There is no more popular a sport among Labour MPs than destabilising Jeremy Corbyn – despite the news that 66 per cent of Labour members think Corbyn is doing well. Undermining of the Leader has come through unattributed media briefings, outright public attacks, an unprecedented campaign against his staff and a quiet battle for control of Labour HQ.
Just as damaging has been a freeze on policy-making as MPs have blocked the advancement of the policy platform on which the Leader was elected. However, these self-styled “moderates” may learn too late how much they actually need Corbyn.
In the 90s, the Blairites worked out that Labour could only win if it were a coalition of the left and the centre, and so they did everything they could to win the centre. The left was given the minimum wage, an ethical foreign policy and an increase in international development aid but very little thereafter.
But today Labour has an identity problem it is ignoring. Blair didn’t turn his back on Labour values, after all - he traded off them, demanding support from people who increasingly disagreed with his policies.
Today’s neo-Blairites have stuck to the formula that the most right-wing position on any given policy is the one that will win power. They have completely divorced themselves from any drive toward a vision of a better society in their desperation to recreate that formula. This betrays a huge absence of understanding about what motivates people when they vote, and what the role of policies is for a party in opposition.
Voters don’t wade through manifestoes weighing up the relative merits before voting. Neither do they exclusively calculate the personal benefits before making their decisions. Certain policies, viewed inevitably through the lens of the media, are flags that display a party’s values, talking to voters about that party’s plans for the future, but also giving an indication of what that party would do in unforeseen circumstances.
Labour MPs need to accept that it wasn’t just Jeremy Corbyn who was elected, but a set of values that the party wanted to put forward to the nation. He has won this opportunity and is entitled to a fair shot at illustrating a picture of a better Britain and rebuilding voters’ faith in the party.
The foolishness of ousting Corbyn is profound. Perhaps best understood is the message that that would send to those people who voted for Corbyn in their huge numbers: in short, that Labour MPs are not prepared to play fair or respect democracy.
That they see themselves, not the members, as the sovereign body in the party. But losing Corbyn now and replacing him with another pro-austerity former Special Adviser would throw away the chance to rebuild a relationship with voters’ hearts.
It may be that Corbyn does well and wins an election, or he may only get halfway before retiring, but that would make space for a post-Corbyn pragmatist to build on that renewed relationship and create a new election-winning coalition.
Every MP who refuses to help rebuild that trust with the voter, who leaks and briefs against Corbyn or who thinks they're too good to serve in his team simply undermines their own chances of election victory. Not one of them has the capacity to rebuild that trust but every neo-Blairite wannabe needs it to exist. If they want Corbyn gone, I get that; but they should be squeezing every last drop of value out of him while they have the chance.
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