Say what you like about Diane Abbott (and This Writer has, often), when she’s fighting somebody’s corner she really shines.
Her article in today’s Guardian puts the so-called ‘Labour Coup’ against Jeremy Corbyn into an ugly little nutshell, detailing the ugly little conspiracy for all to see.
It has nothing to do with the referendum result, she tells us – that was just a pretext. And a poor pretext it was. It is stupid to attack a man for failing to get out the vote for a particular cause when he had more success than anybody else – as Corbyn did.
The ‘no confidence’ vote was hurried, contrived, and unconstitutional. It had no force other than to pressure Jeremy Corbyn into quitting. This is organised bullying on a scale we would not tolerate anywhere else, but apparently it is quite all right in Jeremy Corbyn’s case.
Are the UK’s media saying this country despises bullying tactics – except when the victim is somebody the Establishment doesn’t like? If so, then all the lobby correspondents who have joined in with this harassment of the Labour leader had better pack their bags. That’s no kind of journalism.
And the ‘no confidence’ vote had to be staged this way, we find, because it needed to happen too quickly for constituency Labour parties to be able to instruct their MPs regarding the will of the membership.
“They were terrified that their members might actually find out how they voted,” writes Ms Abbott. Now why should any representative of the people be worried about that, unless they knew they were going against the people’s will?
One person we know went against the will of their constituents is Angela Eagle.
She was expressly instructed not to quit her Shadow Cabinet job, not to oppose Jeremy Corbyn and not to undermine him in the ‘no confidence’ vote.
She did none of these things. It seems likely there are 171 other Labour MPs who would have received the same instructions, if they had only bothered to ask.
And now Ms Eagle is a front-runner to challenge Mr Corbyn for the leadership!
If anything shows what this fiasco has been about, it is Ms Eagle’s behaviour. Those behind the ‘Labour Coup’ aren’t just rebelling against a leader they despise; they are rebelling against the party members who put them where they are.
They are saying that the members don’t matter; democracy doesn’t matter. They’ll do what they like – including turning Labour back into the pale imitation of the Tory party it had become before Jeremy Corbyn came along to bring some sense back into our politics.
This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn. It is a battle for the soul of the Labour Party.
That’s why he must not resign.
That’s why the members must be allowed to judge him – and his detractors.
Because Labour’s membership is sovereign and ultimate power rests with them.
Anybody who doesn’t like that is free to leave at any time.
Instead of putting their energies into fighting the Tories, colleagues have been concentrating on orchestrating waves of MPs – whom no one has ever heard of – into resigning from jobs that nobody knew they had.
Colleagues could have been providing leadership against the resurgent racism that so many of their constituents are terrified by.
Instead Labour MPs have spent time in huddles with their fellow inhabitants of the Westminster bubble, lobby correspondents. These journalists, supposed political experts, did not see the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon coming last summer and have never supported him. Accordingly they are now using their columns to tell him to walk away.
Colleagues have contrived a “vote of no confidence” that has absolutely no basis in the rule book. There was no notice. It was tabled on Monday and the vote held the following day. No institution would run an important ballot in this way. And it was a secret ballot.
All this was necessary because some Labour MPs expressly did not want any time to consult with ordinary party members. On the contrary they were terrified that their members might actually find out how they voted. Hence the haste and the secrecy.
But the climax of all this was Monday’s parliamentary Labour party (PLP) meeting. MP after MP got up to attack Jeremy Corbyn in the most contemptuous terms possible, pausing only to text their abuse to journalists waiting outside. A non-Corbynista MP told me afterwards that he had never seen anything so horrible and he had felt himself reduced to tears. Nobody talked about Jeremy Corbyn’s politics. There was only one intention: to break him as a man.
This attempt to hound Jeremy Corbyn out of the leadership has been planned for months and was entirely outside the rules. Blaming him for the Brexit vote was just a pretext. The truth is that Jeremy travelled thousands of miles mobilising Labour voters. Nearly two-thirds of Labour voted to remain.
If David Cameron had been able to persuade a similar proportion of his Tories to vote for remain, we would still be in the EU. But colleagues went for lynch mob tactics because they didn’t actually want a leadership election with Jeremy on the ballot. Their fear is that he will win. Which brings us to the heart of the matter.
This is not the PLP versus Jeremy Corbyn; this is the PLP versus the membership. It is the inhabitants of the Westminster bubble versus the ordinary men and women who make up the party in the country.
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