It’s not an Olive Branch but the Sword of Deselection that Labour’s Right Requires
|Tom Watson - most members would put their trust in a rattle snake first|
For the second time in a year, Jeremy Corbyn has been elected by an overwhelming majority of Labour Party members. Indeed this year, despite the attempts of Tom Watson’s lapdog, General Secretary Iain McNicol to remove Corbyn supporters from those eligible to vote, Corbyn increased his majority from 59% to 62%.
Immediately Jeremy Corbyn sought to put what had happened in the last wasted year behind him and start, in his own words, with a clean slate. There is nothing wrong with this but only a minority of the Right is going to engage with Corbyn at all meaningfully. We have to face the fact that the majority of the Right will continue their strategy of tension and destabilisation.
|Alan Johnson MP - former Blairite Minister and Nonentity in Chief|
Momentum has to accept that appeasement of Progress and its supporters will not work. Their loyalty is not to Labour or socialism but to capitalism and the system we live in. Their differences with the Tories are minimal compared to their differences with those who wish to change society. When a wild animal threatends you it’s best to shoot it not appeal to its better nature. Momentum needs to be democratised urgently because at the moment it is good at winning elections and lousy at winning the peace.
People like Alan Johnson, the former Blairite Cabinet Minister, have made it clear that they intend to attack Corbyn from the outset. The Right’s coup has failed, for the time being, but it will be renewed in a different form.
One sign of this was the presentation of a monster constitutional package by Tom Watson at last Tuesday’s NEC, with barely a few hour’s notice. Even my local union branch demands that resolutions are tabled with a week’s notice but Watson presented the Rights programme to destabilise Corbyn at the last possible moment.
Corbyn, true to form, didn’t oppose the proposals for additional right-wing members from Scotland and Wales (the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties, not the members will choose them) thus wiping out his own majority on next year’s NEC instantly. It was little wonder that arch right-winger Luke Akehurst tweeted that in one stroke control of next year’s NEC had passed to the Right despite the Left having won the election to the 6 NEC seats amongst the constituencies.
Although Corbyn finally woke up today and tried, unsuccessfully, to reverse the decision his inability to understand the forces ranged against him is disconcerting. Even Jesus Christ, who was quite hot on loving thine enemy, drove the money lenders from the Temple. A bit of muscular Christianity is what is needed! Watson is acting not only on behalf of the Labour Right but on behalf of the British state.
Huffington Post reported on Watson’s Project Anaconda, specifically designed to destroy Corbyn’s leadership by surrounding him with enemies. ‘HuffPost UK has been passed extracts from internal party emails claiming that the deputy leader has been operating a so-called “Project Anaconda” with Shadow Cabinet reforms and wider NEC proposals.’
Huffington quoted an email from Watson’s team that: “’Project Anaconda’...will involve isolating and weakening JC and ultimately crushing the life out of his leadership,” “Every concession JC makes will be used to tighten the grip.”
That is why the Right, which walked out of the Shadow Cabinet, has now decided that they want democratic elections to the body they don’t want to sit in! Why? So that they can run an alternative administration. Corbyn won’t be able to sack them and so it will effectively paralyse him and render him ineffectual.
Then they will be able to turn around and say he is a weak leader and the polls will naturally reflect this. What is needed now is determination and ruthlessness. If the Right or part of them wish to be part of the Shadow Cabinet, then fine. But only if they wish to work together not against their leader. That must mean that Corbyn appoints the whole shadow cabinet in these circumstances. What was good enough for Ed Miliband is good enough for Jeremy Corbyn.
If Corbyn values his leadership he should face down Watson now, when he is strongest after his electoral victory. Tomorrow it may be too late. As the article observed ‘Last week the NEC agreed to widen its membership to include Scottish and Welsh Labour reps, a move that could swing the balance of power on the ruling body to an “anti-Corbyn” majority.’
Instead of calling Watson’s bluff, instead of taking to the media to say that there was only one leader and denouncing Watson as the enemy within, Corbyn accepted major planks of his programme, including those denying him a majority.
