I’m writing this in not so sunny Lanzarote where I’m on my hols. Thanks to today’s heavy rain and my growing preoccupation with the two impending by-elections, I jeopardised the new relaxed me by tuning into Daily Politics at 12. Today’s special guest was ‘disillusioned Corbynite’ Owen Jones. As per usual I found myself nodding in agreement over most of his observations, especially in regard to the scapegoating of immigrants, but then came the inevitable bash Corbyn slot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to critisism of Jeremy’s leadership when it’s fair and takes all factors for the present polling into account. But what I heard today was not fair. There was the usual broad brushstroke critiques over poor messaging etc, which few of us would disagree with, but yet again there was no mention of the coup.
So why this failure to mention the devastating impact of the coup? There can only be one reason for it, and it’s the same reason every pro-establishment figure and anti-Corbyn politico is desperately trying to airbrush the coup from Labour Party history. If there had been no damaging coup and second leadership contest in a year, the present polling could be laid at Corbyn’s door and the PLP would remain relatively blameless. So the anti-Corbyn brigade either fail to mention it, or try to shame Corbyn supporters for refusing to play along. ‘You’re not still using that old excuse’ they’ll say disparagingly.
Hmm…OLD….five months old you mean. Yes – just five months ago our party members were forced to elect Jeremy Corbyn for a second time in a year; three months after a well orchestrated and long anticipated (first speculated upon even before Corbyn won in 2015) coup, in which 172 Labour MPs voted no confidence in their relatively new leader. Please can someone explain how this improved Labour’s standing in the polls?
We saw the effect of it almost immediately. The first polls after the coup had us nosediving to depths that will take us years, not just months to surface from. Couple the coup with new leadership for the Tories, a post Brexit bounce, and divisions within Labour over Brexit, and the mountain we had to climb just grew steeper and steeper. But it started with the coup. Labour were one point ahead of the Tories in last May’s local elections. Now the Tories are soaring ahead and what’s so tragic is that our own MPs gave them a big leg up to put them there.
When people question the logic of ‘blaming’ the coup for Labour’s present woes I always share this analogy. Imagine a new Headteacher is appointed to a failing secondary school to shake things up. Having catastrophically failed it’s last two Ofsted inspections the teachers should welcome the change. A few do, but the majority are set in their ways and immediately resent this new appointment, particularly when they were hoping one of their own would get the job. Despite the Head making some positive changes that benefit the pupils, this resentment leads to plots and then to a walk out in a display of no confidence.
What impact does this have on the school’s standing in the eyes of ordinary members of the public? Some parents sympathise with the new Head and what he’s trying to achieve, but take their children out of the school because they can see he has not got the backing of his staff. Some sympathise with the staff, but take their children out of the school because they can see they don’t approve of the Head. It’s a lose lose situation. No one would be surprised if such a situation led to a loss of most of the pupils and even the school’s eventual closure. Even if it managed to limp on, its reputation as a school in disarray would linger for years, if not decades. So why are people surprised that such a public and poisonous coup cost us millions of votes?
Well they’re not. The plotters and anti-Corbyn brigade are not in the least surprised. This is all working out swimmingly. Have a coup, force a leadership contest, and then even if you lose, you’ve kneecapped the leader until the best he can do is hobble toward the finishing line on crutches. It’s a good plan. It should work. With Corbyn badly damaged and the coup airbrushed from history, the ground is nicely laid for Corbyn to fail. Except there is one thing the plotters failed to factor into their clever calculations…….us.
We won’t let them conveniently airbrush the coup from history. The left made that mistake before when we let the establishment airbrush from history the devastating impact the SDP splitters had on Foot’s leadership. We let them set the ‘blame the left’ narrative and have paid for it ever since. But that was before the days of social media. Now we have a medium by which we can communicate with each other and repeatedly challenge the myths the establishment try to set into stone. We know the PLP wanted Corbyn gone from pre-day one. We know some who claimed to support him from the start only got on board when the going was good, and are happy to jump ship when the sea gets rough. These are the weathercocks so aptly scorned by the late great Tony Benn. We only need sign posts from now on. We need rocks not marshmallows. And yes, we even need critics, but only fair ones, prepared to tell the whole story.
Corbyn is badly damaged and he can only limp it’s true, but he has time to heal. We need to ensure he is given that time. The kneecappers, who are waiting in the wings praying they’ve done enough damage to have cost us both Copeland and Stoke this week, must never be allowed to benefit from their violent political assault on both our leader, our party and democracy.
If the worse comes to the worse, we will lift Corbyn up on our shoulders and carry him over that finishing line.
by Chelley Ryan @chelleryn99