Why I Object to the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Coup Against Jeremy Corbyn
I originally wrote this as a comment in reply to Jonathan Freedland’s article in the Guardian- Corbyn can’t dismiss the importance of MPs. I spent some time composing my reply only to receive the message “Your comment could not be posted as comments to this article are now closed”. My only option was to cut and paste. I hope it stands alone…
As a Corbyn supporter, I have to say Mr. Freedland does not speak for me when he says:-
The anti-Corbyn camp pile on the evidence that Corbyn is doomed electorally — the polls that show Labour 16 points behind the Conservatives, or that Corbyn trails Theresa May as the best PM by 52% to 18%, or that close to a third of Labour voters prefer May to Corbyn — and they cannot understand why the pro-Corbyn camp is so unmoved, so insouciant in the face of electoral calamity. They’re failing to realise that many of their opponents simply don’t see winning a parliamentary majority the way they do — as Labour’s raison d’être and sine qua non.
This is a remarkable rewriting of history. In June, prior to the EU result, the Coup and May’s coronation, the average Tory lead was less than 3%. It’s impossible to say which of those three seismic events has contributed most to the widening of the gap since that terrible week. It seems to me that the biggest movement has been from UKIP to the Tories. It was inevitable that UKIP would decline after they had achieved their purpose- and given the Coup left Labour in turmoil just as May was smoothly annointed PM, it’s hardly surprising that the Tories have been the main beneficiary.
Returning to the pre-coup Tory lead of less than 3%. In my opinion, these factors need to be taken into account:-
a) From the day Jeremy Corbyn became leader, a small number of Labour MP’s actively undermined him. Some resigned as he was making his acceptance speech, others briefed against him and wrote negative articles in the right-wing press.
b) The media have been biased against Corbyn and they have been aided and abetted by the anti-Corbyn MP’s.
c) Corbyn and McDonnell have challenged the neoliberal orthodoxy and have been absolute in their opposition to the economic illiteracy of advocating spending cuts to eliminate the deficit. They are trying to inch the Overton window to the left. This essential struggle has (and will) depress Labour’s ratings until it’s more widely accepted that they might be right. Prior to the Coup, there were some signs that they were beginning to make some headway.
This poses some questions:
a) What would the ratings had been if there had been no hostile briefings from their own MP’s?
b) What would the ratings had been if the media had been neutral rather than biased against?
c) What would the ratings had been if instead of a coup, the Labour MP’s had praised Corbyn and McDonnell for winning the economic arguments? — This would be logical as it seems that the whole PLP is now supportive of the Corbyn/McDonnell economic agenda.
The reason I support Corbyn is not because I’m part of a long-term conspiracy to capture the Labour Party for the hard-left, it’s because I support his vision of social democracy as opposed to the neoliberal dogma that has dominated the UK since 1979.
Then there’s the question of democracy. There seem to be a binary argument:
The Anti-Corbyn tribe argues that the members may elect the leader on the basis of one member, one vote but if the PLP decide that the members’ choice is likely to lead to electoral defeat or they believe he is incompetent, they may reject the members’ choice. They believe that a period of less than one year is long enough to make this decision. They argue that this is further legitimised by the fact they were elected by the wider electorate of millions of people (perhaps not so applicable for the many MPs that are in safe seats).
The pro-Corbyn tribe believe that the members are supreme and the PLP should work with their choice of leader even if the PLP believes that this may lead to electoral defeat and/or it believes he is incompetent.
I can see both sides of the argument. In the current circumstances I would be more sympathetic to the PLP argument if:-
a) They had not briefed against Corbyn from the outset. It’s not voting against Corbyn (e.g Syria) or disagreeing about policy (Trident) that’s problematic- it’s working with the Tory parts of the media to undermine him that invalidates their legitimacy.
b) They had given him longer- at least 2 years- especially because Corbyn is facing the challenge of moving the Party and the political orthodoxy away from neoliberalism (Corbyn’s success in this area has been acknowledged by Owen Smith).
I suspect the reason that members are so firm in their support of Corbyn is they feel outraged that the PLP have not given their choice of leader a fair chance before mounting their coup. The PLP have tried to sabotage their one member, one vote democratic choice. Contrary to Mr. Freedland’s assertion, I believe the majority of Corbyn’s supporters are passionate in wanting a Parliamentary majority. I suspect a clear majority of Labour members still believe that Corbyn is the best choice of leader (because he stands firm for social democracy) to deliver that majority. Our message to the PLP is; get behind our choice and give him a chance to prove us right.
How do we stop this civil war between the PLP and the membership reoccurring? My proposal (now that we have fixed term parliaments) would be to have a leadership election two and a half years into each term (obviously no election if there was nobody willing to stand against the current leader).