The obvious thing to do would have been to move ‘next business’ and to make it clear that if necessary he would appeal to Labour Party Conference and the Unions over the heads of the present right-wing NEC. Instead, once again, Corbyn first accepted and then tried to reverse the proposals once it had eventually sunk in what they involved. [Labour MPs Who ‘Mugged’ Jeremy Corbyn ‘In Cold Blood’ Should Now Back Him, Shami Chakrabarti Warns]
Even more amazingly Corbyn told the NEC that he had never criticised the very Labour Party staff who had spent the summer suspending and expelling members on any and every pretext. It is one thing to react to a situation where someone is genuinely abused on social media and to call those responsible to account, it is entirely another thing to go and trawl through the social media posts of thousands of people on a fishing expedition in order to try and disqualify the supporters one candidate.
In The numbers Labour did NOT want you to see on TV this morning – and why the following table reveals that of 551,000 members, just 285,000 voted, leaving 266,000 without a vote. Even leaving aside the 130,000 members who joined after January, this means that another 136,000 didn’t vote. Of course some may have abstained but we know from reports that thousands, some estimate 60,000 were simply not sent a vote. Thousands of others were suspended or otherwise denied a vote.
Clearly Labour Party staff were so busy disqualifying members that they didn’t send out ballot papers to thousands of people because they were seen as hardline Corbyn supporters. In other words people had their votes held back until they could first be checked in order to find any dirt or pretext on them.
Of the 181,000 registered supporters, over a third, 62,000 didn’t vote. Why? It is highly unlikely that having paid £25 many of these people didn’t bother to vote. The only answer is that they were disqualified – either because they weren’t on the electoral register (since Labour Party staff insist on working to last year’s one this is not surprising or they were disqualified for being Corbyn supporters). Even if they weren’t on the electoral register so what? If they could prove they existed, then given the Tories efforts to remove people from the Electoral Register they should have been given a vote.
We want answers about the corrupt electoral practices of Crooked McNicol. Instead of backing him up, Corbyn should be demanding his head. It is absolutely essential that Corbyn ensures the loyalty of Labour’s civil service. At the very least the Compliance Unit and McNicol should go and every single suspended and expelled person should be reinstated, with the exception of Daily Mail guest columnist Mike Foster. Parties such as Brighton and Hove and Wallasey should also be reinstated.
Jeremy Corbyn was Tony Benn’s closest comrade. He should remember Benn’s sage advice that when he was a Cabinet Minister, his first act was to secure the loyalty of his civil servants. It is a lesson that Corbyn should take to heart.
It is also essential that Momentum now democratises. There is a battle ahead. Corbyn won’t be able to repeat today’s victory indefinitely. People will become demoralised. The Right has to be tackled from the start if they refuse to accept Corbyn’s victory as leader. That means, as a minimum that it is Jeremy Corbyn who appoints a Shadow Cabinet. If the Right don’t want to serve, then so be it. Labour Party members will no doubt take this into account when MPs stand for reselection!
Further there should be a review of the composition of the NEC. Tom Watson is right, but for the wrong reasons. At present Scottish and Welsh members can stand and Rhea Wolfson from Glasgow won a seat. The best solution would be to increase the CLP section from 6 to 12 and to reduce seats for MEPs and councillors. There is also no reason why the Deputy Leader should be a member of the NEC.
Rule changes for next year should include a proposal that the number of MPs needed to stand for Leader or Deputy Leader be reduced from 20% or 15% to 5%.
The time for turning one’s cheek is gone. If the Labour Right refuses to accept the decision of Labour Party members as to who is Leader they should be shown the door. Labour MPs might claim they have a greater mandate because they are elected by the electorate but history shows that MPs are elected, not because of their inflated sense of their self-importance, because of their party allegiance. If they wish to stand as independents no one is stopping them, however very few (6) of the 26 Labour MPs who broke from the Labour Party in the early 1980’s to join the SDP were re-elected at the 1983 General Election. Hilary Benn and John Mann are welcome to stand as independents. Indeed they should be encouraged to do so!