Do I possess the secret key to securing a Jeremy Corbyn landslide victory at the next general election – whether that’s the ‘snap election’ Owen Jones is so terrified of that he’s flirted with siding with Owen Smith, or the one four years down the line? Of course I don’t. Nobody does. Nevertheless, such a victory is a real possibility, and I don’t care how many Tory bastards passing themselves off as ‘journalists’ at the BBC, SKY News or Channel4 News tell me it simply cannot happen. While Corbyn can be elected as Prime Minister in a majority Labour government, it is far from inevitable. The question is: how do we make it happen, how do we prepare the ground in the here and now?
I laugh in the face of anyone dismissing me a member of a cult, whether that is one lead by the living Labour leader or a cult dedicated to the long dead Leon Trotsky, a socialist who was, btw, a lifelong victim of anti-Semitism, a fact that kinda exposes the sheer incoherence of Tom Watson’s witch-hunt.
Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want yes-men, or yes-women: no one with any brains or self-respect deserves such people. We all change our minds in the course of debate. And we are all genuinely grateful to those who acccelerate the proccess of our correcting mistakes, and giving us our opportunity to help them correct theirs; rational debate on the basis of facts, logic, and respect makes Corbyn’s supporters much more than the sum of our parts. Long may that continue.
I disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on many things, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. But an attack on Labour’s democratically-elected leader is not just an attack on a decent person (Corbyn’s gender is irrelevant, so I’m not going to call him a ‘decent man’); Tom Watson’s Chicken Coup is no more and no less than a calculated attack on over half a million Labour Party members, and many more Labour voters. It is an attack on party democracy and on all those resisting this microscopic elite of self-important, pampered Members of Parliament, anti-socialists whose definition of democracy is telling voters we can have any government we like so long as it is always on the side of the rich and powerful, and of their menagerie of agent provocateur police spies, sending trade unionists to jail, getting them pregnant, psychologically torturing them, detaining them without trial and – no doubt – every now and then sending one or two to an early grave.
As Paul Mason wrote in the latest of his excellent strategy papers – The sound of Blairite silence -, opinion polls are for a variety of reasons not worth a damn at the moment. Until the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party is brought to heel by the membership, they are held primarily responsible for the meltdown in the polls. Let’s face facts, comrades: voters are laughing at any party asking for the right to form a government that would have a Prime Minister most of whose MPs insist is utterly unfit to be Prime Minister, an MP they’ll try to topple the very first chance they get, which could be the day of the budget or Queen’s Speech immediately after the general election.
Voters are not stupid, and should not be treated as such. Labour’s voters expect this shambles to be sorted out one way or another. Until members decide to discipline MPs publicly committed to destroying their own party, there is no hope of it ever winning a general election. So naturally Jeremy Corbyn’s voters have a lot of work still to do. The only credible choice that does not involve Jeremy Corbyn being toppled, then hundreds of thousands of party members purged, has to involve votes of no confidence in MPs deliberately sabotaging Labour every chance they get.
Should all 172 MPs be expelled? Of course not. Many of them have burned their bridges and know there’s no way back. They are planning to split the party and if they are divided still it is merely on questions of timing. But they are more than happy to exploit Owen Smith to help them damage Labour on the way out. They hope to drag all the 172 out of the PLP asap, not necessarily in order to unite them all on the other side, but simply to stop Labour holding on to any of them. Should we help David Blunkett purge all 172 from the PLP? Absolutely not.
There is a lot of talk in cyberspace about this being a battle between two monolithic camps: nothing could be further from the truth. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters disagree with each other. And we will continue to disagree on matters big and small. There will be ample room for debate, with minorities retaining freedom to criticize the majority, thereby, eventually, persuading others they were right all along, then to themselves become the majority. However, there are reciprocal rights for both sides. Those who lose votes need to allow those who won to put their plans into action, a right that the minority cannot deliberately ignore. Let’s test who was right, and that requires patience on the part of the minority.
Corbyn’s camp is divided on much. But our divisions are relatively small, and easily handled, compared to those ripping apart Owen Smith’s camp apart under the cover of darkness. The reality is most of the 172 MPs are itching for this leadership contest to end so they can finally put the boot into Owen Smith, with Angela Eagle’s supporters first in the queue to do that. They now detest (rightly detest) his proud rhetoric of smashing women off their heels, and calling for negotiations with the genocidal psychopaths of ISIS.
Owen Smith’s insistance on wasting another four years sulking on the backbenches, calling on all Labour MPs following his example to undermine attempts to defeat Theresa May’s 0.0% Tory government may impress many of the 172 MPs, but their CLPs will pass overwhelming votes of no confidence in any MP behaving like that. One MP has already unresigned. Might there be others? Too soon to say. Nevertheless, olive branches should be extended.
Jeremy Corbyn and all his supporters need to occupy the high moral ground. A wing of the 172 MPs are on their way out. They’ll probably try to delay leaving until they’re deselected. But they’ll do everything they can to provoke their expulsion, and that of as many MPs as possible. Another wing of the 172 will say this is premature and can only guarantee the end of all their careers as politicians. Once all 172 MPs succeed in purging themselves from Labour’s half a million members (assuming they did that, which is at least a possibility), they’ll have no trade union finance, nor activists, nor mass meetings or rallies all across Britain that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters intend to organize until the next election. The more of the 172 MPs join David Blunkett’s split, the quicker we will discover that the only thing that glued them together was their personal hatred of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party’s membership.
If Tom Watson sets up a new party with 172 MPs, they’ll find they have to deal with at least two dozen would be leaders of their party, but virtually no members eligible to pick one of these tedious wannabe Prime Ministers. They’d have to rely on union-busting multi-millionaire asset strippers and money launderers to bail them out. That will hardly endear them to Labour’s voters. Furthermore, Owen Smith will be told he can shove his ‘Corbyn lite’ policies where the sun don’t shine, which won’t bother him as his commitment to them was never more than rhetorical anyway; but this will pose existential problems for Labour members he succeeded in conning, with a little help from those who should have known better – people like Owen Jones.
Labour MPs may not think with their hearts when they accept Jeremy Corbyn has won a majority vote for a second time, but that’s hardly the most important thing. Whether their climbing back on board the front bench is due to a heartfelt commitment to democracy, or simply out of sheer careerism, provided they contribute to defeating the Tories at the next general election – and in parliment in the meantime -, then where’s the harm in welcoming them back?
The last thing Corbyn’s supporters should do is back all the 172 MPs into a corner. Don’t help them unite when their prospects of doing that without our help is nil. Exploit their many divisions. Attempt to neutralize those who fell into a bad crowd and who now desperately want to be rehabilitated. People – including MPs – can change their minds: after all, Tony Benn didn’t start off as a left-wing MP.
The 172 will fester on probation if they try to unite with the membership after Owen Smith leads them all to electoral humiliation. Nevertheless, if some of them at least try to make it work, then the left have to help them do that. We’ll never forget what they did, but if they prove they want to be forgiven, asking for a new beginning, never again descending into an electorally-damaging civil war, then let’s make it happen.
And what if none of the MPs actually do try to help Labour win the next election? That can’t be ruled out. But at least all members, and all voters, will be able to see for themselves that at least we tried. We’ll win the high moral ground. And we’ll be rewarded in the ballot boxes for being the real champions of democracy and Labour party unity.