgettable, utterly unexceptional centrist politicians who so comprehensively failed to inspire excitement with their visions and policies that their mediocrity allowed Corbyn to win in the first place.

But these preening anti-Corbynites – who feign to be so much wiser and more pragmatic than we partisan hotheads on either side of the aisle – should consider the precedent for open dissent and disloyalty which they are now setting, as it will be very difficult to roll it back and expect the level of deference and respect accorded to say, Ed Miliband, when Jeremy Corbyn eventually leaves the stage and a new leader seeks to assert their authority. In fact, good luck to any party leader who has to endure the sheer volume of friendly fire taken every day by Corbyn.

Allister Heath, with uncharacteristic presumption about (and condescension toward) the working class, their likes and dislikes, writes in The Telegraph:

There is no going back from any of this. For the hard-left Labour activists who brought Corbyn to power, this is a belated Christmas present: their man is delivering on their terrifying agenda, and in turn they are helping to recruit a steady flow of new, radical and often London-based members. They want to turn Labour into a cross between a latter-day version of the Greater London Council, circa 1981, when Red Ken was in charge, and the current Green Party.

But for the rest of Labour, including most MPs, it’s a disaster. The traditional, patriotic working class, still a large chunk of the electorate, has even less time for the antics of the Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament than other voters. They may be nervous about foreign adventures, but they loathe terrorists, love the Armed Forces and care deeply about national security. Labour needs both the “progressive” and the “working-class” elements of its coalition to come together if it is to win elections, but the careful balance found by Tony Blair is being deliberately jettisoned by the Corbynites.

Heath continues, in praise of those Labour MPs who either flounced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet or were sacked in the reshuffle:

The truth is that it is no longer possible for any sensible Labour politician to serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet while retaining their self-respect. In time, Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones, the three shadow ministers who quit, will be seen as heroes: they put their principles first. They were braver that many members of the shadow cabinet.

[..] There are others in the same boat. Regardless of how they caveat their position, they are endorsing a leadership which has nothing but contempt for the values and aspirations of Middle England, and which believes in appeasing the extremists who seek to harm us. It is decision time for members of the shadow cabinet: they must quit, or be held responsible for the catastrophe about to engulf the Labour Party.

Set aside Allister Heath’s wildly misplaced hero-worship of utterly unremarkable politicians such as Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones. Many of Heath’s criticisms of Corbyn’s policies are correct, but he makes the classic mistake of assuming that the Labour Party should hold the same policies as the Conservative Party on a broad range of topics.

The drawback to having a broad, stultifying political consensus on everything from nuclear deterrence to the NHS is that when there is nothing left to debate, people lose interest in politics and stop taking part. Our current centrist malaise and the rise in voter apathy are not unrelated phenomena – when our political debate is reduced to arguing over who will better manage our public services, people understandably switch off. Jeremy Corbyn still offers the last, best opportunity to break this consensus and widen the Overton window in British politics, raising the possibility of a small state, free market revival – if we have the stomach to fight for it.

Heath of all people should appreciate this. Many of the small-government, conservative policies that he would no doubt like to see implemented are doomed never to see the light of day because of the political consensus typified by Blair, Brown, Miliband and Cameron. And there will never be space for more radical right wing ideas and policies so long as we become outraged when Jeremy Corbyn and his followers express their own, stridently left-wing ideas.

Thus even staunch conservatives have reason to support Jeremy Corbyn, and deplore those centrist malcontents within Labour who seek to topple him. Supporting Corbyn as a conservative does not mean endorsing his socialist policies – it means having the magnanimity and confidence in our own ideas to allow other, different arguments to be heard.

Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election by a landslide. That says an awful lot about the candidates who ran against him, the wing of the party from which they hailed, and our beleaguered, centrist politics in general.

But it is time for malcontents in the shadow cabinet and the media to get over it and learn to live in this new reality with a modicum of dignity.

Jeremy Corbyn - Cabinet reshuffle

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