It’s been an awful few days for supporters of the Labour party as a genuine alternative to the Tories. Or for any human being with a heart, for that matter.
Almost 100 Labour MPs (not 100 or 102 as you may have read, since a handful of those who didn’t vote were absent because of serious illness or family situations, including Corbyn loyalists on the front bench) rebelled against their party to vote against a Labour parliamentary motion put forward by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for the withdrawal of support for the Saudi-led coalition that has been targeting schools, hospitals and rescue services in Yemen, costing thousands of civilian lives.
The vote was lost by fewer than 100 votes.
Those Labour MPs have made themselves responsible for further deaths of innocents – according to the papers, simply in order to undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But it goes further than that.
The willingness to support a continued slaughter for political purporses is hideously shameful and it shows beyond question that the Labour right – in spite of accusing the left of exactly that – cares only for control of the Labour party.
But their plan is bigger than simply ‘undermining’ Corbyn. They are behaving in an unprecedented way in order to lay a trap for him – and it’s one I believe he must spring.
Some 40-odd of those who declined to support the party’s motion used a device known as ‘pairing‘, in which an MP from one side obtains permission from the party’s ‘whips’ to not vote if a member from the other side is also not voting.
The traditional use of this is if a member is absent because of, say, illness, bereavement or other unavoidable circumstances. The parties will negotiate pairing as a gesture of fairness, not to exploit an opportunity that exists because of a sad, human situation.
Those pleading pairing as a reason for not supporting the motion are simply being cowardly, not justified, hiding behind illegitimate cover, without even the courage to stand up and be counted for their woeful cause.
DANGER – POISON RATS
Others were brave enough to rebel directly, but these simply exposed their lack of decency and utter moral bankruptcy. Emily Thornberry was interrupted throughout the debate by the likes of Kevan Jones and Jon Woodcock – generally as useless as the proverbial chocolate fireguard, but lately sarin-toxic, arguing against their own party’s triple-whipped motion.
Some of these MPs may try to divert attention from their behaviour by pointing out the times that Jeremy Corbyn defied party whips.
But there is a crucial difference. Corbyn’s ‘rebellions’ were against wars and measures that would hurt ordinary people. In these he has consistently been on the right side of history.
He has never rebelled against his party to support the Tory party.
The right of the party is fond of saying ‘we need to concentrate on taking the fight to the Tories’ – when it suits them.
But this week, overreaching as usual, they’ve made it plain they’re not only uninterested in taking the fight to the Tories. They’re more than willing to fight for the Tories in their myopic determination to take Labour back to the damp – but for them comfortable – squib it was under Blair.
The whys and wherefores
The unprecedented nature of this move betrays these MPs’ utter contempt not only for party loyalty and their members, but a cynical, even sociopathic disregard for innocent human lives.
But why? Is the desire to ‘undermine’ Corbyn enough to explain going to such unprecedented, vile lengths?
I believe not.
I believe that these Labour MPs are attempting to provoke Corbyn into taking action against them so they can use it as justification for splitting from the party.
Here’s what parliament.uk says about the consequences of defying a 3-line whip:
Defying a three-line whip is very serious, and has occasionally resulted in the whip being withdrawn from an MP or Lord. This means that the Member is effectively expelled from their party (but keeps their seat) and must sit as an independent until the whip is restored.
Expelled from their party but keeps their seat.
Even the braver of the rebels is too cowardly to be known forever as the ones who broke up the Labour party, so they’re trying to provoke Corbyn into expelling them. They keep their seats and can set up their own Parliamentary grouping – probably as Co-operative party (CP) MPs.
Some 25 Labour MPs already sit on a joint Labour-CP ticket and the CP has also, in the last couple of days, been positioning itself in a way that could be interpreted as preparing, without being too blatant, to distance itself from Labour:
The right-wing of the Labour party has a recent history of overreaching. The original ‘chicken coup’, the resulting leadership challenge, the ‘silent coup’ that Corbyn was able to negate with a single, skillfully-executed move – all failed, all simply made their baseness even more apparent and all deepened the contempt in which they’re held by the majority of Labour members.
By exploiting what no decent person would consider an opportunity – because of the consequences in lost human lives and devastation – the rebels have gone so far beyond the pale that even that part of the public that still believes the mainstream media will struggle to swallow a narrative that makes them out to be decent or acting on principle.
In short, in attempting to exonerate themselves for breaking up the party, they’ve served themselves up on a platter.
Corbyn should not decline the opportunity.
The MPs responsible for this move have shown themselves to be far more than mischief-makers or people who simply can’t accommodate the party’s new spirit and direction. They’ve shown themselves, beyond any doubt, to be morally bankrupt and prepared to go to any lengths. If they’ll stoop this low, then they will not stop until someone takes it out of their hands.
The key is to expose what they’re up to and why – before they do it – and establish control of the narrative, so they’re simply exposed as dishonourable and ridiculous. Then Corbyn needs to withdraw the whip from the key agitants and call their bluff.
The fact that not all the chicken-coup actors defied the whip suggests division among those, with some known not to be eager or even willing to be associated with splitting the party. A decisive move against the ringleaders would test the nerve of those who are less entrenched – and a strong PR offensive could make clear why those expelled were selected, tied with hammering home the baseness of the moves they’ve co-ordinated this week and the fact that they were elected as Labour MPs, would put pressure on them and any who follow them to ‘do the decent thing’ – to resign their seats and fight as independents or under a CP flag (if the CP is prepared to back them) to see whether they could gain a genuine “constituent” mandate as they’ve tried to claim they have.
After all, even the two Tories who jumped ship to UKIP felt honour-bound to resign and fight by-elections – and who wants to be lower than UKIP?
And all or almost all of those who do so will lose, because Labour voters want a Labour MP.
Of course, as he showed in his reshuffle masterstroke to counteract the NEC ‘silent coup’, Corbyn is no slouch when it comes to decisive political moves, especially now that he’s battle-hardened, and he may have his own moves in mind.
All well and good if so. But whatever is done needs to be done decisively – and done now. If nothing else, the disgraceful actions of a section of the Parliamentary Labour party this week has shown that they will continue to sabotage the party as long as they’re allowed to.
Prolonging the process is only prolonging the pain and postponing the inevitable – like ripping off a sticking plaster, And like ripping of a sticking plaster it’s best done quickly.
Removing the provocateurs will lead to an initial wave of recriminations from the thwarted and from the mainstream media, but it can be no worse than the ongoing, debilitating damage they’re already doing. And the public will see Corbyn’s undoubted strength and leadership in terms even the dimmest can understand.
The arrogance and blinkeredness of the self-obsessed Labour rebels continues to be their undoing. Now action needs to be taken to make sure they’re only their own undoing. The old saw about ‘inside the tent pissing out’ has never applied where these fools are concerned, because they’re inside the tent and pissing all over the contents.
So there’s only one thing for it.
and let those of good will take the fight to the real enemy.