Chuka Umunna’s grandstanding on his unwinnable EU amendment on Thursday was only ever going to serve the purposes of one person: Chuka Umunna.
But it was nothing new.
Just after the General Election, Umunna was telling LBC Radio that he was ready to serve on Labour’s front bench after he had already been informed that his services were not required – and making comments that many saw as attempting to undermine Labour’s success in increasing their vote share in both leave and remain areas by banging the drum for what appeared to be a dilution of Labour’s Brexit stance.
Proposing an amendment to the Queen’s Speech that demanded levels of detail on EU proposals that the Tories are clearly not competent to map out when their whole Queen’s Speech was devoid of substance was only ever going to force the Tories (and DUP) to stick together – and not one broke ranks to support it.
Nor could Corbyn support it without alienating the support he won in leave areas, so his decision to distance himself and the party from Umunna’s ego-driven windmill-tilting was the only sensible one he could make.
Especially when Umunna himself told the Huffington Post last autumn that he would prioritise limiting freedom of movement over free-market membership or access:
Mr Umunna appears to have an axe to grind and certainly has his own agenda – but all his self-indulgence during the Queen’s Speech debate, foolishly supported by some Labour MPs, was ever going to achieve was to provide a convenient distraction from the Tories’ chaos and weakness.
That weakness was on clear show in their panicked attempts to buy support from their own MPs by rushing out an offer to pay for abortions in England for Northern Irish women (again the Magic Money Tree was handy when Tories needed it). And Umunna gave them respite by allowing the media to focus on him and a supposed Labour division instead.
His actions did not go down well on social media, with these two Twitter contributions typifying the reaction of many:
Umunna’s self-indulgent move on Thursday might have been some attempt at payback for the perceived slight of his rejection for front-bench duty. He might have been hoping to burnish his credentials as future leader of some centrist group or party. He might have had other motivations.
But all he achieved was to underscore the absolute wisdom of Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to keep him away from front-bench responsibilities – and to give breathing space to a Tory party that itself doesn’t believe it can remain in government or win another election.
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