After days of storm and bluster, the co-ordinated efforts of right-wing Labour MPs to oust Jeremy Corbyn seem to have ground to a temporary halt. Faced with a massive groundswell of opposition from rank-and-file Labour members and Corbyn supporters, the Blairites have had to re-think their plans. The situation is now at an impasse.
A mountain had gone into labour and was groaning terribly.
Such rumours excited great expectations all over the country.
In the end, however, the mountain gave birth to a mouse.
(The Mountain of Labour, Aesop’s Fables)
After days of storm and bluster, the co-ordinated efforts of right-wing Labour MPs to oust Jeremy Corbyn seem to have ground to a temporary halt. Faced with a massive groundswell of opposition from rank-and-file Labour members and Corbyn supporters, the Blairites have had to re-think their plans. As Tom Watson, one of the key architects in this treacherous coup admitted, the situation is now at an impasse.
The Blairites had hoped that the Labour leader would buckle under the enormous pressure being exerted by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the deafening chorus emanating from the right-wing press. But the full force of the Establishment calling for Corbyn to go has been met by an equal and opposite force from below, and the PLP gangsters’ expectations have therefore failed to materialise.
Despite clearly planning their orchestrated actions for months, Labour’s out-of-touch Westminster careerists clearly did not have the foresight to account for the enormous grassroots revolt that would arise in opposition to their sabotage and manoeuvres. Their back-stabbing actions have aroused a tremendous anger amongst Labour members towards their elected (so-called) representatives.
Large Momentum meetings and mass rallies to defend Corbyn have been mushrooming in city after city. #KeepCorbyn has been trending on social media. And Labour branches and CLPs across the country have been passing motions in support of Corbyn. Trade union leaders, the Young Labour National Committee, and countless others have given their backing to the democratically elected Labour leader. This is nothing short of a rebellion against the hated Blairite PLP.
Notably, the call for deselection of “the 172” – those MPs who supported a vote of no confidence against Corbyn earlier in the week – has grown. Votes of no confidence against anti-Corbyn MPs are spreading like wildfire throughout local Labour Parties. Alongside #KeepCorbyn is the almost equally popular #DeselectThem.
“Labour MPs fighting their leader instead of fighting Tories to heal our broken nation MUST GO!”; “It’s difficult to lead the Labour Party when a significant proportion are Tories”; “For the sake of the whole country, establishment politicians must go. Deselect disloyal Blairites”; “Let them resign their seats and stand for Progress, their real party”; “Think of how much easier the GE would be to win if Blairites weren’t undermining the leadership at every opportunity”; “Time to weed out the dross in the PLP and get some real socialists in, to represent working people rather than hedge funds”. And these furious comments on Twitter barely scratch the surface.
Elsewhere, a recent study shows that 55% of new Labour members believe that MPs who “persistently and publicly criticise the leadership in the media should be deselected”. This figure rises 68% amongst those who have joined the Party since Corbyn was elected.
The scandalous behaviour of the right-wing PLP has led many who have previously kept their powder dry to reassess their position on deselection. Most notably, the demand to kick out the Blairites has struck a chord within Momentum and the trade unions, and the question of mandatory selection will now be discussed at the upcoming Unite the Union policy conference taking place in Brighton from 11th July.
As the Huffington Post reports, if Corbyn beats back these latest attempts to remove him, a whole host of new democratic reforms could be introduced to give the Labour grassroots more control over MPs and make the PLP accountable to members:
“…a string of radical measures are being planned if Corbyn is re-elected, including recall by-elections and a new ‘lock’ giving the rank and file membership a veto over any future leadership elections.
“…furious pro-Corbyn figures in the party say that plotting MPs will ‘have sleepless nights’ if they fail in their bid to topple him…
“The grassroots Momentum movement has always said it opposes plans to impose mandatory reselection of MPs, but some within the group think that the conduct of the PLP has forced a rethink.
“A string of rule changes will be implemented, with the backing of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee, to effectively shift power away from Parliament and towards the rank and file members and trade unionists…
“Corbyn himself has long steered clear of hints at mandatory re-selection of all MPs, repeatedly reassuring the PLP that he has no such plans.
“However, many around him believe he will now go for the ‘radical option’ to ensure that those standing for Parliament properly reflect the new membership, which soared to 400,000 during the last leadership contest and after Corbyn’s victory.”
The Blairites plans, therefore, are likely to backfire and blow up in their faces. In trying to remove the Labour leader, they have paved the way for their own removal. Their whip of counter-revolution is radicalising Corbyn supporters and pushing forward the Corbyn Revolution inside the Labour Party.
Can the real alternative please stand up?
Above all, it has dawned on the Blairite plotters that they do not have a plan B. They know that if there is another leadership election, Corbyn will win again. Their only chance of ousting him, then, is to force him to resign. But it has become clear that Corbyn will not step down – hence the impasse and the stalled coup.
The latest figures from YouGov polling highlight the fact that the Blairites cannot remove the Labour leader through democratic means. On the one hand, it is clear that Corbyn has lost some support amongst existing Labour members over the past month, due to the avalanche of vitriol and mudslinging that he has faced from across the PLP, the media, and the Establishment. For example, in early May, 72% of members thought Corbyn was “doing well” as Party leader, a figure that has now dropped to only 51%. Even a quarter of those who previously voted for Corbyn now think that he is “doing badly” as Labour leader.
