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What now for the BLP? June 15, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Some intriguing thoughts in this from Helen Lewis of the New Statesman in the Guardian at the weekend on party unity in the wake of the General Election. I was particularly taken by the following:

Once Theresa May had set off for Downing Street, Labour MPs from all factions stayed quiet, giving the Conservatives a negative news cycle all to themselves.

It was striking how little sense of disunity there was in the LP, and even wobbles by some LP front benchers – no names, no pack drill, were only fixed on by the Tories and their press. Of course there was a basic reason for this. This was, from everyone involved, a fight for political survival. No point rocking the boat if there was a chance that a loose word here or there might sink the ship. And while there was some muttering from Northern BLP MPs about how they couldn’t campaign on being hostile to that loon Corbyn once he started, y’know, piling up support in polls, this was notably off-record and this time most definitely with no names mentioned.

But in a way that merely foreshadows different dynamics that kick into operation post-election.

There will be no more talk of an existential crisis for the left; the electoral map now means it is entirely plausible for Labour to win the next election. And there will be no more yearning for a breakaway centrist party. Labour is the only game in town. And at its apex sits Jeremy Corbyn, who can lead the party for as long as he wants.

Fantastic. And Corbyn will inevitably use that to cement his authority and influence on the party. But as he said himself, he’s not a dictator. And as Lewis notes…

He has also proved willing to compromise on key issues – shoot to kill, Nato, the monarchy, Trident – and the manifesto contained very little most members of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) found hard to defend.

Some might find that unpalatable, but as with Brexit, Corbyn could not, and would not, go against party policy as arrived at at Conference. Naturally he will attempt to influence policy change and that’s entirely appropriate. Let’s hope that the number of nationalisations envisaged in the next manifesto will be more and further and far-reaching reforms are outlined as policy. But… there’s tactical considerations as well. Labour needs every seat it can get to win the next election and that means that – and here I’m in agreement with Ed who noted the need to make a number of examples of those who lack, shall we say, necessary discipline and loyalty in relation to the party – as many as can be brought have to be brought. The gap between the LP and the Tories is frustratingly close. Fighting a war on two fronts in the next few years is always tricky – and thankfully if those like Lewis are correct in their analyses it seems that this hugely positive performance will silence many, most but not all dissenting voices.

And there’s another factor. In relation to the Shadow Cabinet:


“Jeremy has an immense sense of loyalty,” one well-placed source tells me, “he’s not going to remove people who have stuck by him, including those with very different politics, to accommodate others who have come to the party late.”

Another person close to the leader’s office observed that it would be “a slap in the face” to the likes of Barry Gardiner, Jonny Reynolds and Jon Ashworth, who have stayed in the shadow cabinet and put their shoulders to the wheel despite being from the centre-left, not the left, if they were moved to make way for the likes of Cooper.

Owen Smith of all people got the nod. But not at the expense of the above. And given Smith’s fulsome praise for Corbyn plus the fact he’s getting the position of Shadow Secretary of State for NI one has to think Corbyn is making any number of points.


Anyhow, for the first time quite some time people are seriously envisaging a Labour government as the outcome of the next election… and that has its own dynamic too:

Unity will also be helped by the need to maintain a state of readiness for another election.

It sure will. It has to be. And if the outcome of this one, a narrow Labour defeat but one which has delivered the Tories to a place so dismal that the very lifetime of this government is likely counted in at best a couple of years, then that is huge progress in the task of shifting matters leftwards. Last Friday it was like a weight lifting that had been pressing down for many years – not just in terms of Labour being able to put up a real fight and bring it to the enemy but also a qualitative change in the sort of approach Labour was fighting for. Long, long may it continue.



1. FergusD - June 15, 2017

Unity at all costs – no. There are plenty of members in constituencies like Wallasey who are aching to get rid of Blairite Labour parliamentary candidates (now MPs). They should be allowed to select their candidate for the next election. Mandatory re-selection.

