Friday, 29 January 2016

The Labour Party Is Now in Dire Straits: Corbynistas, I Hope You're Happy

Read the original article, published on 7th January, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tom-bailey2/labour-party-reshuffle_b_8927798.html
The Labour Party is in dire straits. Despite frequent claims that he would enjoy listening to all the different opinions of Labour's "broad Church", Jeremy Corbyn seems to be doing precisely the opposite. Michael Dugher and Pat McFadden were both fired for speaking out and letting their views be known, and Maria Eagle was moved from the role of Shadow Defence Secretary because of her support for Trident, despite her position being in line with Labour's current party policy. 
As Ian Austin MP has suggested, Corbyn and his team seem to have launched an all-out attack on what John McDonnell falsely and spitefully called "a narrow right-wing clique... who've never accepted Jeremy's mandate". It's no surprise, then, that hours after Corbyn's long-anticipated "revenge reshuffle," three very impressive Labour MPs, Jonathon Reynolds, Stephen Doughty and Kevan Jones, have resigned from the Shadow Cabinet. 
And they should not be blamed: they clearly felt that, since they shared similar views to Michael Dugher and Pat McFadden, they could no longer play a front-bench role without feeling not only conflicted, but also vulnerable and intimidated. After all, their colleagues were fired for championing the principle of "straight-talking, honest politics" - a principle that the Corbynites seemed to forget during their hostile briefings.
To make matters worse, much of this spat has been carried out on live television. Two days ago, we saw Labour MPs Cat Smith and Chris Leslie clashing on the BBC, a damning indictment on the state of the party. What is more, Stephen Doughty told yesterday's Daily Politics that Corbyn's team told "lies" about McFadden, Kevan Jones told Sky News that Emily Thornberry, Labour's new Shadow Defence Secretary, "knows nothing about defence", and Jonathon Reynolds said that Corbyn's plan of a diverse front-bench has "not worked out to anyone's advantage". Reynolds, along with many others, seems to see this as a purge of the more moderate MPs in the Shadow Cabinet. Indeed, it would not be surprising to hear that Benn was only kept to avoid more resignations like these. 
Social media has also been rife with debate, with Labour MPs Chucka Umunna, Wayne David, and Ian Austin all expressing their regret, and even anger, at yesterday's events. Robin Cook's former special advisor, David Clark, has also stepped in. Commenting on the report that Pat McFadden was sacked because of his views on terrorism, Clark tweeted: "The reason offered for sacking ‪@patmcfaddenmp‬‬ is disturbing. Is it now against Labour policy to blame terrorists for their own actions?" With all this public quarrelling, one can't help being reminded of the Labour party's infighting in the late seventies and early eighties, which arguably lost them the election in 1983.
It's clear, then, that what Doughty described as yesterday's "pretty unpleasant operations" have left the Labour Party in complete disarray. Labour MPs are spending more time attacking each other than they are attacking the Tories, making them a totally ineffective opposition and allowing the government to continue to implement their dangerous and uncaring ideological policies. The Labour Party is weak and divided, and this should make us all very anxious.
But is this a surprise? Not really. Yes, it's true that Corbyn was elected on a huge mandate from party members (something that Corbyn's team are constantly reminding us of), but he only has the support of a very small handful of Labour MPs. What is more, those MPs who do support him, like McDonnell and Abbott, are generally considered to be even more divisive than Corbyn himself. It's true that the leadership election was a thoroughly democratic process, but since party members share very different views from the PLP, it was inevitable that Corbyn's election would leave the party incredibly conflicted - a conflict that has reared its head over and over again. 
Jeremy Corbyn has spent most of his time in parliament on the back-benches. For 32 years he has been an uncompromising radical, defying Labour Party orders more than 500 times (opposing Labour plans more than David Cameron himself) and frequently marching with rival parties against the policies of the last Labour government. How could anyone possibly think that he could ever unite the parliamentary Labour party? How could anyone think that he could lead an effective opposition? And how could he possibly expect Labour MPs to do as he says, when he himself consistently defied previous leaders?
Well, Corbynistas, I hope you've got what you wanted. Not only is your magnificent Jezza unable to appeal to the electorate, he even fails to unite his own MPs. The idea that a man who can't even lead his party could possibly lead his country is utterly ridiculous. As James O'Brien said yesterday on LBC, "This bloke couldn't even run a bath." But sadly, Labour party members have been too caught up in their staunch idealism to realise this. They have failed to accept that the majority of people in this country don't agree with them and that such a divisive and hard-line politician could never credibly lead Her Majesty's Opposition. Reality, it seems, is not a word in their vocabulary. 
Corbyn's mandate can only go so far. Really, what his mandate shows is that the far-left is still comfortable with sitting in its own echo-chamber talking to itself, rather than appealing to the general public and ensuring the Labour Party's electability in 2020. If this conflict within the party continues, and if Corbyn decides to fire more MPs who disagree with him, then the next four and a half years will be disastrous for the country. Unless Corbyn realises that the Labour Party is no longer the hard-left party it once was, and unless he can finally unite the MPs on the benches behind him, then the poorest people in society, those who desperately need a Labour government, will continue to suffer - and they'll know who to thank.

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