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Jeremy Corbyn’s overnight sacking of Hilary Benn – a repeat offender when it comes to publicly undermining him – seems to have resulted in the acceleration of the process Benn was aiming to put in place. That is to say – an all-out coup against the Labour leader.
Over 50 MPs have resigned, who claim to be worried about Labour’s electability (or lack thereof). Yet the resigning PLP figures are, in actuality, severely damaging it, as Labour embroiling itself in a leadership contest now is nothing less than attempted electoral suicide.
The Conservative Party have just lost their leader, plunging them into a leadership crisis of their own. With Conservative party figures lining up to canvas support to make a run against Boris Johnson, the party is in disarray and now is exactly the moment that Labour should be presenting a united front. Labour’s post-Brexit plan should be to ensure the continued protection of workers’ rights whilst stopping TTIP and preventing further cuts to public services is one that will chime no end with the electorate. Yet it is the assault on Corbyn by Labour politicians at this crucial time which is obstructing Corbyn from putting forward any coherent plans. This is an unforgivable transgression if they are truly worried about electability.
Historically, Corbyn has clearly been sympathetic to the Eurosceptic movement, which in part accounts for his lukewarm support for the remain campaign. Now that the public have decided on Brexit, Labour must capitalize on the depth of anti-establishment feeling, and no one is better placed than a formerly Eurosceptic politician who evidently still held reservations about the institution.
Many of those who voted to leave the EU were fed the line about immigration and have succumbed to their basic, racist instincts. Many of those have, at some stage, voted for Labour. They may do so again if the anti-austerity values of Corbyn continue to be promulgated – perhaps they may be tempted back by even more radical policy proposals such as renationalisation and universal basic income.
Yet it is also the case that Labour must target the many millions of people on the electoral roll who did not bother to turn out and vote because of complete and utter political apathy. Only a leader like Corbyn, with his humane, compassionate and genuine voice has a chance of mobilising these voters.
Untainted by association with the political establishment, Corbyn is a leader who disavows the smarmy veneer honed in focus-groups characteristic of politicians such as Tristam Hunt and Chuka Umunna. In stark contrast to Corbyn’s authenticity, their strategic political maneuvering is transparent.
Members of this cabal on the right of the party are also culpable of giving credence to the tide of anti-immigration sentiment simply in order to unseat Corbyn – Hunt doing so on Saturday in an article which asserted that hysterical fears over immigration are not the product of scaremongering but are fully justified, and imploring the end to ‘our experiment with Corbynism’. Yet as John McDonell stated: ‘It is the responsibility of Labour politicians to remember our duty to represent the will of our party and the Labour movement to fight for working people, and not to fight each other.’
Corbyn’s overwhelming mandate from Labour Party members came less than a year ago, and the referendum result hasn’t changed that. Two-thirds of Labour supporters voted to remain in the EU, and a recent Survation poll constituted one of the party’s best recent performances, showing support for Labour was at 32% – level with the Conservatives.
If there is a leadership contest, any attempt to prevent Corbyn being on the ballot paper would not only ensure the election of an incredibly right-wing Conservative government, but would inevitably lead to the break-up of the Labour Party. Assuming that Corbyn holds on, perhaps this spate of frontbench resignations is the best solution to rid the party of politicians who clearly have far more in common with the Liberal Democrats than they do with the party’s base.
The Prime Minister, in a blatant attempt to deflect from the chaos of his own party, urged Corbyn during PMQs to go. Much of the ‘left-wing’ media has also now turned on him, as have the majority of his party.
Yet as much as the Blairite wing wants the “experiment with Corbynism” to end, the majority of Labour supporters are resolute that it will not. Corbyn must remain leader, but in the event that he is ousted, the support for his values will not simply dissipate and be forgotten. The desire for a real left-wing Labour Party is going nowhere.