Friday, 1 July 2016

My thoughts on the Corbyn Coup and why I think he now has to resign

So what a week it’s been. Britain has voted to leave the EU, Gove has stabbed Boris in the back to run for Tory leader and indeed Prime Minister, leading Boris to withdraw his leadership ambitions. Having used this referendum as a leadership bid, Boris has now crawled away when the going get’s tough and as Ewan McGregor eloquently put it, is a “spineless c***”

But the main story that has dominating the headlines is the coup organised against Jeremy Corbyn to get him to resign as leader. It all started with Hilary Benn telling him he and many others in the shadow cabinet didn’t have faith in Corbyn’s leadership and that there would be mass resignations if Corbyn didn’t stand down as leader. This led Corbyn to sack Hilary Benn leading to mass resignations and a vote of no confidence from the majority of MPs. Corbyn now only has the backing of 40 MPs and has barely been able to fill up the Shadow Cabinet with replacements thus leading us in effect to have no working main opposition. Corbyn however has stated that he has the backing of most of the membership and would not betray them by standing down. This had now led to an inevitable leadership election in which Angela Eagle had put herself forward to stand against him but is delaying it to give Corbyn more time to formally stand down. Although, it has recently emerged that she set her leader campaign website up two days before Hilary Benn launched the coup meaning that this was clearly all planned.

The way the Shadow Cabinet behaved after the EU vote is nothing short of disgraceful. At a time of national crisis, where we had just voted to leave the EU, the Labour Party needed to turn their fire onto the Conservative Government. With this government in disarray, with no Brexit plan and no leadership after Cameron resigned, there was an open goal for Labour to score. But shockingly they decided to turn against their own leader and have a series of mass resignations in order to force Corbyn to go thus making the news about them rather than the Tories. As Diane Abbott said, if they wanted to oust Corbyn, they should have launched a formal leadership bid in a discreet and private way, announcing an election after parliament broke for recess and not at a time of national crisis. Now I don’t know what happened between Hilary Benn and Corbyn in their meeting but what should have happened is that instead of threatening mass resignations, Benn should have said there would be a leadership election due to lack of faith in Corbyn as a leader. With Angela Eagle having already created her leader campaign website at this point, it is bizarre why they didn’t do this. They had someone lined up. But I think the reason they didn’t is because they were uncertain about whether they would get the membership support.

Before I go into why I believe Corbyn should go, I just want to say first that have a lot of respect for him. I think it was so refreshing last year to have a candidate for Labour leader that was a genuine alternative to the Conservatives. Whether that was on austerity, housing, healthcare or foreign policy, Corbyn really made himself stand up amongst the other candidates who continued to pander to the tory-lite policies of Ed Miliband and the Blair/Brown government thinking that was the only way to get elected despite it not working in 2015. It was the first time since I was able to vote that I genuinely considered supporting Labour. I even met the man last year after a protest against Sports Direct two days before he became leader. I can tell you he was one of the nicest and most genuine politicians I have met and when I asked him for a picture, he didn’t even hesitate. However I didn’t join the party as I wanted to see whether he would last given that he never had the support of the majority of Labour MPs. Unfortunately it seems as soon as he was elected, they were trying to find a way to get rid of him. 

So why do I think he should resign? Is it because I believe he is “unelectable”? Well no I don’t believe that. Interestingly though I did talk to Labour and former Corbyn supporters who thought he wasn’t pragmatic enough and too principled at a time of national crisis. Then they said they wished they had Tony Blair back because he was a pragmatic leader and would have the PLP behind him. That may be true but I think harking after new-labour at a time of austerity and a probable recession isn’t the answer. I believe Tony Blair would support austerity to have a so called “balanced” approach to things. But what we need at this time is an opposition calling on the government to invest in public services and in areas that will now lose EU funding and to reject the premise of austerity as it causes unnecessary hardship and actually increases the Government debt. This is what I believe Corbyn could have done. So to be honest I believe he should resign simply because he is unable to fill the Shadow Cabinet given most MPs don’t have confidence in him. At this time, we need a united opposition with a full cabinet behind their leader covering the various government roles. Even if the membership vote for him as leader again, the 170 odd MPs that have no confidence in his leadership aren’t going to suddenly change their mind. What we could end up having is MPs being re-selected and Labour across the country in their various local parties completely split on that. I believe this would then formally split the Labour Party like we had in the 1980s and when there could be a general election looming in the coming months, this simply isn’t an option that should be taken.

If there is a general election in a few months, I believe Labour will lose it anyway because of Corbyn and the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party infighting straight after the country is put into severe economic uncertainty. However what I believe could make a difference now is that Corbyn and the PLP come together to resolve their differences. Corbyn should then formally step down and should be allowed to put forward another candidate that has similar views to him but would unite the MPs. Personally I would choose Andy Burnham. They should then have their leadership election as quickly as possible, before the Tory leadership election is over.

Given that I am a Green Party member, why should the Labour Party potentially splitting concern me? Surely people will end up joining the Greens and we can then do better as a party. True the Labour infighting does benefit us in that sense, but given that we are still nationally quite low in the polls, we are not suddenly going to jump to lead the polls by the time a general election comes round. So we as a smaller party on the progressive side of politics need a united Labour Party that we can work with. We have already put a call out to the leaders of the Lib Dems, Labour and Plaid Cymru to form a progressive alliance for the upcoming general election given that no party is likely to get a majority. So I make this plea to Corbyn supporters and the Labour Party as a whole. Come together to resolve your differences, get Corbyn to resign but choose a leader that offers a genuine alternative to the Tories because we need a united opposition now more than ever.