Re-run of post-2016 referendum ‘chicken coup’ taking shape – as deluded and misleading as it was three years ago. But it will spit in face of UK’s suffering millions
Another attempted centrist coup – as flagged weeks ago by the SKWAWKBOX – is gathering form and substance. In almost all respects, it is shaping up to be a re-run of the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ – and it will be just as inexcusable.
As in 2016, the plan is to use Brexit and a referendum as the fulcrum of an attempt to lever Jeremy Corbyn out of the Labour leadership – and, as in 2016, there is a concerted effort underway to create a narrative pinning the blame on Jeremy Corbyn for problems in fact created, even constructed, by the Labour leader’s opponents.
In 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn travelled the length and breadth of the country during the referendum campaign, while Labour’s official campaign lead, along with many of Corbyn’s ‘centrist’ Labour critics, was almost invisible.
Nonetheless, the Labour right – with the eager help of the ‘mainstream’ media – constructed a narrative that Corbyn had not tried hard enough. The referendum was the result of Tory attempts to manage internal Tory party problems; the remain campaign was characterised by arrogance and scaremongering – but according to the narrative, the result was Corbyn’s fault.
The warmed-up 2019 version of this dishonest narrative is that Labour is weak because Corbyn has not promised another referendum – even though all Labour’s significant losses in this month’s local elections were in leave-voting areas. This narrative is pushed, with loud calls for such a commitment and even claims that it is Labour policy, even though – and likely because – it allows Labour’s external enemies to claim Labour is trying to ‘block Brexit’.
And the liberal left is fuelling the narrative and providing cover for the ‘usual suspects’ by allowing their obsession with preventing Brexit to amplify and reinforce the propaganda of Blairite ‘old hands’ who have been using Brexit and a so-called “people’s vote” to estrange Labour from its working-class roots.
Regardless of intent, the decision to help drive a wedge between the Labour Party and its instinctive voters in the north and Wales is appalling.
The intent of those determined to engineer another coup attempt is to distance Labour from its leave-supporting base, while trying to drive its remain-leaning supporters to other parties – explicitly so in the case of the dire Margaret Hodge. A bad result in this week’s European Parliament elections will then be pinned on Corbyn’s ‘failure’ to commit to a new referendum, in the hope that remain-voting members will back a leadership challenge.
Fortunately, the rest of the left is awake to the situation and increasingly so. Labour chair Ian Lavery MP wrote passionately about the dangers of the situation in an article featured on this blog this morning. He wrote:
But for too many across our movement Brexit has become yet another stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn. MP’s suggesting his leadership is in peril if he does not back a second referendum is simply nonsense and MP’s suggesting Labour voters should back other parties is simply a disgrace.
A senior Shadow Cabinet member also told the SKWAWKBOX:
There’s no question [the vocal support by Labour MPs and front-benchers is] hurting us and damaging voter trust – and it’s going to hand Johnson and Farage an early Christmas present.
Other very senior Labour sources told the SKWAWKBOX that they were “appalled” at the contribution of Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and deputy leader Tom Watson in pushing a new referendum at every media opportunity.
But it’s not just Labour veterans who recognise what’s happening. Former Corbyn adviser Steve Howell has pointed to an excellent new article by Young Labour’s union link officer Theo Freedman:
Others put it more pithily:
The latest attempt appears to be driven by a belief – and no doubt for some a hope – that Brexit is separating Corbyn from his support among Labour members. This is where some on the liberal left are now amplifying the message.
Clive Lewis, the usually-excellent Norwich South MP, has long been vocal in his calls for a new referendum, even though 44% of Norwich residents voted to leave the EU. Lewis has written an article claiming that Corbyn’s leadership is ‘in peril’ – and that Brexit is the ‘wedge’ issue separating him from members:
You can only drive a wedge so far between yourself and the people who put you in that position before your opponents start looking at their options
Lewis’ article was amplified by left commentator Paul Mason. Mason also made an astonishing response to Howell’s tweet of Theo Freedman’s warning that every call by a high-profile Labour activist endangers the prospect of a Labour government:
It’s hard to look at that response – unqualified and unexplained – and not see a reckless disregard for the desperate need of millions for a Labour government – and for the six million or so Labour voters in 2017 who are estimated to have supported leave in 2016.
The common narrative among centrists with a fixation on Brexit is that most Labour members want a new referendum. This is disputed and has never been put to the test – but even if it is true, those relying on it as a ‘wedge issue’ to challenge the Corbyn leadership have made a serious error:
It’s not the number of members who want it, but where it ranks in their priorities – how much they want it relative to other things.
This is a common – and often deliberate – error in the use of other polls by commentators, usually to attack Labour or its leader. Millions might want a bagel for breakfast – but if you told them the price of it would be the loss of something they value highly, most will not opt for the bagel.
So it is with Corbyn supporters who want another referendum or to remain in the EU. They might prefer those options in an ideal world – but most know that a Corbyn-led Labour government is far more important for the millions suffering in this country under Tory government. After all, EU membership has not protected those millions from the predations and degradations of the Tories and, for five years, their LibDem accomplices.
Most Labour members – at least most of the large majority that have supported Corbyn in two leadership elections in three and a half years – are aware enough of the complexities and difficulties of the Brexit situation to take an adult view of the challenge Corbyn continues to face in representing the ‘many’ on both sides of the issue.
Most are also just as aware, or more so, of the desperate hardship faced by millions and the damage being done to our national treasures such as the NHS to know that a Corbyn government is not only far more important, but urgently so.
Many would probably vote leave if there was another referendum, out of respect for democracy and out of horror at the privileged elites who have focused on Brexit instead of the change of government so deperately needed.
Most will therefore not vote for a centrist or soft-left leadership challenger because of the Brexit issue, whatever their preference on Brexit or a public vote.
Having a party in government under a leader that will actually change the country for the better is simply far too important – and Corbyn’s supporters recognise that, as will the majority of working-class leave voters if the party respects them and talks to them as equals.
Those hoping to dislodge Corbyn as leader have badly miscalculated and are nowhere near as clever or subtle as they think – and any left-wingers who are helping their narrative, even if coincidentally, need a wake-up call.
The challenge to Corbyn’s leadership will fail – but the mere attempt will risk prolonging the misery of the millions of people facing hunger, poverty, degradation and hopelessness under the Tories.
Any challenge will give the Tories a distraction while they bed in a new leader after May and push on toward a hard-Brexit and exploiting the opportunities they expect afterward. It will allow the Tory-friendly ‘mainstream’ media an opportunity to con the country even further that the absence of a deal is Labour’s fault, rather than the responsibility of the true Tory culprits – and of the remain-obsessives who distracted the people from what is really being done to them.
Even if the challenge is aborted, the vocal obsession with a new public vote can only drive the Labour Party away from many of its working-class supporters – and from those it needs to win over to remove the Tories from government.
When over four million of our children are in poverty, a majority of people in the worst hardship are working, the Tory plan for dismantling our NHS is in its end stages and education, housing and security are an unattainable dream for so many, such action by any who claim to be Labour is unforgivable.
Any commentator or activist who cares about the many – or even just about how s/he personally will be judged by history – needs to focus on what really matters: a new, better, fairer country, not membership of a club that hasn’t prevented the trashing of the UK and the appalling treatment of our people by the Tories.
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