Corbyn needs to get a grip of the BLP party organisation as well. It has consistently worked against him and it hasn’t changed its spots. A new General Sec, and Watson must go as deputy leader. A real back stabber.


WorldbyStorm - June 15, 2017

At all costs, absolutely agreed, definitely not. What I think Corbyn is doing is very clever, he’s offering those who will get with the programme a choice. And showing that those who are loyal even though they differ are valued voices. Difficult not to agree re Watson. His behaviour was utterly two faced


makedoanmend - June 15, 2017

I can’t help but wonder if the British electorate might now see Corbyn as being, in a subtle sense, more bulldog British than the self-promoting Tories like to think they are. Time after time Corbyn has been provoked, insulted and savagely attacked by the meta-political class and their doppelgangers in the press and he just never panics or overly reacts to the provocation. Rather, he seems to be growing into the leadership role. He also seems to love to campaign.

Rather than ousting Blairites en masse (and it’ gotta be tempting) I think he assumes more control by being balanced and maybe tweaking a few highbrow noses. He may need to slap a lug or two, but he has leverage now and he need not necessarily expend undue energy on fomenting internal strife himself. He needs to let the Blairites know that he and his team are watching them now rather than them eyeing the main chance.

Like I said, just wondering.


2. Michael Carley - June 15, 2017

One of the best things about Corbyn holding on to the leadership and having a successful election is the way that people who would not otherwise have made it to the front bench have had a chance to shine and have shown themselves to be excellent performers and politically very sharp. I think Emily Thornberry would have gone far anyway, but Barry Gardiner and Angela Rayner might not have had the chance they have and they have been the stars of the election campaign. If the front bench(es) had not walked off in a huff because they reckoned Corbyn was not long for the leadership anyway, they might have blocked the rise of some genuinely talented people, and now they have no claim on their old roles and have demonstrated that in a hard fight, they’re not up to much.

A side effect of this may be to end, or limit, the Oxbridge-SPAD-safe-seat route in the Labour party. The likes of Hunt, Umunna, and Cooper who have never had to build an alliance, make a deal, or do dirty work in a back room, are finished because they’re no great shakes intellectually, and they’re no damn good in a ruck. It turns out that the best people for this kind of politics are the people who have done some politics, either in local campaigning, or the labour movement.

Incidentally, that’s why Watson will survive: he knows how to slide a knife under the fifth rib.


Ed - June 15, 2017

I had to think for a minute there when you listed ‘Hunt’, didn’t know who you were talking about. How quickly we forget …


3. Jolly Red Giant - June 15, 2017

Corbyn should not give the Blairites ‘a choice’ – what is needed now is mandatory reselection and the rooting out of the Blairites from the LP. Leaving them the choice allows them the option of continuing a behind the scenes campaign against Corbyn that will regularly break out into the open (as has been happening since last week).

Furthermore, Corbyn needs to remove all the Blairites from the LP HQ and the bureaucratic apparatus of the LP,. He also needs re-democratise the party, restore the links with the trade union movement and open it up to all on the left who want to build an anti-austerity and socialist alternative


Jim Monaghan - June 15, 2017

Indeed he should do all that. And if able to do so, do it at once. But undoing Blairism takes time. Putting in alternative leaders at local level, selecting progressive candidates etc. takes time. I fear that some think that all he has to do is wave his hand and it is all done. Even reversing teh sheer awful position on Trident demans a motion to conference and winning it.


4. Aonrud ⚘ - June 15, 2017

Listening to Matt Zarb-Cousin on the Agitpod podcast this week, he mentions the extent to which the campaign was having to respond to negative briefing from within the Labour party thoughout. Presumably more of it off-record than previously, but apparently no great unity.


5. Jolly Red Giant - June 15, 2017

A contact in Coventry was telling me that the LP in Coventry issue 47 different leaflets during the election campaign – the common thread – not one of them contained the words ‘Jeremy Corbyn’


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