Cast your eyes over the following:
So here's the problem. The Labour membership has been portrayed as a threatening disorderly thuggish rabble for three years. In this case a former Labour MP is using mental health stigma against his former members, which we can all agree is really classy. https://t.co/7cDumjnC1t pic.twitter.com/KCSmSBJkO5
— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) September 10, 2018
Owen Jones is right, of course.
If it isn’t Joan Ryan calling her own constituency party members “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard left”, it’s Chuka Umunna calling Labour members and supporters “dogs” (whether he meant his word descriptively or metaphorically is immaterial as it is just as insulting either way) and saying the party is “institutionally racist”, or the “former MP” quoted in this Independent article (and above) suggesting that party members are suffering from mental ill-health.
Party members are furious that they are being treated in such a dismissive way by a small group of MPs who have arrived in Parliament in the belief that they give the orders and the rank-and-file do as they are told – an attitude that is too close to the “plebs” mentality – of a certain brand of Tory – for comfort.
These are the same MPs who have been carrying out almost ceaseless attacks on party leader Jeremy Corbyn since he was elected into the role in 2015 (with a short break after Labour’s huge gains in the 2017 general election), so it should come as no surprise that he is standing by his supporters.
He reminded a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party: “I know what it feels like to be the target of a no confidence vote” [it happened in 2016 – and many of those who heard his speech supported it] but it would be wrong for me to intervene in the democratic rights of any part of the Labour party.”
And he is right. The leader has no power to prevent a “no confidence” vote called by members of individual constituency Labour parties.
And there’s another one happening on Wednesday – against Rosie Duffield, who probably owes her victory in Canterbury, against the Tory who had held that city for the previous 30 years, to the Corbyn surge of 2017.
In return, it seems she has undermined her leader, attending a Parliament Square demonstration that accused her own party of “systemic” anti-Semitism, warning that Labour MPs could “go on strike” if Labour did not adopt the flawed IHRA definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples (as eventually happened last week, despite Labour’s code of conduct being far more fit-for-purpose), and supporting the Jewish Labour Movement that has framed at least one high-profile Labour member with anti-Semitism accusations.
Mr Corbyn told the PLP he could not intervene if constituency members wanted to air their differences. He said: “We will always have some differences of opinion and we must protect the right of criticism and debate.”
But he added: “Our first and overwhelming priority is to deliver for the people we represent and remove this Conservative government from office. We must focus on that priority and turn our fire outwards.”
He also made it clear that he wanted all local meetings to be held in an atmosphere of “respect” – perhaps a reference to Joan Ryan’s comment about “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard left”.
One wonders whether the MPs who have been so disruptive, so far, will honour that appeal after Wednesday’s motion of censure.
Their record up to now suggests that they will not.
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