Owen Jones has reduced himself from a notorious ‘left-wing rabble rouser’ to nothing more than a typo. A typo? Yes. On belatedly proof reading my last blog – Why is Owen Smith doing so badly? – I noticed I’d referred to “Owen Jones’s MPs” when I’d actually meant to refer to the 172 as Owen Smith’s. Was about to edit to remove that typo when it occurred to me there’s no point. These MPs belong to Jones every bit as much as they do Owen Smith.
During the first Labour leadership hustings, Owen Smith became indignant when Jeremy Corbyn accused him of being responsible for the electorally-damaging disunity within the party. Smith wasn’t happy that the audience clearly held the same position. Smith wants to blame Jeremy Corbyn, but no one is buying that as print and broadcast ‘journalists’ have been forced to concede.
To the extent people like me are critical of Jeremy Corbyn (and I am no yes-man for Corbyn nor anyone else), it is for being far too conciliatory to those who have no intention of responding to olive branches. Any attempt Jeremy Corbyn has made to heal wounds and offer everyone a fresh start has merely been interpreted as a sign of weakness. This has gone on long enough.
Despite wanting a more cohesive party, insisting on collective responsibility and loyalty from the MPs, evidence is out there in cyber-space proving I actually did propose Jeremy Corbyn reached out to the PLP to the extent that proved possible, exploring the potential for rehabilitation of those MPs who have made themselves deeply unpopular with Labour members and all voters. But there are limits.
Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Seumas Milne and others have clearly long recognized a need for the party’s membership exercising its democratic authority over a tiny out-of-touch elite: the MPs, SPADs, bureaucrats, hangers-on in the mass media. But they’ve done very little about putting this into practise. Do I blame Corbyn and his closest advisers for their lack of action? No, I don’t. There has been a great deal of sabotge by many ostensibly at the heart of the Corbyn operation. Too many of these have been invited onto television and radio to undermine Jeremy Corbyn at key points. This has been outrageous, and the Chicken Coup has been a miscalculation that has backfired, and woken up most of the party to the need to act against the saboteurs. The members and supporters are angered. Deselection has been placed on the agenda by the behavior of these 172 MPs. Splitting is now in their court because Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters wouldn’t dream of doing that.
Owen Jones will have a decision to make. Might he split when the deselected MPs split? Had you asked me that last week, I’d have thought it was a joke. However, Jones seems to have packed his bags. He won’t want to split. But I’m not ruling it out. It is not in the interests of Corbyn’s supporters to push anyone into a corner, and I don’t want Jones to split. But it’s inevitable that some of the 172 MPs will split, and it’s not inconceivable that Smith will. He says he won’t, but he says a lot of things. He is using the leadership campaign to make unity when he loses next to impossible. His friends are discussing sabotage at Westminster for years. Everyone knows that won’t be accepted by the party. Deselection won’t be sufficient. Anyone doing what Nick Watt and the rest tell us they’re saying to him off-the-record will get them expelled. The NEC will expel some of them, those who don’t jump before they’re pushed. Will Jones join a breakaway lead by Chuka Umunna or Tristram Hunt or Liz Kendall? A party financed by millionaires? No, he won’t. But he may let his membership of Labour lapse if the left goes from strength to strength and his pals in the Anti-Corbynites all split. I can’t rule out Owen Jones simply walking away from politics altogether. He won’t be the first left-winger to do that, nor will he be the last.