On the other hand, 51% also still believe that he should stay on as Labour leader. Elsewhere in other YouGov polls, 54% of Labour voters indicate that they would like for Corbyn to remain in place. Meanwhile, whilst only 35% of members believe that Labour could win the next general election under Corbyn’s leadership, only 38% think that Labour would win if Corbyn was replaced. The problem in the eyes of most members, then, is not Corbyn, but the crisis that the Party faces as a result of the atrocious games and treachery of right-wing Labour MPs.
The same survey results demonstrate that Labour’s rank-and-file clearly blames the back-stabbing PLP for problems that Labour now faces, with 60% stating that they thought shadow cabinet ministers were wrong to resign in an attempt to get Corbyn to resign.
Most importantly, 50% of members (and 77% of previous Corbyn voters) state that they would still vote for Corbyn in any future leadership election. When faced with the concrete option of Corbyn vs. any other candidate, the current Labour leader wins hands down, beating Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, and Dan Jarvis 50-39, 50-40, and 52-35 respectively. When presented with a range of candidates, 36% would give their first preference to Corbyn, with Andy Burnham coming a distant second on 10%.
On top of this, it has also been reported that a jaw-dropping 60,000 new members have been signed up to the Labour Party over the last week, bringing the total membership to around 450,000 – higher than the previous peak under Tony Blair in 1997 (a peak that rapidly dwindled thanks to Blair’s programme of war and privatisation). This follows on from an unprecedented increase from around 200,000 members under Ed Miliband, demonstrating that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and policies have inspired hundreds of thousands to join the Party.
Whilst some of these 60,000 are undoubtedly Corbyn critics who have signed up with the explicit aim and hope of voting him down, the vast bulk are considered to be Corbyn supporters who have flooded into the Party in order to defend the democratically elected leader and his anti-austerity, anti-war programme.
When you add the votes of affiliated trade union members and possible registered supporters, it is clear that any leadership challenger will struggle to defeat Corbyn. Hence why Angela Eagle – the Blairite former shadow business secretary – has delayed announcing her much touted candidacy.
Indeed, is has likely become apparent to these careerist saboteurs that they do not have a viable alternative to offer Labour members. All of them have abysmal voting records, supporting the 2003 Iraq war and the more recent bombing in Syria, abstaining in last summer’s vote on Tory welfare cut, and backing the renewal of Trident. Such reheated Blairism will not wash well with the hundreds of thousands of new Labour members who have joined to back Corbyn and his programme.
Two parties in one
This shows that the future of the Labour Party on offer is not between Corbyn and a milder left-wing leader, but between Corbyn and Blairism. There is no middle ground – no “unity” candidate that can bridge the gap between the hundreds of thousands of grassroots members that support Corbyn and the 172 MPs that are demanding his head on a stick.
The same YouGov survey cited above demonstrate clearly that there are indeed two parties within the Labour Party. These, broadly speaking, are between those who are left over from the days of Blair, Brown, and Miliband, and those who have been enthused into joining because of Corbyn. For example, whilst only 38% of pre-Corbyn Labour members think he is now doing well, this figure rises to 65% amongst those who have joined the Party in the last year. Similarly, whilst 57% of recently joined members think Corbyn should lead Labour into the next general election, 58% of long standing members believe that he should resign immediately.
The Corbyn Revolution inside Labour, therefore, has transformed the Party. The problem, however, is that this transformation has not been completed. There remains, in reality, two parties in one: a party of the past, of Blairism and Tory-lite policies, that is faithfully represented by the PLP; and a party of the future, of young people, trade union activists, and left-wing workers, that is looking towards Corbyn and his leadership.
This is the cause of the current conflict. It is a civil war between two mutually antagonist interests: between the undemocratic Blairite MPs, on the one hand, who represent the interests big business and the Establishment; and the mass of ordinary workers and youth, on the other, who want to fight the Tories and who are looking for a genuine alterative to austerity.
In the final analysis, this internal struggle is a class war taking place inside the Labour Party – a fight between the voice of the bosses’ and the needs of the masses. It is a battle between the demands of the capitalist system and the socialist future that is needed to get out of the crisis.
For these reasons, it is clear that the Labour Party is heading for a split. The Blairites have no option but to stand against Corbyn in a leadership election; eventually they will rally around one doomed candidate. But, following a defeat in their leadership bid, there is no way they will be able to stomach staying in a Corbyn-led Labour Party, dominated by a rank-and-file membership who they despise and treat with contempt.
Furthermore, the feeling is evidently reciprocated, and the right-wingers in the PLP may soon find themselves unceremoniously booted out in a wave of deselections. All it would take is for a few Blairite MPs to be shown the door, and the rest would likely jump before they are pushed.
The vital task now, therefore, is for everyone who supports Corbyn and wants to see a real anti-austerity party to join Labour and defend the democratically elected leader. Momentum and the trade unions must lead the charge in mobilising all their members in this fight.
Those MPs who have waged this war against Corbyn and the Labour rank-and-file must now be brought to heel and replaced by genuine fighters of the working class who are willing to back Corbyn and kick out the Tories. The labour movement should demand workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage: elected and accountable representatives drawn from the movement they are supposed to represent and paid the same as the class whose interests they are fighting for. This would put an end to the breed of careerist creatures that have infested the Labour Party for decades.
- Kick out the Blairites! For mandatory reselection! #DeselectThem!
- Momentum and trade union leaders: mobilise members to defend Corbyn!
- For workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage!
- Labour to power on a socialist programme!
- Defend Corbyn! Fight for socialism!