1st January, 2016
Jeremy’s New Year’s Revolution
So, what did you ask Santa for this Christmas, Jeremy? A new cabinet?
Easy to assemble, very agreeable. And a partridge in a pear tree.
Soon, we will see if those rumours are true. Will long-serving, experienced and talented Hilary Benn be given “more time to spend with his constituents”? Incidentally, those constituents who are very badly affected by flooding and for whom he is currently working very hard. As tasteless as those comments were from one, apparently rogue, Momentum group, it’s not hard to imagine that there are many on the left of the party that are hoping for that very thing. What of Rosie Winterton? Is she to be “reassigned”? Are we to see the Eagles’ wings clipped?
Strike them down and they will become more powerful than you can possible imagine.
There’s an uneasy cold war going on in the Labour Party right now. Some, on both sides, think that some bad things have been said and done already, but this is nothing as to what will happen when you push people into a position where they have nothing to lose.
Jeremy Corbyn actually played rather a clever hand by bringing his opponents into his shadow cabinet. Not only did it go some way to legitimising his position, it also sat well with the idea that he was a listener; a man who likes to take all opinions on board; a man of the new politics. If he were now to give them the push, it would utterly demolish that concept in one fell swoop.
Whilst certain members will be loyal to the party to the end, creating a “backbench of all the talents” is a very dangerous game to play, especially if you’re thinking of inviting in some of the more gaffe-prone individuals to replace them.
To extend the idea, this is why talk of “mass deselections” doesn’t really worry me. Right now, there’s a feeling that moderates must stay and fight for the party, but the minute MPs are given their marching orders by the Three-Pounders en-masse, there becomes a situation where, by definition, there is a de facto group of Labour MPs in parliament that have nothing to lose by walking away. Not walking away from their constituents, not walking away from their desire to make the country a fairer place but walking away and creating their own new political group, carrying disgruntled members in their wake.
Many, of course, think that a “new SDP” is a bad idea. Right now, they are correct. There’s no popular desire for it, it has no potential MPs right now, and no membership, no organisation, no foot soldiers. Most people don’t see the levels of organisation that exist within the Labour Party, but they exist. A party would struggle to maintain any form of long-term existence without them. And at the moment, most moderate members would either rather stick around and fight it out and fight the Tories, or leave and let their vote do the talking. But this could change very quickly if enough talents are cut loose.
And what of loyalty? The Labour Party isn’t a football team, it’s a vehicle of political change. If the driver careers into a ditch, we’re going to need a new one pretty sharpish. No matter what happens with the party over the next months and years, there will always be a force for progressive politics on the left, whether its rides the Old Red Bus or not.
As many mistakes as Corbyn has undoubtedly made, he has so far walked a difficult path through the minefield of disagreement without stepping on anything too dangerous. The question is, is he about to throw caution to the wind? Bring it on!
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