The Guardian is suggesting that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Len McLuskey, leader of the UK’s biggest union Unite, are playing a ‘good cop/bad cop’ game over the possible deselection of dissenting Labour MPs.
Here’s how the paper has been reporting the attitudes of the two. First, Len McLuskey (with an extra comment from Clive Lewis):
Jeremy Corbyn’s allies have said they believe rebellious Labour MPs could face deselection from their seats, as he prepares to assert his authority over the party if he wins the leadership race.
With the results of the contest due to be announced on Saturday, Len McCluskey, one of Corbyn’s most powerful backers, has told a BBC Panorama programme to be broadcast on Monday night, that disloyal MPs should be “held to account”.
“Some of the MPs have behaved despicably and disgracefully and they have shown no respect whatsoever to the leader and they should be held to account,” he told the BBC’s John Pienaar. Asked if disloyal MPs would be “asking for it”, McCluskey replied: “I think they would.”
Clive Lewis, the shadow defence secretary and a close ally of Corbyn, said the question of deselection was a “democratic choice for our members … The whole process of deselection, you call it deselection, well the other word for it is actually a democratic election for your representative in parliament,” he said. He said MPs who had plotted against Corbyn, had “brought it on themselves, in a way”.
However, he added that members must “think carefully” before seeking to oust sitting MPs, saying: “There’s no point going back to the bloodletting of the 1970s and the 1980s when you are basically a party in meltdown.”
And here’s Jeremy Corbyn, speaking on the BBC’s Today programme and quoted by the paper:
“I have made it my business to talk to quite a lot of Labour MPs and will continue to do so and I hope they will understand that we’ve been elected as Labour MPs …
“It doesn’t mean everybody agrees on everything all the time – that I understand – but the general direction of opposition to austerity, opposing the Tories on grammar schools, those are actually the kind of things that unite the party.”
Are they acting as a double-act to soften up the PLP rebels?
No, I don’t think so.
They’re both describing the situation as they see it.
The telling comment is Clive Lewis’s: “There’s no point going back to the bloodletting of the 1970s and the 1980s when you are basically a party in meltdown.”
Labour isn’t “a party in meltdown”, though.
It is a party that is undergoing an astonishing renaissance (it means “rebirth”), with hundreds of thousands of people joining the party to be part of its new direction.
Mr McLuskey is right to say that some MPs have behaved disgracefully in response to the change. They have tried to sabotage the new leader; they have slandered his supporters; they have worked hard to harm the party in the opinion polls.
These are not activities that can be taken lightly and if people like Mr McLuskey want to mention deselection, saying these MPs are “asking for it”, there are strong arguments to justify that point of view.
Labour MPs are accountable to their Constituency Labour Parties, whether they like it or not, and party members are fully entitled to choose a different candidate for a general election, if their current representative has blotted their copy book.
It would make no sense at all for a CLP to back an MP who has harmed the party’s reputation, after all – that would lead to certain defeat in any election.
And the majority of Labour members – in any CLP – back Mr Corbyn.
This allows the Labour leader to be relaxed on this issue. As he said, these MPs have been elected to represent Labour, and should still be competent to do that job because the change in emphasis is not huge.
Perhaps opposition to austerity is the sticking-point.
Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls supported it – and was ejected from his seat in the 2015 election.
But he was only expressing the view of the majority of right-leaning, middle-class Labour MPs who have been elected over the last 20 years or so.
Labour members and supporters absolutely hate it, though – because, obviously, they are the people who have had to suffer because of it.
Owen Smith says he opposes austerity now, but he’s about to lose the leadership election because most Labour members either don’t believe him (he supported Ed Balls’s policy position in the past) or prefer Mr Corbyn’s consistency.
So this is not about Jeremy Corbyn and Len McLuskey being ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ at all.
If you want to define Mr Corbyn as the ‘good cop’ in such an analogy, then the ‘bad cop’ must be the Labour MPs who supported austerity in the past and oppose him now.
Seen in this way, it is easy to understand why some MPs might face deselection – and why they can indeed be seen to have brought it on themselves.
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