The parliamentary Labour party, or PLP for short, is literally all out of credible options, leaders and ideas and the coup seems to have gotten nowhere. Tom Watson wanted to stand, then he didn’t, Angela Eagle wanted to stand, then she delayed announcing and she now appears very uncertain. More hats are being thrown into the ring from the PLP and no one seems to be remotely capable of defeating Corbyn in a leadership election. They’ve already angered well over half of their own party by painfully staggering the resignations in order to inflict maximum damage and attract maximum press coverage, none of which is necessary for a leadership contest.
The leadership coup is quickly losing credibility and to many people, it’s already a total farce. Despite the lack of possible contenders, the coup is still ongoing – the PLP are essentially holding the membership to ransom without offering the membership a credible alternative. They want Corbyn gone but they don’t know how to do it, who to replace him or what their policies are. Which begs the question: What are they doing and what are they going to do?
The options aren’t really options at all or if they are options, they are terrible for both sides in this civil war, but let’s explore and analyse what they are in order to establish the enormity of this cock-up of a ‘coup’:
First, let’s compare numerology: Angela Eagle has been an MP since 1992. She has 9 years less parliamentary experience than Jeremy Corbyn but has more experience in roles within the cabinet. In the last election, both candidates saw their vote share go up. Angela Eagle received 26,176 votes or 60.4% of the votes cast and Jeremy received 29,659 votes or 60.2% of the votes cast. In terms of expenses, between 2013 and 2014 Jeremy Corbyn claimed £141,184.39 in expenses and Angela Eagle claimed £158,002.69.
The figures don’t really separate the pair and they certainly don’t explain the stark difference in membership support but when you look at the voting record, a whole different story plays out, significantly where foreign policy is concerned. Eagle not only consistently voted for the disastrous Iraq War but she also voted against the inquiry into the Iraq war. As she was heavily involved in Tony Blair’s government, this will come of no surprise to many. And with The Chilcot Report set to be released on the 6th July, literally just around the corner, speculation as to the timing of this coup is rife. And just so you know, most of the 172 MPs who declared they have no confidence in Corbyn voted for the Iraq War.
With all of this in mind, does the country really need or want another war-mongering MP and will the youth within the Labour party back an MP as their leader who voted to raise tuition fees? Even Conservatives such as George Osborne describe tuition fees as a “tax on education and aspiration”. When you ask those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn, why they did so, policies and political direction are often quoted as the reason. After all, if politics is not about policies then what is it about? To answer my own question, if the PLP are not concerned with policy and therefore politics, does that not indicate self-concern rather than national concern?
If Angela Eagle is seriously considering standing then she will need to address policies and unless she is going to change her policy positions then she will need to debate and persuade those in the party that her positions are better than Jeremy’s and win the academic argument. Will she argue using sound reasoning on policy? I have my doubts. And if she does stick to her policies without flip-flopping, just imagine how hard it is going to be to convince the majority of the Labour party and the electorate that military interventionism was and still is, a good idea.
Another candidate, another pantomime it would seem. Possible contenders all seem to have baggage, whether in the form of a cover-up story, a history of pro-war voting or generally voting against Labour values or even all three. In a poll of Labour members, none came even close to Jeremy Corbyn. Hilary Benn, the son of the late Tony Benn, received less than 5% of the vote. Others didn’t even receive that. 172 MPs declared that they had no confidence in the leader but it’s the membership that ultimately decides and it would seem that the membership has declared via the polls a no-confidence vote in the PLP.
The obvious problem for the rebel Labour MPs is time. Yes, time. The longer this show goes on, the stronger Corbyn’s position becomes. Public opinion of the PLP will grow weaker and more tiresome as a show of leadership and strength quickly diminishes thanks to their uncertainty over who will challenge. In just a week, 15,000 people have joined the Labour party and 60% have stated that they have joined in order to support Jeremy Corbyn and many of those have then gone on to join Momentum, which is a group that was formed in support of Jeremy Corbyn, designed to carry on the momentum of his last leadership election through grass-root activism. Even unions that abandoned Labour during the Blair and Brown years such as the RMT union (who are not affiliated to Labour, currently), are issuing press statements slamming the coup and praising Corbyn. If Corbyn wins this leadership election, it seems highly likely that even more unions will come back to Labour again.
Form a New Party
Whether the 172 MPs do this before a leadership election, or after, is irrelevant. They have the option and they have the backing of the wealthy financial donors, which Corbyn does not. They also have a decent amount of members that would support them and perhaps even assist them in creating a new party. If they cannot defeat him democratically then they would be forced to quit themselves and set up shop elsewhere. Labour’s broad church of voices would be split into two opposing sides. It would be split between the neoliberal warmongers and the socialist peace lovers. The quitters would likely resemble the Tories economically and in terms of foreign policy and Corbyn’s close-knit party would appear much more like the Greens.
The next set of leaders’ TV debates would look something like Labour’s last leadership election where the warmongers call Corbyn names and his policies stupid in the hope of diminishing his support only to find it growing and Corbyn replying with policy ideas and suggestions. Possible leaders of a new party may also be the key voices in the Labour coup at the moment.
Abandon the Coup
If the PLP plotters can’t win fair and square and if they’re too scared or unconfident to split and leave, then the only other option would be to abandon the coup altogether. This would be humiliating and the damage they have caused would likely result in many of them being deselected by their own constituency Labour parties or CLP’s for short. Out of the 50 CLP’s that the BBC spoke to, 45 said that they were backing Corbyn. Even Angela Eagle’s constituency party passed a motion rejecting Angela’s motion of no confidence and wrote a scathing letter addressed to Angela regarding her conduct during this fiasco.
It’s also important to remember that if Jeremy increases his majority of the vote share and also brings on board another union or two, then he would be in a very strong position in which to make deselection more democratic and the leadership elections more democratic. I can only presume that the majority of the PLP knows this.
Summary on the PLP Coup
In short, the Labour party is growing in membership. Jeremy Corbyn’s activist group, Momentum, is expanding rapidly. Previously affiliated unions are looking to come back to support Corbyn and the PLP is looking weak, egotistical and uninspiring.
Even high profile politicians outside of the Labour Party are flocking to Corbyn’s side. With Alex Salmond calling out this orchestrated and premeditated coup for what it is and George Galloway urging members of the public to join the Labour now in order to defend Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn has surrounded himself with a cabinet that actually reflects his values, ideas and principles and his position as Labours leader is not going to be easily toppled.
The leadership contest is likely going to be a very ugly affair and a similar situation to that of the last leadership election will likely pan out. Only this time, Andy Burnham won’t be running and it’s looking like Corbyn’s mandate will grow.
The mainstream media will focus, as usual, on the mudslinging rather than the policies and ideas, whilst the country is faced with serious problems that only policies and ideas will be able to fix. If the PLP doesn’t put forward a possible contender, who has little to no bad history and who can and will seriously and convincingly argue policies and ideas that are better than Corbyn’s, then they won’t stand a chance. And rightfully so.